Monday, September 5, 2011

On Hope and Being Young

I found a quotations notebook from my teenage years the other day.

It started off  with stanza One of  Emily Dicknison's
 "Hope is the thing with feathers.
 That perches in the soul.
 And sings a tune-- without the words
 And never stops at all."

It was written up in beautiful colors with an elegant hand writing complete with decorative motifs and small happy scribbles. 

The notebook's was full of quotations, some attributed some not. I flipped through it without much attention--until I found that final page. 

I had not remembered collecting these quotes or making that notebook at all. But from the choice of first quote I had assumed that it was a happy teenage girl's little book--a guide to life, or something of the sort. 

Until I came across the last page.
The page held the last quote: 
"Contentement is when you finally realize that life is a gift, not a right." with a small circular drawing beside it, labeled "Vicious Circle of Wants and Needs."  The circle, scribbled in fading pencil strokes, showed how the "quest for happiness" leads to "unfullfillment" which, naturally, leads right back up to the "quest for happiness."

Then, a sad question a few lines down: "How can I break free?"

The answer was shocking: " God," circled in red.

I must have been fourteen or fifteen when I wrote the first quote. But I remember nothing of the circumstances of writing this one last page.  That page was not just a pious girl's quest for Nirvana, or a plan to relinquish material life. This is was the beginning of what was to be many years of learned helplessness.

I wonder who taught this young intelligent human being full of potential that she has to "stop wanting." Who taught her that happiness is bad? Why did she think that there was no use trying?

What happened between the first and the last pages, you may wonder. Well, the patriarchal misogynist Powers That Be had finally gotten the best of me. A very long story that I am sure I am going to tell someday, or even put it in a book. For many years I battled with this there-is-no-use mentality. Sometimes I won, but most of the time the Powers That Be had something entirely different in mind.

How did that story end? Well, I ultimately came out victorious! The Powers That Be are no longer in charge. I'm in charge!

But somewhere deep inside still lies that sad scared little girl. Is this why I was drawn to writing YA fiction about a girl who thought of herself no good but turned out to hold all the power? Perhaps. But maybe I also wrote it for my daughter, to tell her of all the things that she can be and all the things that she can do--if she chooses to.

The operative term here is "if she chooses to." This is a theme I will come back to time and time again in the Battle for Maat. Aya is not just someone who is fated by blood and heritage for greatness, she had to choose to be great. She will even defy common sense on many occasions because she wants to do what she feels is right and wants to find her own way.

"We are who we choose to be." The blind Seer tells Aya in the beginning of her journey. I believe in that wholeheartedly. Don't you?

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