Originally for this week’s letter, I wrote about modern art and tied it all up with a conversation I had at the library and a glimmering Christmas ribbon
Then in the middle of a passionate tangent about Kandinsky’s Murnau Street with Women, I said, “nope.”
It’s not like I hadn’t been enjoying what I was writing. I didn’t dislike it either. I just felt guilty for caring so deeply about these women and their colorful town. Why should my readers care what I’m saying about some old painting? I imagined my biggest fans, Grandma and Grandpa, trying not to doze off at the mention of art history.
So I tossed it.
Instead, I gazed in the mirror, eye to eye with my guilt. Where did you come from?
Oh, my least favorite word,
Oh, I hate it so much. I forgot how much I hate it.
That awful word and I became acquainted before my senior year of high school as I fell in love with indie music and “deep” books written by dead white guys.
This prompted my friends and family to “joke” with me about my preferences being pretentious. I went along with it and at first, it felt harmless. I enjoyed my new interests, what was wrong with that? I even began to “joke” about it myself. Until I began “ironically” wearing pretentious as some badge of honor.
Yeah, it didn’t take too long for that “ironically” part to disappear.
Quickly, I found myself joining chants of liberal elitism or dismissing pop music and high school dances, or applauding myself for being well-read.
I didn’t think much of it while it was happening but I was so consumed in these things that everything else seemed unimportant. I didn’t notice the change because – as I’ve said before – it happened little by little. But slowly, I was isolating myself. I didn’t “connect” with many people at my new school. They simply didn’t share my interests.
But in my heart, I said was a sensitive person. I cared about what other people thought and felt. I could never be so judgemental and rude. I could never truly think I was better than other people for liking The Dear Hunter, right?
Then graduation came and I saw the change. I realized pretentious wasn’t a joke anymore.
I sat at the end of the alphabet rolling my eyes, begging for the speakers to finish. It was my first year – and last – at this high school so I wasn’t feeling particularly sentimental. Sweating my brains out did not seem worth a piece of paper.
Finally, my class began to walk, one by one, eager to grab their freedom. As they made their way through the cycle I was amazed. There were so many people I knew that I didn’t think I knew.
Hey, there’s that girl I once hung out with then avoided. And that guy that tried talking to me but he wasn’t interesting. Oh, and she always complimented me but I felt uncomfortable.
In the field following the ceremony, I wandered around looking for my family. But all I could find were those people I stared at on the stage. Some came up to hug me and others shouted congratulations. Now there were underclassmen too, yelling my name and bombarding me with hugs. One girl – bless her soul – even thanked me! For what? What could I have possibly done for her?
I felt nauseous. I finally found my family and we left immediately. During the walk to the car, a friend of my sister and I ran across the road to hug me. In her arms, I held back tears. How could I have been so self-absorbed?
The next day I was on a plane and ready to move to Arizona. Below me were smiling faces at graduation parties, some I had even been invited to. I never even gave them much of a chance.
I could have made great friends, but I chose not to. And for what? To hang out with JD Salinger and Emily Brontē?!
Back in the mirror. That question haunted me.
Wow, I forgot about all of those emotions.
Wow, I forgot to forgive myself.
I never intended to write about my forgotten fear of pretention and missed opportunities. Writing these Dear World letters has forced me to spend more time looking in the mirror.
Someone I love once gave me a bedazzled mirror for my birthday. Inside the card, they wrote, “To see yourself the way I do.” I hope they’d be proud of me.
Maybe next week I could write an enjoyable art analysis that even my Grandparents could stay awake for. A letter, that wouldn’t be pretentious. Art and books and music are just some of the things that help me understand the world. That has nothing to do with other people or how I feel about them.
Until then, I choose to forgive.
Smilin’ at my reflection,