Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Living In The Parenthetical

parenthesis: \pə-ˈren(t)-thə-səs\ noun; a remark or passage that departs from the theme of a discourse; digression

I remember being a little girl and wanting nothing more from life than to live inside the television. I wanted to water The Magic Garden, ride on that cool train through Ricky Stratton's living room and attend the Eastland School for Girls. Nothing existed for me outside of that mystical box that took me away from the four walls in which I was contained. Outside was not real to me because it was not something I was really allowed to aspire to. I wasn't a prisoner, and as a family we went on many trips to the beach, amusement parks and the slick Manhattan streets, but after each excursion it was back to the four walls. Television and I became best friends.

As I got older and my relationship with other writers' imaginative worlds progressed, and I expressed interest in a life in entertainment, I was gently nudged towards more "lucrative" academic endeavors. Math. Science. Or anything that would lead towards a job in education and the top spot in my family's eyes. Art was a hobby, nothing more. I had that subtly drilled into my head. So I used my intelligence to garner favor, pursuing the good grades that would keep me on a pedestal, acing the tests I needed to ace to be the golden child both at home and at school.

But as I did all of the shucking and jiving necessary to stay on top, my muse was being stifled and silenced and oppressed. I still had television, but at that point I watched it with envy and hatred and resentment. Why do they have everything and I can't even go outside and sit on the stoop? Instead, I wrote in secret, in a small blue diary with a busted lock. I told the most ludicrous tales- 30% fact and 70% fiction- in order to keep my soul alive. This diary became what TV used to be, and I lived withing its pages. From age 9 until I graduated high school this blue diary was all I had keeping me sane.

As a young adult, something in me finally snapped and I floundered. I had no direction and very little guidance. What I thought I wanted was, in a sense, stolen from me, and what I did have was no longer sacred- sullied by my mother's prying eyes. I filled out those college applications for programs that would further bury the real me: science, geology, math. I never even bothered to see what the English departments had to offer. Art was just a hobby. I didn't recognize it as my true calling until it was too late and too costly to start over. My plans to live inside the television took the longest of detours.

I am three months away from my birthday, and I find myself thinking about the twisty road to 35. I think about how badly that little girl needed an outlet for her thoughts, thoughts that later turned into Voices. She needed someone to say, "It's okay to write it out. It's okay for your life to be about words" but never got it until one single, solitary high school English teacher, and later a Spanish literature teacher, noticed a dim, far away light of creativity.

Sometimes I wonder if it's too late to move into the television set and some days I think, I'm already there. I often hate the pause button I kept allowing others to push in my life, and then shake off the regret. They all meant well. No one meant me any harm. They didn't know any better. And I suppose the silver lining is all the stories I have built up inside of me; they're slowly but surely pouring out of me when I least expect to hear them. I've let my muse loose. She's running amok in my head while I shower, walk to the store, attempt to sleep and breathe in new air. She demands to be heard; she's untethered for the first time in a long time. As if someone finally picked up the remote and pressed play.

Better late than never, right?

And just in time, too- I hear it's a buyer's market on Elm Street...

*smooches...convincing myself that it's not too late to be me*
I just have to find me some patience and I'll be A-OK. So..."whatchu got on my patience, homie?" *deebo voice*