Thursday, February 7, 2008

Venn diagram

My name is Sharon.

I was born in New York.

My favorite food is pizza.

I like to draw. I like to color. I like playing dress-up.

I have a mom, a dad, and a little sister.

My sister and I play a lot.

I am four years old, and when I grow up I want to be a ballerina.

* *

I was serious about that ballerina thing. I really thought I could do it. The most dance experience I'd had at the time was a children's ballet class at the YWCA back in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, and I had just joined a dance troupe at my Chinese school. (Our first dance involved pink plastic stools and round paper fans (not the plaited ones).) I had never seen a professionally staged ballet. I still haven't, actually. But how cool would it have been to have really pursued it? Barbara Milberg Fisher wrote a memoir about dancing with the NYCB and Balanchine - she didn't go into graphic detail about the physical pain involved in being a ballerina, something that would have deterred me the most, also the one thing I knew about the least. She talks a lot about traveling, which I would have considered kind of cool when I was in kindergarten; about the rehearsals, which I would have thought I could endure; about the costumes and makeup, which I would have loved; and about dancing and performing. Gosh, I would have loved it.

I wasn't a compulsive liar when I was four, but I was imaginative. I liked to believe I could invent things in my life that hadn't happened yet. I lied about things I thought I could get away with, especially to people who I figured wouldn't know better. So the first time we had to talk about ourselves and illustrate, I said that there were three other people in my family. Even though I was an only child. I told the room mother, whoever was helping me write my ten-sentence life story, that I had a sister. I don't remember what her name was. But she existed. And she was a baby sister, I think she'd just been born.

I'm trying to decide if the four-year old me would like the nineteen-year old me. If she'd even care. If we'd get along. Would she shun me for not being cool enough or pretty enough (Not a dancer? Next.), or would she be shy around me and actually want to get to know me? I know when I was younger, I idolized the high school girls I knew, mostly from Chinese School and also in the dance troup (one girl actually went to my elementary school, was a fifth grader, a safety, and she rode my bus). I thought their lives were infinitely more glamorous than mine (my understanding of glamor didn't involve too much), that they could do so many cool things (I couldn't name anything specific, but I just knew), and that I wanted to grow up as quickly as possible and be like them. Get to dance with umbrellas. And silk ribbons. And wear prettier costumes.

The kindergarten me - I feel like I know her. But we sort of lost touch. I feel like I think about her a lot, but I never know if she thinks about me. About the me-me, not the abstract, imaginary me she wanted to be. I wish I could ask her questions. I wish I could give her advice. I wish she would be happy, I mean, she was, but I wish she'd known to appreciate her present. I think four-year olds mostly do, appreciate their lives, that is, because they have no basis for comparison. But four-year old Sharon would imagine things to compare her life to . . . She was too good for me, I think.

* *

Dear four-year old me,

You didn't need to lie about having a sister. In general, lying is a very bad thing, and you should avoid it at all costs. But you didn't need to lie, because she was on her way. You wanted a sister and you got her (and she and you are quite good friends, actually).

I'm sorry to say that you aren't a ballerina. I'm not a ballerina. I'm a materials scientist/engineer. It's . . . kind of less glitzy than what you wanted. But you will make a difference, somehow. To be completely honest (since I just told you not to lie), I don't know if I will make a difference. I don't even know what I want to be, unlike you. But if you asked me for an answer, either in writing for a job application or in an interview, I could probably think of something to say. I went to a job fair today and told people that I was interested in working with energy, technology related to that, and transportation, finding a way to make that more efficient. It wouldn't be lying, exactly, because that is what I want to do, for now. I could get away with telling people that, especially to people who I figured wouldn't know better. I'm kind of a loser for not knowing what I want to do, aren't I? And something that not a lot of people have heard of, I agree (a lot of people had heard of "materials science and engineering" at this job fair, but they weren't really sure what it was and they didn't think they wanted to hire me).

I go to school in Pittsburgh. That's in Pennsylvania, where you used to live, but on the other side. Pennsylvania's a huge state, I don't know if you know that or not. I didn't know it myself until last year - it takes over six hours to drive from one end of it to the other. That's longer than it takes to drive from your house to where I am now.

I like your room. Green paint, rose wallpaper trim. Pink carpet. It looks exactly the same - I finally bought glow-in-the dark stickers (they're stars and planets, I know you like those) and put them on the ceiling about eleven or twelve years ago (not as long as it sounds), so it's like looking at the night sky, but only in one spot - except it's not your room anymore. You have a brother, too. Cool, right? That's his room now. Yeah, you're right, pink isn't a boy's color, but he's a pretty relaxed guy, he was good about it. Your toys are still in the house somewhere, some are in Stacy's room, most of them are in the family room, and some are in my room, on the bed and on a shelf. Brownie is here with me at school. People have recently told me she looks like a chipmunk, but you and I know that she is just a teddy bear.

I'd like to give you advice, I don't know whether or not you want to hear what I have to say. The biggest things: Be patient; don't worry. Dad probably tells you this all the time (if he hasn't started yet, he will say it to you a lot, eventually, because you're kind of impatient, and worrying is something you tend to do). Be patient because you'll be in fifth grade before you know it; be patient because middle school and high school will go by so quickly, and then you'll be in college, which is even cooler than playing dress-up or Princesses. Be patient because you will get to make lots of friends and see lots of movies and go to many places, but right now, you don't need any of those things; what you have is enough, and what you have is great. Your best friends will mostly still be your best friends in fifteen years. You won't be a ballerina, but you will still like to dance, and to perform, and The Sound of Music will still be one of your favorite movies. (And you can still pretend to be Liesl, if you want. You will still like to sing, and often, so keep singing.)

Don't worry. Just remember that God is always watching out for you from Heaven and your family and friends are looking out for you on Earth. Don't worry about not being good enough. You'll never be the best - well, maybe that's not true - you won't feel like you're the best, a lot of the time, but you'll always be more than good enough. You will be well liked and funny and pretty and kind and think interesting things and have interesting experiences, and you will smile and laugh often, cry sometimes, but mostly be very happy. So don't worry. You will do great in school and learn, and read great books, and it may not happen how you planned it, but I really think it will all work out in the end.

Work hard. Keep practicing the violin, don't give it up. Study hard. Try to plan in advance. Make sure you tell Mom and Dad about things before right before they happen, like if you want to go to the movies with your friends or something (in a few years). Be focused. Do one thing at a time, and focus on just that one thing while you're doing it. Be efficient (that means . . . try to save time), but don't over-multi-task (do too many things at once) in order to be efficient. Don't look down at the radio to change the station while you're driving.

I don't exactly know what I want to be when I grow up, or what I want when I grow up. Things I know I want, for sure:

I want a well decorated house. Or apartment, I could do with someplace small. I love IKEA and Laura Ashley, those are home furnishing companies.

I want a family. I'd like to have kids, I'd maybe like to get married . . . I feel like this is still far off and hard to imagine, but I think I'd like this. Or I'd like to visit my family a lot.

I want to be happy.

I think . . . we're probably a lot alike, wouldn't you say?

Oh, another thing. Don't procrastinate. Kick that habit as soon as possible. I'm writing you this letter instead of reading a book for a history class. That's bad. Don't do that.

And you don't have a boyfriend yet. I don't have a boyfriend yet. There will be a lot of boys who you like and a few boys who will like you. Try not to let those boys (who like you) get away. They might seem kind of weird or . . . annoying or creepy at first, but they mean well. They're good guys. They like you for the right reasons.

I'll let you know as I figure that one out.

You like fortune cookies, right? That was the one I got with my dinner a couple nights ago. I just opened it tonight.

I thought it was funny.




alice said...

So I spent almost all day thinking about my past. (Been thinking about that for a day or two, actually... long story) It was a little depressing. I had Wendy's for dinner and sat all by myself despite the food court being packed, and with each disgusting french fry consumed, I felt like I was going to break down any second. I even forgot about my night class as I sat there (it's from 7-10. Did't feel like heading over there after realizing how late I was). And then I read this. Not going to lie, but your entry made me tear up. I needed that. Thanks.
You're beautiful. No matter what you do, no matter where you end up. Don't forget it. <3

alice said...

Oh yea. I got a call from Maria a moment ago. She told me you guys were accountability partners! That's so awesome! Make sure you let me know how that goes.
And I'm also writing a letter to 4-yr-old me. You inspire me :D Probably won't post it, though, because I'm like that.