While reading Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, something stirred in me. It was not something overpowering as they show in the movies but a mild epiphany like a gentle, summer breeze. It was the “what’s the use” feeling, that the speaker in the novel goes through after she is back at her country home after a brief scholarship to New York, and is depressed about what she shall do with herself in the future.
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“I could have done so many things, I could have realized so many dreams if weariness, an inconceivable, enormous weariness had not overpowered me for the last fifteen years or so, or even far longer. A weariness that kept me from working but also from resting, from enjoying life and being happy and relaxing, and also kept me from turning more towards others, as I’d have wished to . . . oh, if that ‘what’s the use?’ had not germinated in my soul . . .”
~Ionesco, Fragments of a Journal
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What’s the use in being passionate and having a thirst for life when we are going to end up in the same boat? With a family, a desk-job we hate, and absolutely no free time? No, I can’t bear to even think about it! Since I was a child, I knew I would be different, I would be unique. I was not cut out for mediocrity. I shall to walk off the beaten track. But how? Many a dreamer has hoped to be great and have novel experiences in life, but very few of them have succeeded. Even the extraordinary becomes ordinary in a while, and everything smells like stale, morning breath! Oh, the dreariness of it all!
I don’t wish to graduate, don’t wish to pick up another textbook which cannot teach me anything, listen to elders and wise people say stuff that makes no sense . . .
Every fortnight, while cuddled up under my sheets, trying to get sleep, I have peered up at the ceiling of my room and tried to chase shadows of passing cars which flutter across it through the window and planning my escape. A back-pack with the bare essentials: few clothes, a notebook and pen, some money, a shaving kit (even though I don’t have much hair yet but I’ll probably be shaggy few years into my imaginary life as a tramp), toothbrush and toothpaste (because I’m very meticulous about dental health), and lots of chocolate or granola bars (so that I can prolong my starvation over a few months) etc.
And the escape itself would be no biggie. I would leave in the evening when both mom-dad are not at home, around 6, with the back pack thrown over my shoulder as if I’m going to the gym. Then I would catch the nearest bus to the station, the train farthest from my house and probably hitch-hike late, to the north. In a few years, I’d be in an exotic country, the name of which my parents would not even be able to trace on the map. I would find work on a ship maybe, like Benjamin Button in the movie and lose my virginity to some peasant maiden. My name would be gone forever and I would have a new one: John or Jack or something as anonymous as that. And I’d drink stump-hole whiskey and have a lot of tattoos on my body. I’d drink myself to death and fall off board when the ship is making a voyage across Pacific and no a soul would know that I passed away. A much adventurous life than the one my mom has sketched out for me, anyway.
The point is not to be different but to try things which aren’t cliched but fresh and exciting, and to be happy by living on my terms. The world owes me that. The world owes me a wish to do as I like because we only get to live once. And I’m not going to rebel against the world to get what I need but work right beside it, in harmony with it as I strive to rise above the normal and experience the incredible.
It’s not teenage romanticism but a stolid refusal to succumb to the convention.