I hadn’t realized how desperate I was to leave the bubble of the world I was living in until the cold air had set in from the autumn weather. Feeling trapped within my faded bedroom walls, I longed for warmth and change, something I believed I wouldn’t be able to find in the town that I was living in.
I wondered what it would be like to move across the country to sunny California and live on my own. To live in an apartment with a view; to work off my own expenses; to go to college amongst liberals. The euphoric feeling of a life of my own was too much to ignore.
I confronted my mother with the thought that wouldn’t stop pestering me and tried to convince her that living in California was doable.
“University of Southern California is the best business college there. The weather is always nice and it would be fun to live on my own and be independent. How fun would it be, to live alone for awhile? You can visit me whenever dad and the kids are bothering you too much,” I said and laughed, smiling shyly. I stared up at her from my fingernails, watching her expressions change.
She looked up from the pile of shredded envelopes she had around her. It was her billing day, and for the most part the only day of the week she was home. She put down the phone she had in her hands and crossed her arms. I felt a lecture coming forth.
“You have everything here; your family, the restaurant business. You’re telling me you’re going to be okay with leaving all of that behind?” She raised her eyebrows. I shrugged and ignored the shocked expression she gave me.
“Let’s say you go to California. You come back six years later after getting your degree and the business multiplies. You’d be six years behind. You wouldn't be able to handle the restaurants on your own. ” Her tone shifted and her eyes narrowed. “Am I crazy? Sending my daughter to California. For what? Did you see anybody else do this with their daughters?”
I had ceased speaking and listened to everything my mother had found wrong with my idea. My hopes deflated with each of her nitpicks until all that was left were several holes in a plan I thought to be foolproof.
When her phone rang, I happily took the chance to leave and told my mother to forget I had said anything. I didn't even bother to look back at her; my expression at the moment was too vulnerable to be seen by anyone besides myself.
I knew my mother had informed my father that night when he had come home from work. He approached me the next day and halfheartedly asked if I would be able to live so far from my family; I gave him the same answer I gave to my mother: a shrug and a downwards glance.
I told myself to never bring the issue of California up ever again.
I didn’t want my parents to get suspicious and think that I had gone crazy and was straying from who I ¨was¨. It would have been a never-ending investigation consisting of the most random questions:
“You’re telling me that you can live without us?”
¨Why do you want to go there so bad?¨
“Are you hiding something?”
“What are you not telling me?”
I always thought I knew who I was. I thought my life was all laid out for me and all I had to do was get into a good college and work from there.
I remembered my younger self and laughed at her for being so naive; for believing in such simplicity.
Yeah. You'll get a degree and a career and your parent´s pride, and after that, you´ll marry a man you’ve never met before!
All you're ever going to amount to is an inferior trophy wife, with no sense of freedom.
In my room, I went over to my computer and deleted all the tabs I had open about California from my browser. One by one, information about USC's courses, L.A. rentals, nearby jobs; they all disappeared from my laptop´s screen as if they had never existed. I didn't need the constant reminder of a life I could never live. I shut my laptop closed.
I sunk down onto my bed. Rapid thoughts were whizzing past my mind so fast I began to think that there were real words floating in my field of vision.
I´d never experience things on my own. I´d never learn the value of money. I´d never genuinely fall in love. I´d never be able to live a life of my choosing.
Perhaps I was selfish, as my mother had said.
Feeling down, I removed myself from the bed and slowly walked to the doors of my closet after grabbing a pen. I stretched my hands far behind the curtain of clothes I had hanging and retrieved the secret journal that was there. I flipped to the last page, where a list I began a year ago was written. I read it in my mind:
Spend high school like a normal teenager.
Become a doctor.
Fall in love, for real.
Explore the world before my imminent marriage.
Leave New Jersey.
Fake my death.
Free myself from cultural norms.
I guided the purple pen I had in my hands and wrote the word ´California´ in capital letters.
I stared at the list´s newest addition, a feeling of bleakness blooming within me. I stared at the word once again before tracing my pen in a line over it, feeling my heart crush. My hands shook slightly in response to the emotions I was feeling, before slowly steadying as I numbed myself to my wishes.
When I stopped drawing, I shut the book quickly and returned it to its sacred area. As I covered the journal's whereabouts with my clothing, I felt myself being pulled further into the template of the life I was supposed to live.