Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Me, Myself and I

Sitting within my fifth grade class at St. Mary’s I am usually busy in the back of the room with clerical or administrative tasks: copying papers, grading home works, and filing folders. However, there are two boys who sit close enough to the back of the room that I occasionally catch a drift of their conversation, and on special days they include me. On my last visit the conversation cracked me up, and overwhelmed me so greatly that I grabbed an index card and began jotting down what they were saying because the whole class soon began to chime in so adamantly that the teacher sat silently until they finished.

The conversation began with one of the students claiming he wanted to be a lawyer: he would go to Harvard, Loyola (whose L’s and O’s were tripped over), or the University of Baltimore. Another student said that was “wack” and that he should be a real estate agent. Another laughed at the two of them and said he was never going to get a job because “all that work stuff is so boring.” Then two girls asked what the least driven would do for food, money and a home. He replied ever so matter-of-factly, “I don’t know, live in a cardboard box, a basement, up in an attic, or lived off the streets or somethin’.” Someone from across the room helped him out suggesting he could get food off the dollar menu, and brush his teeth with his finger.

All logical ideas of fifth graders, surrounded by poverty and locked within the confines of their classroom community and their age, whose ultimate desires are to play video games, and watch television all day. Yet observing even the motivated students I came to the realization that the scope of their world is limited as well: his professional choice is not one of unique quality but of classic America, and his college choices epitomize his small scale world recognizing Harvard because of its fame, Loyola because the students visit his class every day, and the University of Baltimore because it is embedded within his home community.

I then began to think of my own perceptions as a fifth grader, what was important to me, who I wanted to be, and where I thought I would be at twenty years old. To be honest, I had a rather difficult time remembering because the Alyssa I am today is so far detached from the Alyssa I was at ten years old. I believe I wanted to be a veterinarian simply because I loved animals, yet I never considered the biology factor, or the extent of care I would have to provide. I knew at twenty I would be in college, but I never thought I would be so far away from home, or living in a city rather than my small town and my priorities did not exceed further than recess, play-dates, and finding out what was for dinner.

My two beings are so far disconnected, that I now wonder if the me of ten years ago would even like the me of today: the decisions I have made, the promises I have broken, the failures I have encountered and the current expectations I have of my future. I believe this is one of the greatest and most challenging struggles Jasmine faces as she journeys within India, Florida, New York, and Iowa. Each time she is forced to adapt, to face an adversity, to survive she becomes an entirely different person from before; represented by her name changes. The hardest part is not transcending into her new roles, which each time she does with relative ease, instead it is the new identities inability to connect with the old, and its desire to feel as one entity which they can never be. I believe this is most adequately expressed in the final passage of the novel when she states, “I cry into Taylor’s shoulder, cry through all the lives I’ve given birth to, cry for all my dead. Then there is nothing I can do. Time will tell if I am a tornado, rubble-maker, arising from nowhere and disappearing into a cloud. I am out the door and in the potholed and rutted driveway, scrambling ahead of Taylor, greedy with wants and reckless from hope” (241).

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