When I was a little girl I had all sorts of plans for the great lady I was going to be when I was grown up. I was going to be elegant and kind and sought-after and I was going to wear the best sort of clothes and have one of those bell-like laughs you read about in less-truthful books. I was going to be infinitely wise and glisteningly beautiful and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
Sometimes, when I am having a good day or week or month, I flatter myself that if eight-year-old Alice showed up on my doorstep she would suitably impressed. She would think that I was Her. I get all warm and fuzzy when I think that and then a little voice in the back of my head says, “Of course, she’d be wrong.”
Because little Alice is pretty easily satisfied, really. Give her mascara and some sparkly stuffs and she’s delighted. The goal self, the dream self has grown since then.
She now knows everything worth knowing and has read everything worth reading. Her clothes now are not only good, but are completely singular and they never wear out or need dry cleaning. She never runs out of gas or leaves awkward voicemails and she always knows what to make for dinner. She is impervious to fire, water, poor grades, rejection, and heartbreak. She has a group of friends who are just diverse enough that they all still get along, and just talented enough that their abilities complement Hers. She never has to be brave because she is never afraid.
Her legend in my mind continues to grow. Even comfortable self-deprecation is just another round-about way of reminding myself of who she is and who I am not. And every time someone gives me one of those extravagant compliments—the kind you get from people who don’t know you well enough yet—She absorbs it. A friend says I am well-spoken? Well, I know I’m not, words only occasionally come out of my mouth in the right order, but She will be, along with brilliant, and beautiful, and best-selling (just to dip into the B’s).
During those good times when I’d like to have little Alice round for tea, I almost think She’s real—but then my own feet will trip over themselves and I’m back where I begun. One of the reasons Sophomore year hurt is that I was so clearly not what I should be. I was not Her. It’s not that She never cries, but She doesn’t exactly bust open at the seams and ooze anxiety for months on end.
This panic has been coming back to me in smaller doses this summer. I’ve struggled to write, because nothing I write is good enough—all of my words limp and plod, already weary after five minutes on the page. They do not measure up and neither do I.
So then I turn to my reading, which is currently very overwhelming (I’m backlogged with four summers’ booklists) with books that I don’t think I’m going to enjoy very much at all, but I know I can’t possibly be Her until I’ve learned to.
And as for the music she is supposed to like I am so intimidated by the thought of it that I avoid listening to anything at all, except alone in my car. Every way I turn right now, She seems to have laid out expectations for me. She’s getting pretty pushy.
It’s time I stopped feeding the tyrant. My dream-self is getting fat with my own expectations for Her, anyway. Bloated. I do not know how to stop except to simply get up and walk away from Her, to spend my summer re-reading favorite children’s books and plugging away at my story, chanting quietly, “I’ll revise later. I’ll revise later.” That will do for a while.
But really, if she is to die, for good and all, like Ozymandias, I’m going to have to come before my God and let her be torn away. And then I will need to be washed and then I will need to begin to learn freedom like the widow bringing her mite, and the fear of the Lord like Paul. It’s a long, arduous process. But He has promised me that it is finished, that He has done it, and that He loves me. So I, like little Alice, will be satisfied.