It’s all so bizarre. How often does a person get the opportunity to see herself from the outside? Even if I had tried to think about myself in that way – in terms of how others see me – I would have gotten it totally wrong.
If someone had asked me a few months ago how I thought my classmates might describe me, I would have said that, to those who don’t know me very well, I’m probably “the short girl with the really long hair.” And, to those who know me a little bit better, I’m “the short girl with the really long hair who is a good student and likes to read.”
But, now, I know that when people look at me they don’t actually see me. They don’t see Sophie, or the girl with the really long hair, or even “Shortie” or “Shrimp,” or anything like that. Instead, I am, and always will be “the girl with the dead mother.” And it makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs, “THIS IS NOT HOW I SEE MYSELF. THIS IS NOT HOW I WANT TO BE KNOWN.”
But, this is who I am.
It’s so strange, living with this revelation; knowing that all that people see when they look at me is a girl without a mother. And, what’s worse, that the first emotion they feel when they think of me is pity.
Even stranger, though, is that ever since I read Ellen’s note I catch myself thinking about my mother practically all of the time. I think about my life before she got sick. And I think about my life since her death. But, mostly, I think about the life that I lived while she was ill. And, it scares me.
If I’m not really careful, I could fall into the trap of letting the limiting views of others define who I am for the rest of my life.
At this point, I’m starting to think that I could win the Nobel Prize or become the first woman president of the United States and it wouldn’t make any difference. No matter what I do, I’ll always be viewed as nothing more than “that poor little girl with the dead mother.”
It is actually somewhat amusing, considering the odds that I will achieve some sort of greatness – win the Nobel prize, for instance – are (apparently) significantly enhanced due to the very fact that my mother is dead.
I was randomly flipping channels one Sunday afternoon, when I came across a show about a group of psychologists who spent years studying the early lives of history’s most accomplished artists, scholars, and leaders. They were searching for some similarity in their backgrounds that might explain their tremendous success as adults. What they discovered, was that an unusually large number of these very accomplished individuals had mothers who died while they were still very young. As a result, the psychologists concluded that losing one’s mother significantly increases the likelihood that a child will grow up to be a creative genius.
A motherless creative genius? I can think of a lot worse things to be.
But, don’t expect to see the name Sophia Green in the news anytime soon, because she doesn’t exist. Or, rather, I exist, but my name isn’t really Sophia Green.
I’ve seen what happens when people become well known; they completely lose their right to privacy. I could not stand that. I want to be able to walk down the street without being recognized and approached every step of the way by absolute strangers who think that they know me just because they know my story. Success is one thing; fame is another. I’d much rather be successful enough to go and do whatever I want, whenever I want, anonymously, than be some famous movie star who can’t have an itch without seeing “exclusive” footage of herself scratching it hours later on the internet.
Besides, who knows how I’ll feel about this record of events in years to come. I could end up becoming a complete failure as a human being, in which case I would hardly want everyone reminding me how I bragged that I was going to be a creative genius when I was twelve years old. I’ll be disappointed enough in myself if I grow up to be a total loser, I won’t need the whole world pointing and laughing at me as well.
At the same time, I think that sharing my journal – my innermost self – with others could be a really good thing. I’m not the first girl to have a dead mother (and I certainly won’t be the last). And, I’m not the first person to have a life-altering epiphany either.
I know that there are “kindred spirits” out there; people who think and feel the same way I do about life. I discovered a kindred spirit when I read Anne Shirley’s story in L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. Maybe, if my journal is published someday, someone will discover a kindred spirit in me.
That’s why I decided that the easiest thing would be to simply create a new name for myself. I chose Sophia because it means “wisdom” in Latin. Not that I think I’m wise or anything, but I do hope to be wise someday. I picked Green because I like the color.
And, anyway, a lot of well-known authors have published stories under names other than their own. Everyone knows that Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Clemons, and that J.K. Rowling used a different name when she published her first non-Harry Potter novel. I even read somewhere that Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, wrote wonderful, dark, wicked stories under a man’s name when she wasn’t publishing sweet, respectable books aimed at young girls like me.
Not that I think that I’m anywhere as good a writer as Mark Twain, J.K. Rowling, or Louisa May Alcott. I mean, let’s be honest, while I love the idea of becoming a published author, I’m not such a moron that I don’t recognize that, in all probability, only two people will ever read this journal-writing assignment – me and my sixth grade English teacher.
But, I don’t care. It’s only been a few weeks, and I already can’t imagine not having had a journal in which to write my most private thoughts. And, believe me, I have had plenty of private thoughts the past few weeks. Ever since I read Ellen’s note, I’ve had about a zillion things to say, and not a single person to say them to.
It’s funny, isn’t it, how sometimes an opportunity comes along right at the exact moment that you need it most? At this point, even if I found out for sure that Mrs. Loeb really was lying about showing the best journals to her husband, I would still want to continue to write in this notebook every week. My thoughts and feelings seem so much more…acceptable…on paper than they do when they are merely swirling about in my head. I can’t imagine how publishing them could possibly increase their significance. At least not the significance that they have had on my life.
And, anyway, as long as there are people like Twain, and Rowling, and Alcott, and all those other awesome writers out there, I won’t mind spending the rest of my life assigned the role of “reader” rather than “writer.”