I met my Texan cousin, Southern Comfort, for the first time yesterday. She’s two years younger than me, and my mother’s brother’s daughter. She’s a really positive person. I don’t know if she’s always been this way, but she is now. She’s living close by for a minute, maybe for a while. She’s a lawyer and she has to take the California State Bar Examination, because we have crazy weird rules here. We have unaccredited law schools in our state, so everyone who wants to practice in California has to take the Bar. She has two weeks to study. I told her not to worry about it; she’s passed four different states’ bar exams, so she can pass another, no problem.
I told her about my school plans, and she was excited for me.
“Don’t tell my Moms, though; she doesn’t know. I’m not telling her until I get in.”
“Why not?” Southern Comfort asked.
“Because my Moms kills my dreams,” I said.
She really doesn’t mean to, but that’s what happens. She wants me to be safe, but the practical application of her kind of safe love is the death of my aspirations. She tries to cushion the blow of the harsh, cruel world. When everyone else will tell me to reach for the stars, my mother will tell me maybe my arms aren’t quite long enough, and that there are plenty of pretty flowers to pick right here around my feet. I’ll tell everyone else I’m applying for school because that’s what I really want, and I can already hear my mother’s worried sighs: “How will you pay for it? What will you do when you get out? It’s not very practical. Why do you need another degree? You can write right now, you know. I don’t know if that’s very wise. Why not take a night class at community college? Why not join a writing group? Do you really need to make this kind of commitment? It just doesn’t sound like a good idea. You already have a good job that pays well. Why don’t you make your life right now work for you? I worked where I worked for thirty-four years and found my meaning outside of work….”
She tells me to think smaller. She tells me to be her, instead of myself. She thinks my hare-brained schemes are “too much like [my] father,” who didn’t turn out the way she thought he should have. He’s flaky, he’s flighty, he doesn’t plan. He’s a McRicketts through and through. Not practical. Not pragmatic. Not safe.
Southern Comfort felt me on this one, and she’d spent less than twenty-four hours with my Moms.
“She was already telling me what I could do if I didn’t pass the Bar. She was preparing me for the worst. She didn’t mean to, but it kind of undermined my confidence. Everyone else is telling me it’s going to work out, and she’s telling me not to worry when it doesn’t.”
It’s based in love, it really is. It’s just love that’s twisted into a strange shape by fear. The thing is, I get to decide if I want to participate or not. So far, I’m choosing not to involve her in this decision-making process. It’s been very freeing. I don’t want her input, anyways. Later, I get to practice not engaging with her, which is difficult, but it can be done. When she goes for the throat with the knife, I get to take my dream with me and leave the vicinity. I don’t have to stick around like Desdemona, waiting for my Moms to murder my shit. That’s my choice. No longer a victim, just a volunteer, now that I’m aware of it. Sign my name on the dotted line: one dead dream, please, or step away, disengage, and do my own thing.
Let’s hope I’m still doing the right thing when the time is ripe, and I’m not just talking big game now. It’s easy when she doesn’t know. When she’s grunting like Marge Simpson, it’s hard as fuck to stand my ground.
I will not let her kill this dream. I will do this, regardless of what Moms thinks. Playing it safe, for me, isn’t. This is my life. I get to live it.