Okay, this one reads a whole lot like it’s just a chapter in a larger collection of personal essays and anecdotes, because that’s how I see it. I suppose it is one of my ambitions to finish such a collection one day. And every journey must start with one step, or one chapter, like this one.
It’s time I come clean here. I am currently over 30 years old and I do not possess a driver’s license. I got my first permit to practice driving when I was 16, but driving with my parents only led to distress and anxiety, so eventually I refused to do it. It took a little more than 10 years before I dared to get another permit, this time because I was feeling the pressures of society that a woman in her late 20s should be able to drive a car, even though I live in a city with good public transport that takes me anywhere I might want to go on day-to-day basis. So where did that all that pressure come from?
It’s often said that girls are better than boys at multitasking, there’s even some scientific evidence that points in this direction, though supposedly the results vary depending on the type of task the participants of the test were told to do. The whole thing about multitasking, to be able to do more than one thing has been such an attractive quality to employers for so long that, in my country at least, there’s this cliché saying that people are warned against using in their cover letters, that informs people that they are in fact great at juggling multiple tasks at the same time.
It’s not often that I find myself so violently against anything one of my brothers has to say to me. In adulthood we have found a companionship and a kind of camaraderie that we did not have as children or teenagers, perhaps it is our shared interest in things seen as “geeky” and “nerdy” by society, or perhaps we simply bonded over our shared, grimmer memories of our upbringing.
But right now I am not happy with what my brother has suggested to me and I let him know right away. What was his suggestion? That as soon as I am back on full time pay, I seriously slim down on all of my expenses so I might be able to repay all of my student loads in just a year or so. Perhaps it is not a horrible suggestion on paper, I have long felt tormented by those student loans, something my brothers never applied for during their few semesters at university and as they then took advantage of still living at home when they first started working they have now managed to amass savings that could pay off my debt almost three times over.
My problem with this suggestion, which would mean cutting down on all expenses, including vacation amusements, movie tickets and so on for up to three years, is that it would also mean slimming down my food budget. And that is something I could not stand for. Because, other than writing, cooking and a budget that allows me some wiggle-room when it comes to trying new product and new, fun dishes, is something I cannot imagine myself living without.
When I’ve spoken to my mother about my early years she often remarks that I seemed to be such a happy and content child, so different from the troubled adult I seem to have grown into. I might begin to agree with her, to console her, but as I scrutinize my own memories closely I realize that I have always been of a rather nervous disposition. Even as a little girl I worried about what others thought about me and I was hit with bouts of hypochondria on a regular basis. I remember how every tummy ache sent of waves of fear that I had appendicitis and as I browsed my mother’s medical books I found new diseases to feel fearful about. With an introvert’s solemn character I studied the surrounding world closely and tried to figure out the most appropriate behavior to tackle it. When my classmates turned on me and I became a victim of bullying I never quite understood why. Any explanation is always reconstructed from adult knowledge based on vague memories.
Back when my parents finally got cable, though I was still pretty young at the time, one of the channels in our lineup was a British channel geared towards children called (surprise) “The Children’s Channel”. Other than the standard cartoons they also had a good selection of educational shows, much like Sesame Street, perfect for a small girl with a plastic preschooler brain, able to suck up new knowledge like a sponge. With time other English language channels with children’s programming joined the line-up, but it was “The Children’s Channel” that contributed the most to my early language education. I don’t think I realized then that there was something odd about my early bilingual training and I didn’t even notice that I was teaching myself a language other kids my age would not be in proper contact with until fourth grade.
I find that there is a strange comfort, yes even a safety in numbers. There is a security in knowing that a number always has a certain value and that when you combine them in different ways with other numbers there is always one right answer to their combined worth. Subtracting, multiplying, dividing, there is always one right way to do it and if you do it right you always end up with the right answer in the end. Two plus two always means four and multiplying six with four always results in twenty-four. Numbers are solid, they’re safe and certain.
It’s a warm Friday afternoon in July; post a lovely and delicious bit of barbecue. Sometimes a good meal can leave you sluggish, content to just sit and bask as your stomach begins the digestive process, enjoying your current company of peers. My father has instead chosen to educate my brother and me on the tired old topic that is the difference in work ethic between his generation and the more recent ones.
One morning last fall, huddled up in a classroom with other eager writing students, our professor spoke about how one could measure the passage of time, of generations by associating it with the kind of events that occur in someone’s life that are shared with large numbers of people. What she meant were the kind of large events that they affect millions of people, sometimes even crossing national and language boundaries. She mentioned the assassination of Sweden’s Prime Minister in the mid-80s as an example of such that an event for her generation, then smiled and added that naturally for most of us it was just something we had heard about during our history class in school. She then proposed that we all sit down to write about a large-scale event appropriate for our generation: The events of 9/11.
There is something that can be said about rising early.
Mind you, I have never been one who willingly drags herself out of bed in the wee hours of the morning, especially in the darker and colder winter months when the sun had barely managed to rise into the sky herself before I had to leave the warmth of my home to begin my long trek to work. Yet, in these six or so months when I have been away from work and for the most part away from any other obligation that make it necessary for me to be an early riser I have come to view those hours of the day we can still refer to as “morning” in a slightly different light.