Aspirations Colorized | Teen Ink

Aspirations Colorized

December 21, 2018
By gabby424 BRONZE, East Northport, New York
gabby424 BRONZE, East Northport, New York
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Blue is my favorite color. I guess that’s because it reminds me of limitlessness, of floating between the sky and the sea stretching infinitely up and out. Which, now that I think about it, could just as easily represent limitedness, too. We’re frozen between two blue worlds with everywhere to run and nowhere to hide. Some things are just a matter of perspective.

It’s hard to think back to a time another color brought me such comfort. Blue strikes me as  otherworldly; the thought of it sends me flashes of soft, hazy paradises smeared with dusk and fireflies orbiting dewy violets. Yet I’d be committing an injustice to ignore my pink past. It’s my belief that, for us transitioning out of the one-dimensional realities of our childhoods and into adulthood with all its crushing revelations, we hold extra tightly to the symbols we think make up our identity so as not to lose too much of ourselves and our fantasies at once. In my younger years, pink was a strong part of my identity. It was on my walls, in my duvet, all over my toys and my Sleeping Beauty tracksuit. Somewhere along the way, I changed allegiance to blue without hesitation. I needed a symbol to keep the hopeful illusion alive, the illusion of my limitlessness.

When the spell of youth wore off, I’m not so sure anyone could tell I’d been disenchanted. A brief raiding of my hundreds of notebooks I stashed in the closet and on top of my shelves, however, would sound out the change, syllable by syllable. I was no prodigy published at five in the Boston Gazette. In fact, I couldn’t spell “barely” and could barely write “n” (it always looked like an “h”). But I was diligent in training my voice—the literary devices, words, phrasing, and narrative personality to which a writer defaults in crafting her story—with the help of a few of my dearest friends: C.S. Lewis, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Suzanne Collins, among others. I remember sneaking away from my Shurley Grammar exercises whenever Mom got lost in a phone call with Auntie Vickie or Dad, to resume my Narnian adventures. I’d row down the living room floor in the old potpourri basket, fishing with an empty apple juice bottle for some breakfast for the Pevensie kids and me. Staging adventures was a thrilling pastime, but it was never quite thrilling enough. For one, I had to imagine the Penvensies and everything they might say, which was especially hard because it meant having to think for five people at once. If I thought too slowly, I’d cause an awkward and unnatural break in the action. It was also a pain to whisper so as not to let mom hear me talking to myself about arranging to meet back at Cair Paravel like some lunatic. And not to mention the lack of props; the blankets I’d tie around my waist were the most cumbersome of gowns. In fact, they’d tripped me and sent me to the emergency room—not once, but twice!—for a neat little row of chin stitches. Something had to change.

So I took it upon myself to write my own original adventures, which ended up being more or less original. That way, I could indulge the wildest of plots and possibilities without having to consider any limitations. The gowns could be silk or embroidered with gold, and I could use delicious words like “olive” or “stringy” to describe grass or the hair of a centaur’s tail. Soon I began finding inspiration in all my favorite stories.

After reading The Secret Garden and watching Ociee Nash, I wrote about a half-Indian, half-Italian girl named Alice with a temper who is sent to live with the disciplinarian Agnes Lamb until her attitude problem dissipates. One of my many The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe knock-offs centered around four friends who come across an abandoned mansion in the English countryside and through one of its closets discover a magical world with warrior hogs and a fountain of youth. And after devouring the dystopian drama of The Hunger Games, I wrote about a girl in a rural dystopian community who, upon turning seventeen, is assigned to the War Sect despite her longing to follow in her father’s footsteps and join the Peace Sect. I have been exercising my voice through the voices of many other experienced writers my whole life. Sounding my voice without having a preexisting tune to imitate, however, has proved a totally different challenge.

Writing has been in my veins since two little Ukrainian villagers first took sight of Liberty Island, settled in the Bronx, and had my poet of a grandma. People often assume that because I find the invention of the fictional appealing, I must also find it as easy as slipping on black ice.  Just last Thursday, I blurted out “antidote” instead of “anecdote” during a discussion with my pastor and hadn’t realized my error until eight horrific seconds later. The other day, I turned to Google to refresh myself on the difference between “have ran” and “have run.” The only qualification for being a writer is that one must, albeit somewhat frequently, write. Fortunately for me, this is the one qualification I’m capable of satisfying. Now, I’m sure somewhere out in the vast, unbounded cosmos, people have existed who could cook up a classic without once opening up a thesaurus or Wikipedia tab. I am no such person. Every time I complete an assignment of relative difficulty, I sit back and sigh in disbelief. I just made it. By some miracle, I just narrowly avoided defeat. Nothing guarantees that what I have to say will come across meaningfully, or even honestly, the first time I try to say it nor any of the subsequent times.

I think my struggle to articulate my own new stories without piggybacking off Tolkiens’s or Lewis’s guided me humbly back to the doorsteps of the literary paragons who’d inspired my creative journey in the first place. In my early high school years, I practiced replicating Dickens’s blabbering yards of inflated speech and shooting Hemingway’s blunt bullets of words. I’d read Fitzgerald and Wilde, and reread them, then attempt to break their charm and wit down into a science so that I might inhale the fumes of their brilliant concoctions and steal the power of their superior metaphors for myself. Reading Fitzgerald especially was like letting my brain loose in a sandbox where every grain of sand was a little mirror I could bring up to my face and in every mound of sand was buried a clam with a pearl. After putting his books down, I was full of pictures of my own, ideas ripe for the undertaking, personal and dynamic characters, plots unprecedented and unlimited. Fitzgerald set me free, to put it casually. Free to feel sorry for myself and sorry for other people; for hopeless protagonists and for pathetic antagonists.

Today I sit on my parents’ bed, leaning into a mountain of pillows just under their east-facing window, and I hear our neighbors chatting amiably together, their children sometimes breaking into the conversation with high-pitched squeals of impatience. I can’t make out a word of what they’re saying—the wall and the space dividing us lasso the words right out of the air—but my ears reel in the dynamic intonations, the spiraling of their sentences, and takes it as music from the most genuine of instruments. The notes we choose to convey our enthusiasm or our disdain, the rhythm of the words and pauses we resort to, the vocal characteristics—baritone, accented, nasal or raspy—which prove our individuality, all compose the music that plays out in the mundane corners of life’s great room.

Although, to be quite honest, I hardly see life as a room in which we aimlessly wander, observing the artifacts left to decay on dust-glazed shelves and gazing out the windows at other more prosperous existences. I have come to see it more as a plane, reaching off indefinitely towards the glass casing that cradles the sky and stretching down into the earth’s molten core tucked cozily beneath a quilt of interwoven waves. I have learned that life is composed of a myriad of notes and about a billion original stories, and that all I had to do to realize the pictures and characters breathing in my imagination was allow the notes and stories to sing and tell themselves. Crafting an authentic story means synchronizing several different styles of tune to orchestrate one palatable symphony that might accurately represent the story’s true colors. Maybe to Angelou those colors are muted crimson shades, or to Agatha Christie a bold streak of orange. Perhaps Fitzgerald saw in Gatsby a romantic, weepy cloud of purple and midnight grey. Or maybe that’s blue, blue for a story so ambitious and alive it’s come to represent limitlessness.

The author's comments:

"Aspirations Colorized" is an essay I wrote in response to my a literacy narrative assignment received in English Language and Composition. In it, I talk about my journey as a writer and the various stages I underwent in order to arrive at where I am now, still as clueless and hopeful as I was the day I began. 

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