who would i be?

Flying from Ohio to Virginia today, I got to thinking about planes.  I could see two planes on the horizon.  I could see the shadow of my plane on the tops of the clouds.  There are planes everywhere, and I was only seeing a handful.  The flights so short.  The trips so far.  How could so many people have so many places to go?

I thought about the world and how interconnected it is.  I thought about how this changes our perspective, how it makes our “needs” just become more frivolous “wants”.  How it encourages our outrageous American sense of entitlement.

Just today, I was sitting back in the soils lab talking to Jeff and then I blurted out, “Wouldn’t life be so much easier if we just didn’t have air conditioning, heating, electricity?  If we didn’t have those expectations and then the simpler life would be so much more?  Wouldn’t we have less stress and less obligation and be better off?  And I wouldn’t need to worry about my hair looking lousy today or the fact that I had to put on a tank top under this shirt because I panicked when I realized you can see my bra…”

He laughed at my outburst, but he agreed.  And I think it’s true.

Then I wondered, what if… what if we didn’t live in this frantic era?  Here I am, starting a long journey overseas, ready to “seize” and “define” and “become” and “challenge” – but what in the world does that all mean anyway?  What if we didn’t have those opportunities?

Who would I be?

My incessant journeys abroad arose out of a panicky scramble when my personal life was falling apart, my academic life seemed too uninteresting to ever land a job, and my graduation date was approaching too soon for me to actually graduate.  There was no glorious find-myself-out-there moment or decision or scholarship…it was just GET ME OUT OF HERE and DEAR GOD HELP ME GET BACK ON TRACK.  Back on track in EVERY aspect of my life.

I was a mess.  What else would cause me to move temporarily to West Africa ALONE??

Every time I ride a train in Europe or fly through an airport, I can’t help but notice the plethora of young women in small groups giddily dancing around an unfolded map with hiking backpacks, black leggings, and sneakers.  They’ve got their bandanas on, their Fodor guides out, and they’re ready to “rough it”.  But why?

No, dear lord, please…don’t tell me I’m part of a trend.  I didn’t ask for this!

Now that the world is at our fingertips and women have access to more generous means (thanks to the push for higher education and the encouragement to abandon home-making for a life of independence), so so so many young women are out there traveling.  It’s like an epidemic.  It seems like I always see them, hear about them, or even witness them among my friends.  (I mean, men too, but not my point.)

What is it that they’ve lost about themselves that they think they’re going to find?  Am I really just the same as them?

I honestly don’t have an answer.  But while they’re so busy trying to find out who they will be, I can’t help but see who they would have been and wonder the same for myself.

At 23, where would I have been two generations ago?
A housewife, surely.  World War 2.  Cooking.  Cleaning.  Shopping.

It sounds dismal, but part of me wonders if I would have preferred it.

Relaxed, taken care of, at ease, important, with a place in this world.
These days, I don’t know where I belong.
These days, there are high expectations put on me.
These days, I still can’t walk into my job or my hockey game like a woman.
Because I’m still at the disadvantage.
I still have to work a little harder to just pass, because, well, men.
But that’s okay.
Look how far the world has come already.

But is there an intrinsic spark in me that would have caused me to rebel?  Would I have become a journalist like Skeeter in The Help and taken life into my own hands?  Chosen against a husband and instead fought for human rights?

I want to say yes, yes that would have been me.
But I’m not so sure it would have been.

Sure, now I feel like a rebel, going against the grain, going alone, fighting for native rights.
But that’s so trendy now.
Is that really that awesome of me?  Or am I just mundane??

It’s like when the whole world tries so hard to be “different” that “different” becomes “normal”.

But I’m not out to fight being normal,…or am I?

Questions even I can’t answer for myself.
But let’s say I am out there to be different.
And it’s 1940.
What would I have done?  Joined the Army?  Fought in WWII as a “soldier”?  Refused to marry, gone to school, practiced science?  Eventually walked on the moon?

Geez… Life is hard to understand sometimes.

Not only do I not have any idea who I am, but I’m unsure of who I will be and also confused by who I might have been.

Well, one thing’s for sure…I’m about to board a plane for Belgium.  And I know who I USED to be: a girl who could never board a plane by herself to Belgium.  And here I am, student card in hand, an ex-resident of southern France, ready to face the world with a loose itinerary and no reservations.

Because I’m kind of over asking what ifs.

Brick by Boring Brick.

Image

The familiar lyrics echo through my mind as I proceed through monotonous, daily chores at work, on the commute, while cleaning,…:

Keep your feet on the ground
While your head’s in the clouds

I mean, how real is that?  I’d always been a dreamer.  I was always lost in books, so out of it that sometimes people would talk for minutes before they realized I was engrossed in the pages of a Brain Jacques or Michael Shaara creation.  I was the girl who was never caught flirting with the boys on the playground; instead, I would escape the feelings of inferiority by climbing high into a spruce in my plaid skirt at recess, lying back on a branch against the trunk, and seeing if I could read a whole chapter before the bell rang.  Up here, no one could hurt me.  And in the worlds I read about, I could do anything.

But it was always important to remember, when I put the book down, that no book would save me from test scores or barn chores.  I still found a way to live in both worlds.  When my life got tough and I couldn’t sleep, I was the misbehaved child whose only misbehavior was when she sneaked out of bed at 2am, curled up under her desk, and read an entire novel by nightlight before her alarm went off the next morning.  I was determined to keep my feet on the ground and still have my heads in the clouds.

And when my world became more tragic, I did build it up with magic in my mind.  My favorite part of the day was the part when I would lay down at night with my CD player in and play out the same routine in my mind to the tracks.  In other words, I made my own music videos that enabled me to absorb the lyrics and also imagine myself doing anything I wanted.

Make sure to build your heart brick by boring brick
Or the wolf’s gonna blow it down

Paramore’s Brick by Boring Brick is just such a hit-homer.  Not only does it include these ideas and these words, but it holds a much deeper meaning.  It wasn’t until I started to really read the lyrics about princes, betrayal, loneliness, losing contact with the real world,…she’s ripping wings off of butterflies…and noting the butterfly on the cover of the Brand New Eyes album did it become clear: This song is in a way running parallels between our means of escaping the hard times as well as the psychological assault scientists have, in past times, placed on children called Monarch Programming where they build up their thoughts in imaginary lands of castles and mirrors…and so let’s bury the castle.  Don’t believe me?  Read about it here.

(After just posting about The Butterfly Circus, and now this, I think it’s funny how everything comes full-circle.  My Potawatomi Indian name is, after all, Mem’iki – or butterfly.  My grandma gave it to me not just because she once told me it’s her favorite being but because I’m her little butterfly who flits around the world incessantly.)

But, in conclusion, I will add my favorite part of Brick by Boring Brick, a section of the bridge that makes me think there is really something powerful behind what this is saying:

If it’s not real, you can’t hold it in your hand
You can’t feel it with your heart
And I won’t believe it
But if it’s true, you can see it with your eyes
Oh, even in the dark
And that’s where I want to be

Take from it what you will: psychology, religion, love,…I feel like these lyrics touch on both the physical and spiritual essence that embodies the things we cling to and why.  Look up the song.  You might really enjoy it, too.