i keep it alive.

in college, i thought that i had answers. things were going well, after all. i was getting good grades, i was in a relationship, i had a closely-knit group of friends. at some point, i was even arrogant and foolish enough to think that maybe i was the escaped prisoner in the allegory of the cave. i was enlightened, and i was going to share my enlightenment with my family when i returned. the sun, the real world, was about being courageous, being open and honest about everything. life was not about watching television, being entertained by false shadows. it was about direct communication, community. our days are numbered, and we only have "one wild and precious life" to really make it count.

i was twenty years old, and i told my parents how i was feeling, and that, for the first time, i was understanding what it meant to be alive and unafraid. i told them that they should confront my uncle about his drinking problem. i told them that i didn't think it was right that some of our family members had a maid. i told my dad that he should go back to school, get his g.e.d. i wanted everyone to realize the potential i saw in him/her. for the first time, i was self-confident, and i felt i finally understood what my deceased grandmother told me in my dream. she said, "you keep it alive."

my parents confronted my uncle about his drinking. they me that he was unresponsive, and even irritated. eventually, he raised his voice at them, and they let it go. they told me this in the car after the three of us went and saw a movie. i kept asking questions, asking if they were going to try again. my mom snapped at me. "people don't change overnight!" she said. her frustration stung (it always does), and i remained silent for the rest of the ride. it was the first real blow to my newfound idealism.

a few days later, i started talking to my dad. he was watching television, and he put the tv on mute. i brought up the whole thing about our relatives having a filipino maid. i told him i didn't think it was right, and that if they really wanted to help her, they'd find a way to get her an education so that she could help herself. my dad was confused, and he asked me why this was even an issue for me. at that point, i think i quoted martin luther king, jr. who once said that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

i was inarticulate, and i didn't want to be. i wanted something to change. what was the point of studying, of going to a costly and catholic liberal arts school and learning about social justice, if i couldn't see or bring about any real, tangible change in the world? my dad got frustrated. he brought up hitler and how many millions of jews were killed in concentration camps, and how there were much worse things in the world than keeping a maid. i groaned and left the room. i sat down in the rocking chair in the kitchen, and i started to weep audibly. my dad came in and asked what was wrong. i just shook my head and continued to weep.

now that i am older and unwiser, i look back at that time and think that maybe i had it all wrong. maybe i am, and always have been, the prisoner.

1 comment:

H. Case said...

Hi. [I landed on your blog through a link on Tiffany Anderson's page]... I just wanted to say that I've totally been there and really appreciate your reflection. ;)