Thursday, August 16, 2007

American Beauty

"There's nothing worse than being ordinary," says Mena Suvari's character in the movie American Beauty.

This is a shameful fear of mine, but one I can't deny. I'm afraid of many things - death, yes, like how I wander through the old 19th century graveyard and stress about when I'll be just a name on a stone. Our student loan debt - I won't go there, I talk about that crap too much already, but thinking about it makes me lose my appetite. I'm afraid of wooly spiders - not so much the glassy, plastic looking ones, but present me with a wolf spider and I'll run a mile. My great, overweaning fear, though, the one that guides me, for better or worse, the fear that has deeply shaped my personality, is fear of being typical.

Ask me my job, and I'll tell you, but I'll also tell you that the corporate world isn't my calling, that I used to be a naturalist, a baker, an actress. Sure I'm in HR, but really I'm a piano player/ poet/runner/artist. I'm much more interesting than my job, my subtext will scream - see, see look at my dangly earrings and how I don't wear makeup! See how different I am?

Send me abroad and I'm in heaven. "Who's that?" people ask, and other people answer "She's the American." Thrilling.

Throw me in a room with my four siblings, and whoa, just step back as we riot for attention. I'm positive that growing up in a clamoring household of 9 (2 parents + 5 kids + 2 grandparents = 2 many people) is what cultivated this fear of mine. When you're 1 of 9, and you're the oldest, and you have the capability to change baby diapers and old people bedpans, well then Mommy just doesn't have loads of time to be interested in you except to give you orders. This is not a criticism of my mother by any means, my parents were very loving and attentive. It's just to say, getting noticed when I was little was a tough prospect when there were lots of other noisier more pressing things to deal with.

And then there's the moving every 3 years. When you are the new kid in school, if you want to get the parts in the plays or the leadership roles in the clubs or the first chair in the band, you have to make yourself stand out pretty quick. Most of the other kids have 3,5,8 years of experience with these teachers before you ever get there. They are known entities. They are established - Jane's the best singer in school, Martin is sooooo funny, Caroline has always been the fastest runner, even when she was 7 years old. If you want to get included in anything, you better be able to make a splash, and fast before you're gone to the next home.

So now here I am, miles and years away from those stimuli, but still acting as though my very life depends on being a stand-out. I'm terrified of obscurity. Please God let me write a book of poems/get a big part in a movie/become a famous public servant/rescue a child from certain death, so that the world will remember me, and think I'm an amazing person/hero/so talented.

At least I'm not the first. I'll close with a quote from Ovid, part of whose Metamorphoses I had to translate from the Latin when I was in college (see, there I go again - how many people can read Latin? Wow, I'm so unique and individual. Aren't you impressed). This is my own translation, which I'm using simply because I can't remember any other. I remember it because when I first translated it, I cried. It pinged a painful little heartstring that I didn't know was there. Dear God, there's nothing worse than being ordinary and forgotten. Don't let me be forgotten.

cum volet, illa dies, quae nil nisi corporis huius
ius habet, incerti spatium mihi finiat aevi:
parte tamen meliore mei super alta perennis
astra ferar, nomenque erit indelebile nostrum . . . .
. . . vivam.

When it will, that day possessing power
over only this my flesh and bone
will end the span of my uncertain hours,
and the better part of me alone
will last, be lifted up beyond the stars
where my name will ever fill the sky,
And I shall go on living, though I die.

Peace and Love to all you Unique, Memorable people - G Love

1 comment:

Meghan said...

Wow. We have a lot in common.

The only difference is, I'm dealing with the sudden change (after 31 years of the wild life and steadily being employed) of being a stay-at-home mom in a new city. I feel positively invisible. My only contact with my friends and the outside world is through my cell phone and my blog. *le sigh*

I, too, fear obscurity only second to being alone. And, when I say being alone, I don't mean to say I'm a needy sucker fish I (I relish time by myself)... I mean, being truly alone.

I could go on and on, but let me just say... I feel ya.

love that last passage, by the way.