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Are You a Professional Writer?

I went to my University's Study Abroad meeting today, and I am so exited!!! I have several choices to choose from, and I have a feeling that this is going to be a very difficult decision to make. So far, I've narrowed it down to 5-- only 5-- countries:

1: Italy 

2: France 
3: Germany 
4: Australia 
5: England
HECK, YES! I think that would be brilliant. In Italy, France, and Germany, I would be attending a highly selective conservatory, and in the others I'd be studying opera performance at a University. What I'm thinking of doing is doing Australia for 1 summer and then 1 semester in Italy/France/Germany and 1 semester in Italy/France/Germany. I'd have to decide which... But I'd also like to do an academic year. There's just something about it... A full year in a foreign country at a conservatory sounds pretty choice to me. :)

Anyway, on to the title of my blog. For my First Year Writing class, we had to write about a moment that
defined our lives, and I wrote about my tumultuous middle school era that dealt with depression and whatnot, and we had our peer review session today. I was paired with one of my classmates, and we did the whole read/edit/give thoughts on each other's paper thing, and while he was reading mine he said, "Are you a professional writer?" I immediately answered with a chuckle and a "No." Granted, I've never been published, but I've spent a good majority of my life thus far huddled above a notebook or journal of some sort. I mean, think about it. I have 20 journals. 20. And I haven't been writing in my latest one that often. It's nearly finished (I have about 50-100 pages to go.), but I'm still not done with it. I've been on this one for about 2 years, now. Anyway, I write. I write a lot. It's helped me through grief and depression, and it's helped me to learn to express myself through the English language.

I guess I'll paste my English paper in here, now, because I can. It's long, so if you don't want to read it, that's fine. I think it's good, though, and for those of you who actually know me, I think you'll learn a lot about me through it.

To the Bathroom and Back: Confessions of a Compulsive Brownie-Eater

I’ve never stepped foot in a psychiatrist’s office. I’ve never laid on one of those heavily cushioned chaise lounges you see in the movies and spilled my soul onto a detached, plush carpet in front of someone I didn’t know. Maybe I should have.

In retrospect, the problems I once thought of as life-ending—the ones that started the whole fiasco-- were mere trivialities. I wasn’t pretty enough, skinny enough, smart enough, etc., etc., ad infinitem. The majority of these problems began in middle school. Things had seemed fine: I was the lucky owner of a ‘best friend;’ I was making good grades in my classes; I was goalie on the middle school soccer team; I even had a starring role in my school’s upcoming production of Into the Woods, Jr. as the Witch. My one fault—the one fault that I am most aware of, anyway—was lying. I was a cute, little nine-year-old with big, green eyes who liked to tell stories, and if I felt a whim to answer one of my mom’s questions falsely, I ran with it. I would concoct an answer so fantastic that I find it amazing that I believed I would get away with it at all. Needless to say, my mom caught me in the middle of lies all the time. It wasn’t as if these lies were very harmful, though; no one really took them seriously.

Although I was doing well in school, the situations surrounding my education were slowly ebbing at both my emotional and physical health. Girls—especially those of the middle school-aged variety—are wretched little beasts. Excuse me for the use of that blanket statement, but I’m pretty sure that such a statement is relatively accurate. Prepubescent girls are conniving, manipulative little cheats fueled by their desire to fit in along with the crankiness and impatience that comes along with not knowing quite who they are. Now, maybe not all adolescent girls behave in this manner, but I know I did, and so did the vast majority of the girls with whom I went to school. From the blunt “Oh, my, gosh, you’re so fat,” to the more common, passive-aggressive approach (i.e. “Siiiiiiigh, I guess that’s ok.”), girls have the act of cutting one another to pieces down to an art. I survived in this environment by responding to them in kind for a year or so, but it was inevitable that I would flounder eventually. And flounder I did. In fact, I didn’t so much as flounder as sink like a rock.

When I learned that fabricating far-fetched stories did nothing but get me in trouble, I quickly shifted gears to creating more plausible lies; lies that wouldn’t expose me and my faults. It was getting harder and harder to distinguish my truths from my lies, and my mom was taking notice. I became very efficient at covering up lies and making them seem like absolute, honest-to-God truth—it’s not too shocking that I chose to go into acting—but one slip, one little misstep when I was ten caused my world to come crashing down around me. This downfall was triggered by a tiny, insignificant brownie. Who knew that something as simple as a chocolate dessert item designed to bring joy to the masses could flip me so completely upside-down?

I wanted that brownie, and I was going to have it. Not only was the smell of freshly made baked goods intoxicating, but they were just sitting there, craftily arranged on the decorative red and blue floral patterned dish, taunting me, making my mouth water with desire. There were at least twenty others; one out of twenty wouldn’t be missed. Even though I knew dinner would be ready in less than half an hour, I grabbed the most aesthetically pleasing piece and gobbled it up. And it was good. I remember that. I also remember how I smiled as I consumed its chocolaty goodness and how it tasted slightly of cinnamon, my mom’s special ingredient. If I close my eyes and concentrate, I can almost recall how the fudgy bits that stuck to my teeth tasted, because they were, of course, of a completely different consistency and flavor than the rest of the brownie. They were bitterer. They had a bite to them. They were my favorite part.

My glee came to an abrupt halt when my mom approached me and asked, “Stefanie, did you eat one of the brownies I made?” Any kid with even an inkling of sense would have admitted to the small misdemeanor, but, I was not “any kid.”

Several possible answers flitted through my mind at lightning speed. Nope. What brownies? Who, me? Why on earth would I want a brownie? The answer that I allowed the least time to ruminate within the confines of my head was Yes, Mom, I did.

“No,” I said, looking my mom squarely in the eye. I had painstakingly honed my craft to the point where I could look someone directly in the pupils while lying and not even flinch, a talent of which I am now ashamed. I admit that such a talent is helpful in the acting world, but to know where it originated from sends thousands of tingling shivers up and down my spine and makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up at attention.

My response sent an earth-shattering wave of disappointment across my mother’s face, and I knew right then that I had just done something that I would regret for a very long time.

As I mentioned earlier, I had been cast as the Witch for my middle school’s production of Into the Woods, Jr., and for a 7th grader, that was big news. There were 8th grade students who didn’t even get cast. I was finally finding a niche in which I could fully express myself. My mom knew how much it meant to me, so when I lied to her about eating the brownie—a mere speck among the dust storm of lies I had previously told her—she decided to hit me where it hurt.

“Stefanie,” she said slowly, making sure that the brevity in her voice was getting through my thick skull, “We’re going to go to school tomorrow, and we’re going to tell Mrs. Barnes that you can’t be in the play.”

I’ve never cried or screamed so much in my life.

The next day, my mother, true to her word, dragged me, kicking and screaming, to school. On most days, school was like a mall. I went there to socialize and maybe, on an extra-special day, open a textbook or two. The lockers were similar to the tables in a food court for me: I’d open mine, and suddenly I was bombarded with conversation after conversation, each making me that much later for class. On this particular day, though, school was not a mall. Instead it was a courthouse, and I was about to receive my sentence.

Everything was darker. The light taupe that had once covered the walls was a menacing, dark grey-ish beige. The metal lockers that had seemed to glow so jovially were now dull and lackluster. Even the carpet appeared to have less cushion, less bounce. My heart felt like it was going to explode. It was beating so fast that it felt like a hum instead of a slow and steady metronome, and this vibration traveled to the tips of my fingers, making me shake with anxiety.

Inside Ms. Barnes’ classroom the fear was stifling. My mother calmly explained the situation to Mrs. Barnes, and with a quick not of the head and an “I understand,” I was effectively yanked from having any part in the play. It’s amazing how much your life can change in a matter of moments. I see now that it wasn’t just the play that I had lost; it was also my mother’s trust, and it would take me years of hard work to repair that part of our relationship.
After the “Brownie Incident,” as I like to call it, I was lost. Well, more lost than I had been, anyway. It is hard to think of a ten year old who has lost all faith in life, but that was me. I was tired of the lying, but I couldn’t stop, and I saw myself as weak because I could not just quit, cold-turkey.

I hated myself.

The next couple of years were not only difficult; they were hell on Earth. From barely passing classes to constant fights at home, I was spinning out of control, falling apart at the seams. It was like sliding down a rock wall without any footholds, nails being torn to bits because I was clawing so hard to get a grip. I had this ache pounding at the pit of my stomach, telling me that the ground was approaching. And fast. My world was spinning, and I had no one to hold me steady. I had to find a way out.

My way out came to me while my mom cut our home-grown tomatoes one day in the kitchen. She examined the vast array of yellow, orange, green, and red fruit and pulled out one of the biggest, reddest tomatoes I’d ever seen up close. The waxy skin had a certain silk-like quality with a sort of muted softness. My mom lifted the tomato to her nose, closed her eyes, and sniffed.

“Ooh, smell that,” she said, smiling, eyes still closed.

I wrinkled my nose as I pulled away, said, “I don’t like tomatoes. Blech!” To this day I wish I had smelled that tomato.

Mom shrugged and put the tomato on the knife-scarred, pale blue cutting board. She picked up the knife, and my eye was immediately attracted to the way the metal glinted in the noontime sunlight that flooded in through the large window above the sink. The light danced merrily along the serrated edge, reminding me somewhat of the movement of a chainsaw blade. As she cut the tomato, its juices flowed violently out of the gash and onto the cutting board. I thought, Well, isn’t that interesting? The sides of the knife were smeared with tomato guts, and I couldn’t help but smile. I had found my way out.

So I planned.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I thought of different situations in which I could steal away from my family to get some ‘me time.’ Such precious moments are highly infrequent in my family, so if I actually did get some time to myself, I had to milk it for all it was worth. To my surprise, one of those moments practically fell into my lap within a matter of weeks after my epiphany. I don’t know exactly how I happened to find myself alone at the house, but I believe my parents were at our neighbors’, and my sister was outside sunning or something of the like. It doesn’t matter what they were doing; I was alone.

I grabbed the knife from its wooden holder, and it slid out easily, scraping the sides with a grinding, metallic sound. I immediately rushed upstairs to my bathroom, because it was the only place in the house where I felt safe. I thought I could do anything I wanted there with a certain degree of guaranteed privacy.

Once I reached the bathroom, I took things much more slowly. I was going to do this right. Leaning my back against the cool, baby blue wall, I slid downward, gradually bending my pudgy knees and eventually sitting on the hard, cream, tile floor next to the blue terrycloth bath rug and the scale that was reminiscent of “Lost in Space,” and I thought. Is this really what I want? Do I want to end it here? Now? The answer to all of these questions was an immediate and resounding “YES.”

And it is here that we reach my low point. As I previously explained, I made my way to my bathroom in hopes of getting a few private moments with myself and my mother’s shiny knife. After only a few seconds of deliberation, I raised the knife and held it aloft, poised above my wrist, and I remembered thinking that it didn’t seem to shine quite as nicely as it had before. Actually, it seemed a little dull. It was also much heavier than I imagined. I began to doubt. Is this going to work? I thought. I shrugged off the blade’s dull appearance and its overly heavy weight as a trick of fluorescent lighting and nerves and focused. Just as I was about to drag the knife across the pale, fragile skin of my wrist, my veins plainly in view, the door of my bathroom slowly creaked open. I quickly concealed the cold metal fearing that my mother was going to walk through the door, but instead it was my dog, Cocoa. We had adopted her as a seven-pound, grey-furred, blue-eyed puppy in 1995 from an elderly couple in Manchester, TN who raised and sold pure-bred Weimeraners, the ‘grey ghost’ of dogs, usually bred for hunting. We picked her out of all of her brothers and sisters because, while her litter mates were jumping up and down, barking and behaving, well, like puppies, she was in the back corner of the fenced-in area, taking a nap on the dirt floor of the dog house. She was slightly pudgy, and her crystal blue eyes—all Weimeraner puppies have blue eyes—were so gentle, so thoughtful. We took her home, and we soon learned that never before has a more stubborn, yet more loving and wonderful animal existed. Despite her full-grown weight of over one hundred pounds, she believed herself to be a featherweight lap dog and would constantly try to climb into my lap so I could rub her ears and give her kisses. She never judged me, never loved me any less, when I did something stupid or wrong. She was the only consistent thing in my life, and before this point I only viewed her as a pet.

When she saw me, I can almost swear she smiled as if to say, “Hi, friend! I’ve been looking for you!” Her amber eyes were unassuming and kind, and her tail wagged in furious circles.
Then suddenly, it hit me. I had a friend. She may have only been a dog, but she was my companion, and a good one at that. That was something to live for, right? There are so many instances where dogs have saved their owners from carbon monoxide poisoning, house fires, heart attacks, and, in my case, suicide, and Cocoa was there for me just like all the pets from those stories. She gave me hope that there was a reason for all of this turmoil. I immediately gave up any additional thoughts of taking my life, grabbed Cocoa around her strong, furry neck, and cried until I had no more tears left to cry. When I pulled away her fur was darkened by my tears, and she licked away the dried tear-salt from my face, leaving a gooey residue on my cheeks left behind from her saliva. Some people find that sickening, but I’ve never minded. Shortly after, I made a pact with myself to do my best to stop lying and never end up sitting alone in my bathroom wielding a knife pointed at my wrists. I knew that I was headed for a very grueling, lengthy part of my life, but I had something to live for which made it all worth my while.

* * * *
Ten years and very few lies later, I am now in a much healthier state of mind. I picked up therapeutic journaling which even today helps me through tough emotional times. I have also added writing short stories and novels to my list of hobbies. There are still kinks in my life that need to be ironed out, but none of them are life-threatening, and I have my whole life ahead of me to fix those problems. The relationship between my mother and me is still in recuperation, but we’re much closer to our goal of one hundred percent trust. Cocoa is twelve years old, and her health is exponentially declining. For a larger dog, she has lived an extremely long time, and my family and I have been blessed to have been around her for so long. She has many fatty lypomas all over her body, and we also believe her to be suffering from cancer and hip dysplasia. Her sight and hearing are impaired as well. At this point, it’s just a waiting game. We don’t expect her to be with us after the next few weeks, and our only hope is that she passes away peacefully in her sleep. When she does leave us, I am not sure how I will react. I have never dealt with the death of anyone that was extremely close to me, so this will be a new, heart-rending experience that I suppose I will never forget. I have tried to prepare myself as best as I could for her death, but I have a feeling that I will never be fully prepared. The only thing I can do is be at her side as often as I can just like she was at mine. I can do at least that much.END

So, that was that. :) Good ol' English. :)

I'm afraid, though, that it's time for Stefanie to go to
Bedfordshire. I have class tomorrow at 9am. BLAH. Whatever. It's piano. No big deal. I just have to run the scales like crazy, because I can't, for the life of me, get my thumb NOT to transfer to the D nat. Awesome. Au revoir.


PS Oh, I started my diet yesterday, and so far I've stuck with it. All yesterday and all today.
Go Stef!! :) Hopefully I won't be a fat-ass anymore. heh


Anonymous said…
I enjoyed this post very much. I got caught up in your story as if I were there with you.
I'm sorry, but you just reminded me about brownies and now I want to eat one.
Amazingly poignant, I loved every word. Oddly I too was there with a knife in the bathroom with the grown up plan that a 7th grader can't comprehend how horrid it is. Maybe that's why I was touched by this post. Anyway thanks for the great read.
Shefali said…
Wow that's great writing!

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