Seven days after my seventeenth birthday, April 11th of this very year, my childhood came to an end.
At the time I would’ve have perhaps have said something as dramatic as “my childhood died”. But please don’t think too badly of me for it. It sure felt like death, then.
My greatest fear is that my feelings are not genuine. I doubt the sincerity of my thoughts and actions at every hour of the day. When I think, are these thoughts true or just what I wish I would think? When I move, are these movements real or do they just take me where I wish I had the guts to go? When I feel, are these feelings born in pulpy mass of my heart, or deep in my prefrontal cortex? I can’t put any sort of faith into the steps I take, nor the sounds of my throat. I don’t part with even small bits of myself wholeheartedly. “Wholeheartedly”? Emotions don’t possess me, and I miss this secret fervor, this fervor that I witness from far away with a wan smile: girls hugging in photographs, a boy crying at the movie theater, a woman begging a medium to let her speak to a deceased child. “Wholeheartedly”? Every single time I’ve said I was moved by something I have lied.
There have been a few moments in my life in which I have known with certainty: ah. Ahh. This is real. These moments occupy a definite place in me, and I could not bear to lose them. Even if I were stricken with amnesia after a freak automobile accident, like the beautiful heroine of a primetime soap, I couldn’t possibly forget: watching a videotape of my baby brother playing with the balloons floating over an air vent, and then looking up to see that same brother, eight years older, brushing away the tears from his eyes.
When classmates ask me what I want to be when I grow up, the answer is different each time. “A biologist in Antarctica”, “a Tibetan monk”, “a missing person” all half-truths! It’s hard to feel something real, or feel for something real.
I have a theory: a person’s childhood ends when they come to understand their parents. I think I gained that knowledge on April 11th. It was knowledge that made me weep like a madwoman for hours. I have a theory: part of a person dies when they spend an entire night crying without anyone noticing.
I’m not going to lie. A lot of this has come about due to my mother’s bipolar disorder. I’ll never forget the summer of ’09. My mother’s illness brought upon me an awakening of sorts. It was in 2009 that I first became terrified that my feelings are not real. But I’m ready now, to accept what has happened, and I’m ready to do what I can to help not only myself feel, but those who surround me. In a way, I’m grateful I have gone through this. I never would have put so much stock into the importance of feeling, otherwise. I never would have decided what my aim in life is, either. It’s not “a biologist in Antarctica” or “a Tibetan monk” anymore. It’s definitely not “a missing person”. I think I have been “a missing person” for many years now, and I’m ready to give that up.
Now, when classmates ask what I want to be when I grow up, the real answer is always “a good person”. I have spent my entire childhood being the Cowardly Lion, letting others step up and put their own brave (impossibly brave!) hearts on the line. I don’t just want my feelings to be real, I want to be proud of them.
My childhood ended because I finally understood my parents. My father became a man, and my mother a woman, both of them flawed, both of them humans who have spent many years of their lives teaching me. Today, I feel like a historian that looks at a set of hieroglyphs for the hundredth time and finally understands what they mean.
I am not a child anymore. As an adult, I won’t ask for anything I can’t give myself. So while I am still here, crossing over, let me make one last plea to the universe: if I have lost something now, please let me gain something else. If my childhood is over, if time has switched eras and changed this place, this way I live, allow me to win for myself something different, something new, something that will make me think ah, this is real! If all goes well, maybe something that will help propel me to my goal, my hope of being “a good person”. It doesn’t have to be now, just sometime, someday, if you’d be willing to oblige me. For once, I can say, genuinely, sincerely, wholeheartedly: this is something I would really love.