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Copyright by me and all...enjoy!

(written for comp 1 class)

Victim Goes Down in Flames, Discovers own Humanness

I never looked forward to visiting my relatives in St. Louis. I always felt I had too much to do here in Tulsa; too many parties, too many people I wanted to see. Whenever I had to go to St. Louis, I would wait until the last minute to pack and grudgingly drag myself through the airport. Most of this had to do with my solid belief that I didn?t need the guidance and caring of my family. I thought I could do everything on my own if I could just be left alone. My trip to St. Louis last May changed some of that.

Upon arriving in St. Louis, the usual criticisms filled my mind. My grandmother worried too much. My aunts were in bad marriages where they fought with their husbands. One of my cousins was too high-strung. None of them knew how to act, and that was the perfect excuse for me to avoid them. I was right, I knew how to live my life, and they were the screwed up ones. I couldn?t wait to get back to Tulsa.

The reason for this trip was to attend a Bat Mitzvah of a distant cousin. I was somewhat jealous of the girl, as she was so young and pretty and had her whole life ahead of her. Although I was only 22 years old, I felt like I had nothing compared to her. I had my Bat Mitzvah 11 years ago, and it was a moment in which I felt as if I was on top of the world. I was so much more secure about my life and my identity. Family was a thing to celebrate back then; my parents had not yet divorced and the importance of loved ones had not yet escaped my mind. The trust I had in my family and in myself had not faded away. Now, however, things were different. I had let down my family by dropping out of a prestigious fashion school. They, in return, seemed to ?give up? on me. My dad suggested I should be a nurse, when years ago he was convinced I was going to Harvard. And now, in this temple, Alexie Soffer was to become a Bat Mitzvah. She had friends and hopes and dreams and a whole future that I was convinced I had lost. She was perfect and I was a peon brought in to watch as she entered forth into her perfect life. I dreaded the moment I would have to congratulate a girl who was seemingly so much better off than I was.

My aunt Nancy drove me to the Temple, and we went in the sanctuary to sit down. I absolutely did not want to be there, especially not with her and my grandparents. I looked around. My outfit seemed so trashy compared to everyone else?s. My shoes didn?t even match. I usually did not care about looking ?just right?, but today it seemed to catch my attention. Imperfection. Flaws. On me. I could rule the social circles in Tulsa, where everybody was about partying and mediocre jobs. In worn out silver sandals, I absolutely could not compete in this world of accomplished people. The negative thoughts started to grow in my head. I had nothing going on in my life, I thought. I had no direction, talent, ambition, or usefulness. The people around me had it so much better. I should have had a different appearance, a different mind, a sound mind even. I should have been born incredibly stupid, so I would be immediately happy upon receiving a cookie or a balloon. It must have been my family?s fault, all this pain of mine. I should have been in another family. That was the root of my problems. It had to be. I was absolutely convinced, and I was absolutely about to lose it in front of everyone in the sanctuary.

I excused myself to go to the bathroom, and cried for a very long time. I calmed myself somewhat by walking around the halls of the Temple, and walking outside. I sure could have used a cigarette, but my family would have been shocked to hear that I smoked. I continued to pace around, crying.

My aunt Nancy walks outside of the sanctuary and sees me in the lobby.

?Aren?t you going to go back into the service??

My eyes, which had since been spruced up a bit, started to water and I could feel the breaking of the emotional dam within me. I tried to restrain.

?You?re bored, aren?t you?? she pushed on. Some people just don?t know when to quit. Typical Jewish nagging. I mean, she wouldn?t have asked all this because she cared or anything. She is so nosy, I thought to myself.

What I really wanted was a cigarette, some of the ceremonial wine, and to get the hell out of Saint Louis. Tears started streaming down as I nodded to let her know I was, in fact, bored.

?Let?s go outside,? she said. I followed, knowing deep inside that even if I could escape I truly had nowhere to go; possibly knowing further down that I had never really wanted to escape in the first place.

?Now, what?s wrong?? she asked. Dear god in heaven, where do you want me to start? I thought. Which part of what?s wrong? I hate my entire life and I deserve nothing and?.

?I?m?.FAT!? I burst out, crying. ?You don?t understand, see, I put on a few pounds and my shirt is tighter and I can just FEEL it gripping me like the enemy. I used to be anorexic and all and you just don?t know how hard it is on me and NO ONE UNDERSTANDS!?

Rebecca, her daughter, walked by us. For some reason I didn?t feel too bad about showing my tears. Aunt Nancy told her to go on inside and then focused her attention back on me.

?Melissa, what I feel is your problem is that you aren?t living the life you want. So what if you put on a few pounds?? Oh wait. All good advice was lost for a moment, as she had not served my narcissism by telling me I was as thin as a rail. But, I somehow managed to cast some judgment aside, if at least for the moment. Typical Jewish courage.

?I can?t live the life I want. What life? What want? I dropped out of fashion school and that?s all there is to it. I?ll never get my life together,? I sobbed.

?That?s not the end!? she retorted. ?You have so much open to you at your age. You need to go to a real university, and live the college life. I mean, I know how hard it is to just get off your pedestal and have fun. I went to college and thought to myself, ?I?m above all that drinking and partying.? But I realized I was the stupid one for being so hard on myself. I eventually learned to have fun and party and its part of life. You have always been so serious, Melissa. You need to loosen up and have fun.?

I went to college and thought to myself, ?I?m above all that?? Hey, I have done that too. Wait, I thought, it?s not the point of life to be perfect and virtuous? I had to let that thought soak in. I must have been too hard on myself. I had forgotten to have fun. And she went through the same damn thing at my age! This woman, this aunt of mine, suddenly became so much more real to me.

Always being the distorter of my own physical appearance and its bearing on my identity, I steer the conversation back to the important stuff. ?But I?m so fat and ugly.?

?Melissa,? Nancy looked at me. ?Your uncle Allan makes fun of me all the time because I?m overweight and he is blessed with a high metabolism. And you know what? Who cares? I have so many qualities that he does not have. Do you realize that he becomes a baby in times of crises? He totally fell apart when he had to change jobs and I had to get him through it. No one is perfect. We all have something that someone else doesn?t have. As long as you?re doing what makes you happy, you won?t care about a few pounds.

?Also, when I was your age, it was hell. I know what it?s like to not know where you?re going. I would leave my mom?s house and drive and have an emotional breakdown on the road. The house Allan and I were trying to build was a disaster at first, and everything was going wrong. Your grandfather had a very harsh childhood. His family was split up during the Great Depression, and he was passed around from relative to relative. And you?re going through hard times, too. But it gets better. You just have to hang in there.?

Typical Jewish?understanding.

By the end of this conversation I realized how lucky I was, to be talking to one of the coolest people I had ever met. And that she was a part of my family, and that she cared. I was proud to be part of this amazing family, and I felt lucky that most of my family was still alive. Where I had previously felt abandoned and ?given up? on by my family (probably due to my relationship with my mother), I realized that I was the one who was running away all this time. I didn?t need anything else in the world; I didn?t need to be someone else. I had everything I could ever want, right before my eyes.

I was blown away.

Typical Jewish fulfillment.

Eventually we walked back into the Temple, in time for the reception to start. The rest of that vacation, and the following week in which my grandparents stayed in Tulsa, was incredible. That discussion with Aunt Nancy breathed new life into me. I realized that my family was not who I had judged them to be. I also realized my own incredible importance and value as a person, and as a member of this wonderful family. I was proud to be myself.

Telling my cousin Rebecca later how much I enjoyed spending time with my family, she replied ?They can actually be cool sometimes.?

Typical Jewish sarcasm.

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where's the handclapping emoticon? :)

What a great job of showing how our feelings, emotions and thoughts can come full circle.

thanks for posting your paper, Melissa.
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