I was supposed to be an antidote to the past. I was born to help my parents forget their unhappy childhoods, my happiness existing to drown out their endless sorrow. I was like a bottle of white-out, meant only to erase.
I wouldn’t be limited by anything. Not by gender, as my grandmother had been. Not by divorce, as my mother had been. Not by wealth and status, as my father had been. I was supposed to have all the advantages and opportunities they so desperately wanted for their past selves. I would achieve everything they never had, without all the hurt and struggle they went through.
I was supposed to be a blank page. But how could I be? My parents lived their whole lives on the South Pole, and in their determination to escape the cold, they ran all the way to the North Pole.
The extraordinary wealth of the neighborhood where I lived did not set me free. It constricted me even further. These people were black and white sketches, all thinking the same way, while I was a kaleidoscope of thoughts. I blinded them with my vibrancy.
Unable to face me, they hid me in boxes and definitions. First, they wrote me off as a “nerd” because I was a girl who liked books and school. As if that wasn’t enough, I was written off for being “shallow” because I liked pink dresses and heavy eyeshadow. I wasn’t allowed to have dimension or nuance. I wasn’t allowed to have characteristics other than my conformity.
The past can be a joy. But it can also be a sickness. It can sit in you, as it did with me, burrowing deeper and deeper as each year passes. The pain was burned into my brain, threaded through my memories, swimming in my blood and sinews. It seemed impossible to separate this blood thirsty monster from the self I knew was hiding, afraid of what it had become.
The past can be like a cancer. There are many different types of tumors; some are non threatening, and some can easily be removed. But some stick around, spreading and mutating, re-appearing again and again. Despite all my best efforts, it felt like this past was a wound that could neither be cured nor amputated.
But I learned a garden doesn’t have to be flawless to be perfect. The grasping stems of weeds don’t diminish the perfect beauty of a rose. It’s only when those weeds begin to drown out the roses, when the sunlight meant for the flowers goes to the intruders- that’s when you start to die.
The past isn’t important. It shouldn’t be. If I spent my whole life crying over my gnarled roots, I’d never be able to see the strength of all my branches. I’d never see myself stretching up to the sky.
So I decided to look up. And I was happy with what I saw.