Starving

For me, the day that flyer came in the mail was like unwrapping a chocolate bar to find a golden ticket. For my parents, it was to be the source of many headaches to come.

I spent much of my teen years hungry. Not for my school’s cafeteria food, which while edible at least, was nothing special. No, I spent them hungry for something I couldn’t pay for at a cashier.

Love. I wanted love, and friendship, and acceptance. I wanted someone to look at me, and comprehend my vast mysteries rather than merely assessing my cup size: to understand me, and my hopes and dreams. I craved the bright future promised by the horizon, if only I could reach the lands beyond it.

Spend enough time starving, though, and soon you no longer even notice it. It becomes a rumbling ache in your belly, nothing more. Like binging on junk food, I binged on loneliness, eagerly scarfing it down like a pack of cookies.

And like waking up to a view of yourself grown fat in the mirror, I woke up to my own unhappiness dimming my eyes. Things could not be allowed to continue this way.

So the day a flyer came in the mail for me, advertising a summer program at a liberal arts college in New York, I could not stop talking about it.

“There is a week long session and a month long session? Awesome, I want to sign up for the month long! They have guided field trips and discount tickets to Broadway. It’ll be great practice for college, Mom!”

“How did these people even get our address?” my mom wondered aloud. Privately, I took it as proof that there was a God and He loved me. Or at least had decided to take pity on me.

Visions of New York filled my head, of going to the art capital of the world and meeting people whose eyes shone like mine with dreams of creating and inspiring others to create as well. Like a salmon returning to its birthplace, so too would I make my way to where great art springs from. These skyscrapers in my mind helped to satiate my deep hunger for something more. Forget Arizona, I thought as I sent off my application in the mail. I was moving on to bigger and better things. I’d be taking myself out of context and getting a chance to discover who I really was.

My hands shook 3-6 weeks later, as my reply came. On garish green paper akin to wilted lettuce was printed my acceptance. It seemed all I had left to do was pack and wait for junior year to finish.

Then my parents stepped in, and gave two reasons I should not be allowed to go. The first, I must admit in hindsight, was reasonable enough: the program cost a lot of money, and they didn’t want me to shoot myself in the foot now when it came time to rounding up enough bread for college later.

The second reason, however, rankled under my skin. They didn’t think I was in this for the studying, that I just wanted to get away from them. They didn’t like the thought of me running around crime-ridden, labyrinthine New York clear across the country from their protective shelter. They didn’t believe I was mature enough to be off on my own, making my own decisions.

“That’s not fair!” I wanted to scream, to yell my pain at the world. How dare it give me a chance only to let me down in the end? How dare it?! I am well aware, however, of when my behavior undermines my argument; acting childishly would only prove my parents right. Instead, I tried to persuade them.

“It’s not like I’m stupid enough to wander around the city by myself. There will be supervisors and everything! The campus is located in one of the safest sections of the city; its crime rate is lower than ours!”

But eventually I fell quiet. Better to have my protests die on silent lips than decay upon deaf ears. The sound of my feet storming off to my room, however, was most certainly not silent.

My dad eventually came in to check on me, unfazed by my glares. “Sweetie,” he said. “I know you must be feeling bad, feeling that everything you’d worked for is so far away.” No, that was not the cause of the currently writhing ache in my belly. That resulted not from the knowledge of how far away I was from my goal, but from how fucking close I’d been to it.

“But I don’t want you to sit around and drown yourself in your regrets. You’ll get other chances.”

“‘The true writer regrets every lost opportunity,’” I said, paraphrasing a quote we had analyzed in English class.

“… there’s an answer to that, but I can’t think of one.” With that, he left me alone.

My face flushed as I allowed myself a moment of pride that I had rendered him speechless. My face was further heated by the sudden downpour of hot tears. I let them come, welcomed them in fact. Their heat was like a spa’s, soothing away my aches and fears.

One good thing had come out of this: I had remembered the taste of something I hadn’t tasted in a long time: hope. And I wasn’t about to let myself go back to my junk food diet of teenage despair.

That summer was spent not exploring some exotic new city, but at my house as I took the time to allow my soul and my heart to heal. I sought peace within myself, instead of looking for it in my environment. By the time senior year rolled around, I was ready for what the world was to throw at me.

My efforts paid off in my Creative Writing class. For once no one commented negatively on my many eccentricities and quirks. But neither did the class fall silent, which judges as much as hateful words do. Instead, there was the conversation of acceptance, a million little thoughtful things we said without thinking.

“You always have the courage to share in class. That’s amazing.”

Talks shared with people who could understand how I felt, understand who was and all that I wanted to be.

“Sarah: Most likely to keep it real.”

A healthier diet of human companionship that would build me up to a better me.

“You’re beautiful, Sarah. Never let anyone tell you otherwise.”

It was, to me, heaven. It had been right under my nose; all I had to do was look for it. Then a day came I had to leave it all behind.

But I did so telling myself I was moving on to bigger and better things.





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