Middle Ground

Or, Why I Write

 

When I was little I would read books while keeping my dad in close earshot in the likely event that I would yell out words I didn’t know the meanings of. Sometimes, a definition would be shouted back. Most times, though, a dictionary would be slid closer to me, and I’d be told to look it up myself.

One day in this usual process, I found myself scanning the N’s in the thick dictionary. My eyes went back and forth until I finally found the word I was looking for: naïve. In my book, a girl’s author of a father held the ability to go into the world of his books and meet the characters and people he wrote. The girl asked her father why they couldn’t stay in that world forever, and why he couldn’t just write all good characters so they wouldn’t ever have problems or need to leave. He smiled at her, then told her:

“We both may be naïve, but I promise you we’re far braver than that.”

So, I found out what the strange word meant. And either because of the context in which I found it, or how intrigued I was that an “I” could have two dots over it, I started using it. A lot. To everyone. If my older brother were to complain about something he didn’t like in our dinner, I would cross my arms and tell him, “Jack, you’re being so naïve.” If someone asked how I was feeling, I would make sure they knew that I was most certainly not feeling naïve. And, if my all black and green eyed kitten would try to run outside when we opened the front door, I would scoot her back and inform her that “that was a very naïve thing to do, Midnight”.

Fast forward a few years. Now, the Michaela who was once headstrong and fierce was completely and apologetically awkward in the formative years that were 9th-12th grade. My hair was long and stringy, and using a curling iron was a rare occasion. My braces were on their last leg, and my limbs were stretched and lanky. I had yet to start using mascara, and when I did, I accidentally coated it on so thick that my eyelashes began to look like the dark, clumped legs of a spider. My eye contact nervously fluttered when I talked to people. I knew nothing about anything, and when I finally turned 16 and got my very first car, it only took me a little over a month to crash it. I called my dad crying, and, like back in grade school, he had to come pick up his blubbering mess of a daughter.

I felt very dumb. And very out of place. And very, very naïve.

When I write these words now, I can almost feel the fierce 6-year-old me reading them with me to my right, while the 16-year-old perpetually unsure me stands to my left. They’re not writing anything, though. But they do whisper certain words, words I’ve read in books about fathers and daughters living in books, words I’ve spoken or shouted or screamed in the past 21 years, and words that I’ve met that have allowed me to write the ones I am now. And, that’s why I still choose to write. Because, every time I do, I don’t have to go home and inspect the wall where my father marked my brother and I’s heights through the years. Instead, I write in order to see how much I grew from small and fierce, to long and confused, and now to here, wherever in the middle that may be.

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