My Bell Jar This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

August 20, 2014
By , Aspen, CO

What do you call not feeling anything? Depression? Inhuman? You could just deny it, fill up your life with iced coffee and Nicholas Sparks books, sit by the river on your days off to admire the glitter of sun on the surface, the contrast of your bitter face reflected in the water. But how long can that bubbly lifestyle last, that fake happiness that might as well be characterized by a lone man walking through a crowded plaza on a bright day with no shadow? I don’t even know the root of the feeling, or lack thereof. I often think of that night he called me to come over for half an hour, but how could one immature, little boy cause so much emptiness? This is more substantial than an unappreciative fellow human. 


Perhaps it started last fall, when I came home after a long summer of beach days, alcoholic drinks, and paddling around the lake right before dusk. It was back to my life of congested binders, dull pencils, and artificial friends who might as well have a “nutrition facts” label right on their chest. If that were the case, most of them would be zero calorie, non-fat, and lacking fiber. I was only two weeks in to my junior year, when I had the inspiration to hop off my school bus at the park. It wasn’t as though I was desperate for fresh air, or even in the mood to walk home through bushes and up hills, but I figured I’d get to my house and not leave my room until dinner anyway. 


The town had just implemented a new landscape for the John Denver park right by the Rio Grande river. There were little pathways made of cobblestone that went across tiny puddles and dams, and an intricate network of granite benches and John’s very own songs carved into slabs of rock. The trees were full of yellow leaves, like swarming bees around a hive, and they blew casually in a slight breeze coming from up valley. I found a small alcove hidden in the shade behind a cottonwood tree, and opened up my JanSport backpack, pulling out my copy of “The Bell Jar” by Sylvia Plath. Before I open any book, I have this compulsion to read all the reviews lining the back cover, but this copy had nothing on it but what looked like a pale, thin hand, reaching through cobwebs while dangling some sort of charm. I’d heard good and bad things about the book, which made it perfect for me. I feed off of controversy. 


At first, the pages flipped by, hardly affecting my mood of tranquility and presentness. My hair didn’t blow in my face, my hands weren’t clammy, my lips weren’t chapped, and there was nothing to focus on other than the descriptive and desperate writing. Despite the atmosphere, I didn’t feel a slight pang in my chest until the scene of her tossing her clothes off the balcony her last night in New York City, watching them drift away in the breeze. Such carelessness, recklessness; I wondered what could drive the human soul to find so little beauty in the world, that they must create it for themselves, no matter the consequences. Artificial beauty, so to speak, like a turf football field, or a plastic flower dangling out someone’s window. 


It’s truly amazing, really, that a combination of twenty-six letters on a page can have such a profound effect on people, at least the ones who have empathy, an appreciation for the thoughts of others. I often fantasize about a world in which when I speak, I still feel as intelligent as I do when the thoughts are still unprocessed and raw in my head. It’s as though as soon as a sentence I’ve been pondering all day escapes my sour lips, the words lose half their legitimacy, like a car leaving a lot. I feel stupid and incoherent, like I’ve never been educated in grammar or common sense. So in turn, by choosing not to speak, I don’t give the words a place to run, and then they only deteriorate. They turn into gray pencil shavings, bran flakes in cereal, the deckled edge off a piece of college ruled paper. Unnecessary. Garbage.


The day I started reading “The Bell Jar” was the day I died inside. I don’t blame Sylvia Plath for her mental condition, and I don’t blame the world that inadvertently caused her to take her own life. I don’t romanticize her death either, because there’s no such thing as a beautiful suicide, despite the three page spreads honoring the wonderful people who have taken their lives in rock and roll magazines and high school yearbooks. I think I died inside that day because there was truth to her words. We do live a short number of years, we do go through stages of pain, and often times, the best moments in our life are outweighed by the worst ones. This mentality took a long, deep dive into me, and I had trouble plucking that splinter with long, metal tweezers. 


But now, about a year later, after having gone through some of the most life-changing times, and some of the most excruciating, a weight has been lifted. I’m not going to start writing poetry about how birds chirp and flowers bloom and how life is always a beautiful thing, because that’s not the truth. The truth is that life is a contradiction; everything is temporary, all that is alive right now will in fact be dead one day, decomposing on forest floors. And I don’t mind that. Imagine our world if there was no pain. Can you think about that for just a second? I don’t want to live in a world like that, because utter happiness wouldn’t exist either. Nobody would have anything to compare it to. 


I’m not going to close this entry, writing that I have complete clarity, that I have seen the light, “hallelujah, I’ve been saved”. In fact, I have no more a clue than I did when I was still a seven year old girl who thought the world would always be kind. But I do know that I’m never going to know why I’m here, why my life is the way it is, so I just have to accept that. One could say that I have chosen the route of denial, but my mentality is quite the contrary; I’m not going to block out pain, because I’d also block out every opportunity I’d get to feel completely alive. I don’t want to sit in my room, afraid of everything terrifying that could happen, because it’s bound to find and catch me, no matter my efforts. So for now, I’ll breathe, and not wait or hope to die, but rather remember how little time I have to immerse myself in the glorious pain and happiness which is life. 

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