Monday, October 27, 2008

Revise me!

Okay. So, for those gluttonous blog-readers, here's a post to satiate your hunger. It's a personal essay I recently wrote for my English class and I'm considering entering it into the Voices competition. Because of this, I require your questions, comments, and criticism. Note: Yes, most of it is made up and VERY exaggerated. It's the way I roll; deal with it.

My sister has been my idol for as long as I can remember.

In the dreamy nostalgic years Koseli and I pored over American Girl magazines and sat side-by-side on the bus. We used to spend days on end together; we built forts from patchwork quilts, had tea—really just cups of Ovaltine in my bunny tea set—in the garden, and jumped on the trampoline, our bodies temporarily suspended in air before gravity pulled us back to Earth. Even in our immature and childish years she moved with a kind of grace I could never reproduce. I remember sitting next to my parents in a school gymnasium as she took the stage wearing a small navy blue jumper, perfectly smooth curls, and a resolute expression.
"Spell Psoriasis," said the adjudicator.
She took a deep breath and began, delivering the letters decisively, one after the next.
"P-S-O-R-I-A-S-I-S," she said.

By the time she was in the eighth grade she could practically paper her bedroom walls with all the awards she had won: talent shows, 4-H competitions, reflections, Little Miss beauty pageants—my sister was the champion of them all. Much of my doodling was done in the margins of recital schedules or special invites; they covered twisty borders and glamour shots with objects from my fantastical imagination: elves on roller skates, weasels turning cartwheels, people with their heads cut off.

Throughout my childhood I strived to replicate her every move. I dreamt of the day I would conquer her in at least one subject, but wherever I stood she was always three steps ahead. She was prettier, smarter, and more successful—in my eyes she had everything. I found it profoundly unfair that while I was still struggling with my identity she had seamlessly incorporated herself into the world: sterling scholar, honor student, prom queen. While she planned service committees at the local retirement center I constructed sculptures out of garbage from my trashcan and covered all the cardboard boxes in our storage room with handmade paper. My talent was definitely there, but its purpose was maddeningly amorphous, even to me.

I come from a long line of doctors and engineers. My family as a whole is practical, hardworking, and academically inclined. In my house art is considered a luxury, not a livelihood. The only thing I liked about myself- my one safety and satisfaction- was the sketchbook of pictures in my closet. I wrote and illustrated stories in it ceaselessly. I painted for hours once with acrylics on an old canvas to illustrate what I imagined the Lobster Quadrille would have looked like after reading Alice and Wonderland for the first time. When I was finished, I proudly displayed the bright red dancing lobsters for my family to see.
"Maybe you should take up drafting," my father suggested.
"You didn't get any paint on the rug, did you?" demanded my mother.
"Those lobsters are excellent, Jos. You really captured the power in the crusher claw."

My sister, in all her perfection, was supportive to a fault. Her kindness towards my artistic skills made me love her and at the same time internally grumble about how much I hated her.

In high school I tried treading the path she had previously made. In my opinion it was a long and muddy road wrought with footsteps too giant for my faltering feet to fill. On every first day of school my teachers would peer over the roll at me and exclaim excitedly,
"Ah! Another Christensen!"
Their eyes would sparkle as they anticipated the pleasure of tutoring another genius pupil; it is a foolish assumption that skills run through genetics. Each one quickly learned that being the sister of a genius is not the same as being a genius yourself.

In an effort to establish a niche, I gave the track team a try. After nearly breaking my ankle on the first run, I joined the French club, the honor’s society, and the school spirit squad. Each was one booming failure after the next. The cold, hard fact had surfaced: I wasn't good at anything—nothing important at least. I was quickly becoming a masochist; a victim of my sister’s charm, and I considered accepting my position—being trampled under her shadow—and never pursuing an alternative. I settled with becoming weird, like one of those kids who shows up for school pictures with fake bruises over their eyes or who carries a cane everywhere. Even with my newfound identity, my nightmares were still haunted with phantoms screaming, "Why can't you be more like your sister?"

Eventually I graduated and came to college and my sister moved to New York. When separated from her I began to appreciate me—something I had never done before. I abandoned my attempts to appear decent and allowed the best and worst part of me to show through-- the part that loves chess, classic literature, teapots and old headboards—the part of me that is ultimately nerdy but definitely me. I began to decorate and draw plans for houses and offices and bedrooms. I took out my old sketchbooks and looked at the drawings again. This time it was different—they were mine, and they were good.

Koseli maintains a blog, and this was the beginning of her last post.
"Joslynn and I have begun writing stories together. We've set no rules for ourselves as to the subject matter, the characters, the plot, the style, or the voice except I will indicate where one of us ends and the other picks up. We welcome your quips, your criticism, and above all, your praise to help us overcome our fear of publicizing our writing. We expect unprecedented numbers of comments, a syrupy sweet drip of feedback that lures us back to our email-storying fury. On a side note, Miss Joslynn is 19, my Tibble Twin sister, tall and beautiful, a sophomore at Utah State, and a far more talented writer than I."

Even though there was no ulterior motive to this message, when I read it I realized how much I have grown. In that instant I knew that I had come into myself enough that I did not need to be Koseli's carbon copy anymore. I never recognized it in my insecure, art-loving younger self but I have always been an individual, broken free from routine and radically different from anyone else. More specifically, I am me, and for the first time I like who that is. And so, it seems, does my sister.

There is no greater joy than being loved for oneself. Who I am, my distinctions, shine through me now. And because of that my sister and I are finally on an equal level. In many aspects she is still my idol; but in a few others I am hers.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Back in the Blogosphere

What do you think of my blog's new design? Do tell, do tell!