I Owe My Life To Your Bravery
You told me “the older I get, the more I believe in following my fears.” And I’ve been thinking about that. Because you talk a lot about your improvement over the years, about how little you care to remember yourself when you were my age. But if you don’t mind I’d like to look back over the evidence.
- You left home at age 13
- At 17 you went to a prestigious college only to
- Drop out of said college at 19 because you wanted to dance
- An area in which you’d already been scarred by all the cruelty a cultish body shaming ballet teacher can invoke .
- And skipping through years of sticking to an identity which many people, including your own mother, would attack,
- Finally, (and this is where I come in) you decided to have a baby, completely on your own.
Now to me, all of this history points fairly strongly at something in you that’s been brave for a long time. But perhaps you’d account for this as you’ve done before, saying that you make brave big scale decisions but that it’s the little ways in which you tend to be more self-preserving.
Again, I just have to argue. One of my favorite anecdotes of yours goes like this:
You were teaching high school and a young woman in you class was writing a note to her boyfriend, this being a time when kids still wrote notes (the good old days, y'know, before cell phones started rotting our minds). In the note she called you a “hairy Russian lesbian bitch.” So naturally you tried to explain to her that actually you’re ethnically Jewish not Russian.
Now mom, this is a great story, don’t get me wrong, but you tend to leave out bits and pieces. You often forget to explain the way in which the both of you were made unsafe by this letter, you by having your identity twisted into an insult, and she of course was vulnerable at that moment in her position of having really screwed up. And I think that you were brave. Brave not to get angry. Brave to see that she was a scared child. Brave moreover, to take that letter home and hang it up on the fridge as you did.
Because whether or not you acknowledge it, struggle is a central part of who you are, the yin to your bravery’s yang. I owe my life to your bravery and I owe my having turned out okay to your struggles. And now here I am, a young woman, faced with all the fear and struggle of a world that threw so much at you.
And I know that you’re hoping that I’ll have less of that hardship than you had, though I think with our country in this political climate we’re both thinking that’s unlikely. But the truth is that if I can find myself someday anything like you, so ready to take risks, so ready to accept difficulties big and small, so brave, Mama, then I will be very grateful.
Your ever-loving daughter,