Sunday, June 19, 2011

Everybody's Personal Mystery

I think at a certain point in anybody's life, you have to stop saying who you aren't, and start figuring out who you're going to be.

When I was a tiny girl in white stockings and patent leather shoes, people always came up to my mother to say, "She looks just like you!"

My mother would reply, "No, I always think she looks more like her father."

To which I would angrily howl: "Nooooo! I don't look like anyone. I look like ME!"

But who was me, to ask an ungrammatical question? All my life I have been very certain of what I am not: not a top student, not a Chinese-speaker, not a bigot, not a suit. Not a civil servant, not a public relations executive. Not religious. Not conservative. Not my parents.

In trying so desperately to define all the things I didn't stand for, I assumed vaguely that I stood for the opposite. But what is the opposite? If you don't believe in working for The Man, who do you work for? Because it is still necessary to work, to eat.

I'm luckier than most. I've found a way of supporting myself that doesn't clash with my ideals and earns me a good living. I'm a little too comfortable, in fact - I could stay like this forever, but there's always something in me that wants more out of being alive. It reminds me: I'm not done becoming me yet.

At 27, it's time to iron out the soft, wavering outline of who I am, to push the shape into its full and permanent definition. If I want to be a writer, I have to be one. The years are short, and they get shorter and faster the older I get. The new flat, marriage, possible children, definite aging parents - the milestones will fly past before I know it, and there won't be so much time left to answer that small and defiant creature who was so sure - but still so uncertain! - of who she was, or what she really looked like.

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