the world as we know it

published hastily, in an effort to get words on paper before they disappeared and lay dormant for years.

I was not in love with him but I fell in love with his parents. They are best friends, the mother is ten years older than the father. She, the mother, told me they were friends, and then they dated, and then they got pregnant with the boy I dated. She is a bartender but artist first, and he is an IT guy but filmmaker first. They have two twin cats, one is a walking skeleton, the other fat and happy. They live in a 200-year-old wooden house with her paintings and his music everywhere.

Their first house burned down when they were dating. They lost everything. I asked her if she’d ever made anything, about the fire. She showed me a piece of blacksmithed metalwork —she had forged a firewood holder that depicted two people (“Me and Tom,” she explained) amongst a mass of flames, holding up the wood.

Later, I was trying to explain to the mother that I’ve been writing more lately, and that art has started to mean more to me. “Life and art — they’re not that different,” I said.

“They’re one,” she told me.

I want to go to graduate school for writing, because that’s what my mom tells me I should do. That’s what my professors and friends say I should do, and in all honesty it is exactly what I will end up doing. I will get an MFA, I will move to a city or a rural area (not a suburb) and find some freak to fall in love with, and then I will work until I die. It will be comfortable at times and uncomfortable at others and it will be exactly what I am destined to do.

I have this thought, though, that maybe it is not all about success and not becoming washed up & white trash. Maybe it is about doing the things you love.

What is life without a job? Why are we here if it is not to work? This is something I’ve never considered. I’m not here to sit in an office, I’m here to fucking create. And creation and industry are not congruent.

Life is not about the job and husband and WASPy house. It’s about breathing, and art and getting to know people.

I was not taught to breathe. I was actually taught to hold your breath ’til it’s perfect.

I was never a normal kid. Screaming, crying tantrums because of an itchy tag in the back of my shirt, agony because of something so incredibly simple — real agony. It’s not that I was dramatic, it’s that I felt everything that deeply. Everything I felt was a ten, and I didn’t know how to handle it.

What happens when a weird, sensitive kid is born into a broken upper-middle-class white family, with a mother who works too hard and a father who doesn’t work at all? Well, you fuckin’ IQ test the kid to see if they’re worth anything.

So I was gifted, and that set my ball rolling on the path to groundbreaking boringness. From that moment, it was my destiny to be a genius in a box — it’s a good thing they caught my giftedness early so they could stifle it.

That’s cynical. I don’t mean it. My mom and teachers worked hard to let me explore my uniqueness and self — but only to the extent with which they were comfortable. When I thought I was queer at eleven, it was not comfortable. When I wanted to live on my own at twenty, it was not comfortable. When I wanted to take some time off school, it was not comfortable. My individuality is acceptable so long as it does not taint the world’s idea of me — straight, smart, cis girl, who will go to college, get married, work an office job or something that’s productive to society, maybe have a kid or two. Die.

What do I want to do before I die, resigned to a life of imagined freedom but actual tetheredness to the establishment?

I want to fucking make stuff.

I want to feel something good.

Is life not about pleasure? What else could it possibly be about?



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Isabella (she/her) writes literary nonfiction and creative memoir. She currently resides in Greensboro, NC, and intends to pursue an MFA in creative writing.