There are two version of me.
There is real me: several lbs overweight, overworked and slightly underpaid (though I am incredibly grateful to have income and a relatively easy job after months of unemployment), impatient, ungrateful, internet junky, unsophisticated, cheap-clothes wearing, depressed, absent, and all-together embarrassed at how I can’t get my s*** together, me. On the less self-deprecating side, this me also happens to be a pretty decent aunt, photographer (when I actually get to photograph), writer, designer, and all-around creative person. I can keep kids quiet in dismissal lines, and I can improvise the best pasta you ever tasted out of the most random ingredients in your kitchen. The real me also has pretty fantastic taste in music (I do allow myself a certain 6-foot, blonde headed, Nashville hailin’, guilty pleasure, exception to this. But then again, there are people out there who still like Avril Lavigne) also I can extemporize a piano composition worthy of a Adrian Brody film when I am in the right frame of mind. Real me has found a fantastic church, I have a great family and network of friends who genuinely love me, and I have virtually no guilt about changing tenses in blog posts… Which is good.
But this girl, this so-called “real” me, doesn’t feel like the real thing. It feels like being trapped inside someone else’s life. Not a bad life, not a joyless life. But it isn’t fulfilling. Nothing about my life is how I imagined it and that is part of the problem. My sister is always telling me I have to get rid of my expectations, but this for me, seems like asking me not to breathe. She has the happy fortune of being able to find joy and depth in the day-to-day, whereas I trying to live in the day-to-day feel stuck and trapped, like I’m drowning in a mud pit.
The second version of me, is the one I would write if I were the author of the universe.
This version is a superstar photographer and writer. I have a tattoo on the nape of my neck and live in NYC or Paris and I date a well-monied European sex god. This me actually goes camping and kayaking, instead of just talking about it. Also I throw famously un-classy dinner parties for all of my would-be, interesting, creative and successful friends. I have a great kitchen where I cook for these friends, and feed them and make us all feel like we are a chosen family and that my apartment is home away from home. I always have a bag packed in case I get an assignment out of town on a moments notice. I am known for my quirky yet great style. I shop in boutiques, and thrift stores, and estate sales, and trunk shows. I never wear synthetic fibers or anything from Old Navy. I have a screen-play in production with an indie film group, and have been published in The New Yorker and Rolling Stone and French Vogue, my photos accompanying my articles. I drink wine, and I never have wrinkles or pimples or saggy arms or chipped fingernails. I never yell and cellulite is one of those myths read about in magazines and other women’s blogs. I read the books I buy, I get a bagel with lox and a green tea every morning from a Jewish bakery in Hells Kitchen or Brooklyn or Chelsea or somewhere in downtown Paris. I send birthday cards and gifts and treasures from far off lands to my nephews and my family and friends. I attend weddings and funerals and I am with my dearest friends when they give birth. I am not famous except maybe to art-directors or photography nerds, I live a relatively quiet life, but I live it in a grand, big, bold way. My work allows me the opportunity to shed a light on art and music and beauty and truth. I am busy planning the non-profit art camp I want to run for underprivileged kids, and I spend a month or so in Africa and India every year, helping poor areas foster economic growth and social healing through teaching marketable creative skills and building unified communities.
That is the girl I would write, if I were writing my story. And for 26 years I was absolutely convinced that I was. I thought God or the Universe or the Whatever just kind of handed over the reins to human-kind and said, “okay guys, let’s see what you can do,” but lately I am becoming more and more convinced that I am not in control of any of it. Which honestly makes me really angry and sad and bitter most of the time. I must spend at least 60 percent of my time either crying over or cursing it. I simply cannot get my life to look like I sketched it in my head. It’s disconcerting and discouraging and scary to think that I may never be able to do that, to affect change in my own universe. Like those sad would-be great characters of American novels who find themselves trapped in a Deterministic cycle.
So here I am, struggling. I haven’t been given any insight or profound twist, there is no bittersweet conclusion to this post or this journey. Just this question:
Am I the author of my own life or not? And, if I am, why am I writing such a unsatisfying story? And if I am not, why is God?