Posted on: April 5, 2022
Cover Image: "School Bus Parking before a School Building"
Artwork by: Andrew Ro
I was born into the humanities. Traditional arts. Literature. History. Social development. Political causes. If the plain-thinking were to box intellectual fields of interest in two black-and-white categories, my disposition lay in the observation—and consequent study—of the present earthly life. I indeed taught my little self the rudimentaries of graphite sketching, the allure of semi-realistic portraits, the escapist thrill classic and newer photoplays provide, the profound analysis of the latter, the infinite dimensions and beloved individuals into which works of literary fiction breathed life, the invention of my own, Greek mythology—the list would stretch until the end of my life if permitted.
When one is born into something, in the same manner that blood oft binds family, they become said thing. I was born into the humanities.
As inclined toward the black as I may have been—and still am—the white, the sciences, were no less than close-second fortes. Did overtime practice, tears of frustration, and times of inner self-aggression compliment my road to near-excellency in the domain? Entirely. Albeit an extreme approach, in the eyes of the mediocre, my ninety-one percent science average as of tenth grade greatly appreciated such effort.
The following year arrived. It couldn’t be so much harder than the previous; if it were, as per usual, I would push through and achieve academic greatness. After all, I didn’t begin school at the ripe age of two for nothing. As rightfully predicted, a four-out-of-four mark crowned my first physics evaluation.
Math ensued. “Good,” said the comment on my paper. Pardon my French but the teacher must have lost several (read: all of his) screws. For I am nothing short of great. Poise-stricken, I thought. Next time, I’ll get it. Anyway, English and Health class were in the bag. The humanities always were. That next time did come. Pencil and brain at the ready. As well as eyes. Some may say it was desperation but the adage goes “fake it till you make it”. So I thanked the heavens above for my seatmate’s kindness and reproduced his every move: equations, graphs, etc. I assured the imposter creeping within that I would go down such a road only until my greatness broke free from its lethargy.
The humanities grounded me to my true character anyway.
I ran for President. My campaign video epitomised creativity and interactiveness, if I do say so myself. No one has ever harboured hope as unyielding as that which filled the space between the vote count and the reveal. Decidedly, the Universe held a grudge of sorts: I had lost. Second place. Huh. Better than most, but not the greatest. Fret not, dear reader! Another student council opportunity arose and, as she isn’t a quitter, this girl signed up for Senior Senator. I wrote, rewrote, corrected, and recorrected my speech. I delivered it well—better than my opponent, if I may interject. During the wait, I saw the vision: I, Senator, representative of the students in the eyes of the school board. Something, someone of greater importance than the President. For a moment there, I thought I’d fallen short of greatness.
So I did. I did fall short, I mean. Greatness ultimately weighs dust once popularity tilts the balance. I wished the Senator all the best.
Retreating to comfort became a yearning of indispensable nature, hence I dedicated my free time to the roots of my person. I handpicked portrait techniques from a plethora of godsent artists whose craft I could venerate tirelessly, dipped my toes in a work of the Brontës’, scratched the surface of Regency history, took up sociology, psychology, and anthropology, and found my footing amidst the ever-shifting social climates.
I grew fond of someone as well. I wished to shape him into affection, to sketch the perfect portrait in his image; meanwhile, he teased my height, my nerdiness, my grammatical rigidity, and my height (again). He once took bantering too far and offered to comfort me with a hug: great. Glorious, if I may. But we so happened to be several houses apart: good enough. Our friendship ventured to dark humour and inside jokes. I’d say I loved it—loved him—but that’s scary, isn’t it? Chilling in its precociousness.
My time, however, came. Excitement-driven, I had practically begged my teacher to squeeze me into her schedule to present a four-months worth of work. She had allotted me the next day’s lunch hour with my friends as spectators, but I refused, pride-driven. As if for vitality, I needed to share my impassioned side with all my classmates. One will never encounter a girl more confident in that instant. If confidence is characterised by shaky hands, a wavering in the voice, and the overwhelming need to moult, to escape the shackles of personhood. Each time I hadn’t been great oh! so genially came flooding back while I fruitlessly attempted to push through the presentation.
“Good” is the most generous qualifier it can honestly be attributed.
Thenceforth, this narrator could only wait for the next good-but-not-great moment to come thundering, for the other shoe to drop. The humanities, my humanities, had faltered. I wasn’t set in stone anymore.
Quite the girl in the ordinary.
The abutting event befell me rather like the thud of a steel-toe boot: his affections lay with another. Funny how I was good enough for mockery and quips only he and I could understand yet lacked so severely in the romance department. I had departed Goodland in view of Great-Romance then was brought to a dead stop halfway: the space between good and great.
There should be a word for it. My eyes have dried out from the deluge but the ache, the fall from so high a place only to awkwardly levitate between two levels, lingers still. I might begin to find myself outside of academia and puppy love, though.
Sincerely: there should be a word for it. For the sake of my crumbling sanity.
The space between good and great.