She was a secretary but I tell everyone she was an artist. Well, she was even if art never paid a bill.
“Don’t be someone’s wife. Don’t be someone’s secretary,” she said. “Or at least don’t get married until after you have your college degree and never tell them you can type.” I hope now her ashes are resting calmly wherever they have scattered to and that I’ve done well enough.
In high school I took AP Art. At the end of the school year, we had to make slides of all our work and send them off to ETS in Princeton. A 5 meant you were remarkable. 0 meant you might as well have sent an empty envelope. Two classmates got 5s. Two more got 4s. A few got 3s. I got a 2. A horrible, talentless 2.
I’d already sent in my college application and checked the English major box. I wanted to be a writer and an artist, and had gone back and forth between those boxes–tick art or English? English or art? In the end I knew I didn’t want to compete with my mother. She’d win, and 2 proved me write.
“You’re different than me,” she said. “I have technical skill but you have more imagination.”
I sighed and shoved the score report in my bag. That was no more believable than when she said I was pretty. Parents said things like that. “It’s fine. One of the girls who got a 5 traced everything anyway,” I said.
“Places like that don’t look at imagination and originality.”
“I know,” I said. I didn’t see what good an imagination was if you couldn’t put what was in your head on the paper. “It’s not like I was ever going to be an artist anyway.”
“I don’t want you to compare yourself to me,” she said.
“And I don’t,” I said. “You don’t need to worry about it.”
She always worried about it. We took the GRE on the same day and she said we shouldn’t share our scores. One month after we took that GRE, she died. I found her score in her things and I almost threw the envelop away without looking. Of course her score blew mine away.
When you write, do you compare yourself to anyone? Is this particular person someone you know or someone you just read? Does such a comparison hinder or encourage you? Do you think there is anyone comparing themselves to you? What would you say to them?