All Nonfiction Bullying Books Academic Author Interviews Celebrity interviews College Articles College Essays Educator of the Year Heroes Interviews Memoir Personal Experience Sports Travel & CultureAll Opinions Bullying Current Events / Politics Discrimination Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking Entertainment / Celebrities Environment Love / Relationships Movies / Music / TV Pop Culture / Trends School / College Social Issues / Civics Spirituality / Religion Sports / Hobbies
- Summer Guide
- College Guide
- Author Interviews
- Celebrity interviews
- College Articles
- College Essays
- Educator of the Year
- Personal Experience
- Travel & Culture
- Current Events / Politics
- Drugs / Alcohol / Smoking
- Entertainment / Celebrities
- Love / Relationships
- Movies / Music / TV
- Pop Culture / Trends
- School / College
- Social Issues / Civics
- Spirituality / Religion
- Sports / Hobbies
- Community Service
- Letters to the Editor
- Pride & Prejudice
- What Matters
The sound of clanking and scraping of forks and knives against my mother’s fine china filled the room. Silence strangled us all, tightening its grip on our throats in an effort to instill the worst kind of discomfort.
It was the first time in three years that we used the intricately designed tableware. It was the first time in three years that my mother’s parents were in town.
My grandmother with her sharp, birdlike eyes squinted at me from across the table. Her husband looked from her, to me, then back down at his food, letting the incessant clanking and scraping continue without a word.
“So,” my grandmother finally said, her eyes almost slits as they narrowed in on me.
I changed my mind. She was more like a reptile than a bird. I didn’t think I had ever seen my grandmother in any color other than brown or green, and the way she looked at people reminded me of a predator locking eyes with prey.
“It’s about time to start thinking about that future of yours, now isn’t it?” she probed, placing her fork down with a shaky hand. “What did you have in mind for college?”
I opened my mouth to answer, but the woman continued to rattle on with more questions.
“Have you thought about majors that interest you? What about occupations? How are you going to make money? You’re a very bright girl with many things going for you, and I wouldn’t want you to waste any of it.” She looked at my parents pointedly. “Your father has mentioned your interest in traveling and writing, and I just want to make sure you know that neither of those things can support you financially, and neither of those things are occupations.”
She took a sip of her red wine—the expensive kind we only brought out once every three years—and all eyes were on her shaking hand and the sloshing red liquid as the glass was lowered back to the white tablecloth.
“So,” she continued. “Tell me about what you see for your future. Tell me about colleges, degrees, and careers.”
My grandmother’s voice seemed to float through the room, fading and dwindling until I only picked up on a faint hum.
She wanted me to think about my future, a future that seemed close enough to be tangible, yet so full of the unknown to still seem utterly unobtainable. Yet it was there, haunting me with its elusiveness and pushing me forward all at once. It was the compelling force that promised I would discover my place in the world.
My grandmother wanted that place to be an office, a steady income, and a useful college degree. To her, my future was nothing more than a means to exist.
To me, my future was not about existing. My future was about living.
I saw myself studying in a grand library with a light in my eyes for what I was learning, overcome with a desire to read each and every book that lined the shelves. Maybe that act would help me make sense of the world. I would be studying for an unknown class in an unknown college, but I would know I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I envisioned a busy city street. The street lamps would light up the darkness of the evening. I would walk purposefully, the chilly wind whipping my hair about.
I pictured myself boarding plane after plane, visiting new places, and meeting new people. I would learn how to love without having an object of affection. I would relish the simple act of breathing.
I would write. The words would flow out of me like I was bleeding them, and my fingers would ache with the yearning to write myself into existence. The words I bled would be my place in the world; they’d be an infinite and indestructible creation. I’d write about places, people, and emotions, about the faintest of whispers and the mightiest of laughs. I’d write about the despair in my heart for the amount of places on this earth and how little time I had to see them all. I’d write for the people I might never meet and the voices I might never hear, but I would pray that my words would connect me to these places and people even when I was only a collection of bones beneath the ground.
The future was not something I could describe to my grandmother. It could not be summed up by the names of colleges or potential day-jobs. My future rested amid an inextinguishable fire. The flames burned, roared, and engulfed every inch of me, and I had not the strength to let them die.
Sometimes I could see this fire reflected in my eyes, and sometimes I could see it in someone else’s. I have also seen eyes that reflected nothing at all. The fire had sputtered out while the person was still living, and I could not fathom how one could wake up each morning, look in the mirror, and see only a pair of empty spheres staring back at them each day.
My grandmother yanked me from my thoughts by clearing her throat, and I focused my mind back on the present, only to see that all eyes were on me.
“She’s undecided,” my mother blurted, shooting me a look. “What is wrong with you?” she whispered so that only I could hear.
I shrugged. I stared straight into my grandmother’s eyes, and saw nothing but cold, black embers.