Along with most movie-going Americans, I recently reread The Great Gatsby. Fitzgerald opens the book with a philosophy that has had me pondering life and its luxuries this week: “Whenever you feel like criticizing any one…just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”
A girl sitting next to me at Starbucks today, Emily, confirmed my Fitzgeraldesque philosophy. She was elatedly describing to her friend the new Audi her parents just gave her for a high school graduation gift. My first reaction was, gently put, critical; and then I remembered Fitzgerald’s statement.
People don’t typically look at my life (or my 1996 Honda) and covet the advantages I’ve had. I’m here to tell you though, that I am, above all, to be envied.
As is the case with many of the advantaged (such as Emily), the life I enjoy is largely because of the hard work my parents did to provide for me. Those provisions don’t look like the ones that the American Dream implores parents to pass on to their kids. Fortunately for me, my dad was raised in South Africa, and was therefore oblivious to the American Dream. Equally as fortunate for me, my mom is a rebel. She was raised in America (welllllll….Wisconsin), but she was (is) defiant.
Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I get a little sentimental about Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day will mark the one year anniversary of this blog. This adventure. This creative outlet that really began as a result of my mom‘s incessantly annoying encouragement. Exhibit A: Here’s a quote she sent me a while back.
“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” –Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without A Country
That’s right. My mom sent me this. Instructions on how to hurt her. She is the (craziest) most consistent cheerleader and challenger I’ve had. She gets me.
My mom is largely to credit (and blame) for the following:
My love of reading and writing
My adventurous spirit
My love for God and people
My love for music
My appreciation for a perfectly roasted coffee bean
My stubborn will
My understanding of grace (coupled with how to fall gracefully)
My scatterbrainedness (and ability to make up words)
My resolve to never settle
My desire to change the world with a pen and paper
I may not drive an Audi, but as you see from this list, I’ve had life served to me on a (dented/tarnished/stainless steel…read: perfect) platter.
I recently told Brock that the two things in life that require the most bravery are loving and writing. Love demands our utmost bravery (both in tangible and intangible relationships). I believe that writing requires the second highest level of bravery, because it commits our intangible world to tangible words. There is something permanent in the translation process–something binding about letting our words permeate the void spaces on a blank page.
My mom gifted me with the greatest advantages (that are found nowhere in the American Dream)–writing and loving.
Happy Mother’s Day to the bravest, most tenaciously loving (and crazy) mom I know. Thank you for this privileged life of mine.
(Evidence of the life I wouldn’t trade.)