It was the same old thing. This heaviness. She could feel it in her chest. Sometimes it seemed to travel all the way up into her throat. The symptoms varied, but it sometimes felt so oppressive as to hinder her breathing. It didn’t, of course, as apparently it was all psychosomatic. Psychosomatic. She hated that word. Mostly the first half of the word: psycho.
Sometimes she would wake up to it. Not the word psychosomatic, but this heavy feeling. Take this morning, for example: the sun was peeking through the white wooden blinds, the air was fresh and crisp, and she could hear the sounds of breakfast being made in the kitchen. By all accounts, life was good. Yet, she couldn’t shake the feeling inside of her. There it was. It added an extra 1.2 pounds of weight to her being and a thickness to her day.
For years she had conducted tests, always vegan and cruelty-free, to pinpoint the cause of this feeling. Imagining that these symptoms were indicative of her low glycogen levels as a result of low-carb fad dieting, her sister had suggested she eat pasta when she felt this way. Eating pasta tended to be her sister’s solution to a great number of the world’s ills. In all fairness, it did sometimes help.
However, these days no amount of pasta could remedy the ache she felt inside. She had tried everything. Yes, even rice flour cake and potato vodka, but to no avail. One thing was certain: she longed for something more than alternative, carbo-loading.
Old questions that she thought she had resolved, or resolved that she could never resolve, suddenly re-emerged. The most persistent, nagging question being: What are you doing with your life?
Soul: Did that question: “To whom/what will I give my life?” just tug at you again?
Soul: I thought I heard something about discerning what to make out of this beautiful gift of life we are each given.
Girl: I think you have selective hearing. Do all souls have selective hearing?
Soul: Maybe that question is pushing you to re-evaluate your current life path.
Girl: For your information, what that question was really getting at is actually a very superficial quandary about wealth and fame.
Soul: Nooo . . .
Girl: Yes. That question was goading me on, insinuating: “when will you MAKE it?” You know, as in: “When will you make it BIG?”
[Biographer’s note: Although she has masked these questions as coming from another source, her preoccupation with fame had dogged her since childhood.]
It would not be a stretch to state that she had, on more than one occasion, contemplated how her life would be appraised in the future. Though it would be foolish of her to ever admit it, she often caught herself saying certain things or carrying out certain actions in the awareness of “legacy building.” (That time she gave her muffin away to the homeless man on the subway? Image branding.)
Of course, this is not to say that she didn’t have a conscience. She did. It was just managed by her internal PR firm.
Now, where was she? Oh yes: moping. It’s the same old thing . . . this heaviness . . . in her chest. It had taken her some time, but she was getting somewhere. She now knew that this sinking feeling flooded her when she moved to a new place and was forced to revisit daunting questions and thoughts about what she had thus far accomplished in life.
What had she accomplished?! She had not accomplished anything at her age that people destined for greatness typically accomplish. There was no internet start-up, she had not traveled to Africa, and she had not founded an NGO. She could not say that she was well traveled; it might even be a stretch to say that she was well read. Then again, is there really a standard definition of “well read” in this fragmented, postmodern world?
[Biographer’s note: There is a standard definition of “well read.” She did not meet the requirements.]
She could not even answer the very simple question: “What do you do?” in any sort of satisfactory way. Open-ended titles such as “entrepreneur,” “artist,” or “revolutionary” all sounded too pompous, and more generic lobs like: “I work in fashion,” “I work in marketing,” or “I am a web developer,” were largely untrue.
She could not really even say what she had been doing for the last few years. Unlike during her school years, at the end of a year she no longer had a stack of essays as tangible testament to her productivity, nor would she necessarily have an accolade to add to her resume under the section “Awards and Honors.” Now, months and years passed with little to no marked accomplishments.
Yes, life was very unlike school. Life was indifferent towards her. Life required the accomplishment of daily tasks, without the recognition of a gold star or an “A.”
The lines from that famous song “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere . . . ” popped into her head. The lyrics, unaccompanied by their jovial tune, circled menacingly around in her head causing her to confront a startling revelation: Is the inverse of this infamous song equally true? If you can’t make it here, you can’t make it anywhere?! She shuddered at the thought. It wasn’t the first time this thought had occurred to her, but today it felt personal. Somewhat startled by her newest realization, she called home.
It was her father. His voice always sounded surprised when answering the phone, possibly incredulous that he had reached it before his wife. Initial greetings and inquiries were exchanged before he finally provided her the necessary segue she was waiting for when he asked:
“How are you doing?”
In a loud, straining sigh, she exhaled all of the air in her lungs, so as to indicate that she was really not doing well. And then, she brought her deep, dark, secret into the light:
“Dad, I am just not ‘good’ at life.”
[Biographer’s note: She was not simply ill equipped for the real world in a: “I need to take a couple of courses in In-Design to hone my skill-set” kind of way. No. The problem was far more serious than that. She had first discovered signs of her incompetency at life when working a summer job requiring her to work a cash register. In order to save face, she had pretended that she preferred stocking the shelves in the back. But now, in the real world, there was nowhere to hide.]
“You know,” she continued to her father,
“ . . . There are those kinds of people who understand how electricity powers our homes, who know how to do their own taxes, who are comfortable driving in a city, buying an apartment. Certain kinds of people have an innate sense of what life is and how it works and therefore are capable of living well.”
She eloquently, if deterministically, explained.
“I am not one of these people. I am just not good at . . . ” her voice cracked before she could finish her sentence.
Her father jumped in to comfort her by clarifying that there are a number of people living in the world who don’t necessarily understand how life works. He even joked that there were a number of people on the earth less than beneficial to the world as a whole. “But,” uncorking his finest reserves of wisdom he posited, “you can get your taxes done by H+R Block. Lots of people do it.”
“Really?!” She squeaked into the phone, her register rising as a result of this hopeful morsel. He could hear her sniffling, vacuuming the tears scattered across her face back up into their appropriate ducts. He took this to be a good sign.
“And who cares if you know how to drive,” he continued, “You have the bus!” In his exuberance, he had gotten cocky. This last suggestion caused her to think about her future: “Yeah, for now, it’s OK, but I won’t live here forever, and . . . then . . . whattt?!”
Her voice shifted from a quiver to a full-blown tremor. Tears poured from her eyes like two rivers, irrigating the skin on either side of her face. Grasping for straws, her father proposed: “If you want, I can explain to you how electricity works?” There was a pause. Her father anxiously grimaced on the other end of the phone. But, surprisingly, she nodded in agreement. Moments later, when the line was still silent, she realized that he hadn’t seen her head bob. Uttering a delayed “Mmhmm” into the phone, she indicated for him to go ahead.
They discussed the matter for quite some time, but at the end of her impromptu science lesson, she wasn’t sure that she had mastered the chapter. Still, for her father’s sake, she pretended that she understood more than she did and assured him that it had all been very helpful and that she felt much better. He was audibly relieved as he hung up.
Gazing at her surroundings, she noticed the houses, the cars and the quaint, Martha Stewart-esque, Valentines Day themed flags flapping on the poles outside front doors. It all looked so ideal, and, for the first time in her life, so desirable. The widely held belief that “money can’t buy you happiness” seemed a mere hyperbole.
Fully cemented in the awareness of her utter inadequacy at life, she became monumentally despondent. Dramatically, she flopped on the sidewalk curb. She wanted to scream to the heavens, in the off chance that something would happen. However, she decided against it. [Biographer’s note: Although she would later relay to others that this decision stemmed from a moral unwillingness to be complicit in perpetuating a clichéd Hollywood convention, it more probably was sheer cowardice.]
Sure, the last few years had not entirely been in vain. She was discovering a lot about herself; she just wasn’t sure she liked the self she was discovering. Her mind, being the fontofwisdomquotes.com site that it was, recalled that saying by Jack Kerouac, or someone else, about needing to “lose your self in order to find yourself.”
It all seemed so risky. She didn’t feel like she had enough time. It was getting dark; she wouldn’t want to worry her roommates.