“She says your an automaton,” my mother said to me. I was 12 and standing in her bedroom doorway. She sat on the edge of her bed.
“What does that mean?” I asked, wishing I had my mother’s vocabulary.
“She meant you don’t think for yourself. You think what I tell you. That you want what I want you to want.”
I didn’t know what to say. Mom had been taking me to a meditation group. Every Sunday night we went to the home of these two married college professors. I was the only one there under 25, but did my best to act grown up. One woman in the group didn’t like me. She’d told the entire group I was an automaton.
My stomach twisted and stared at the point where my mother’s daisy bed sheets touched the floor. “Why does she say that?”
“You’ve said you want to be a psychologist, a lawyer, and a photographer. Those are all things I said I might go back to school for.” She waited for me to answer. Mom was good at waiting in silence for my answer.
I had thought that woman had liked me. I had thought all the adults in the group liked me. “But I would like to be those things. Maybe because you talk about them, I know about them. We like lots of the same things.” I didn’t look up. I hoped my mom believed that I had a mind of own, but I didn’t know what to say that would prove it. The word automaton pinged about in my head for a long time.
What do we like or dislike because of our parents or some other grown up in our childhood lives? Are all your likes your own? In books, what books do you like or read because you think you are supposed to if you want to be well-read? What books do you look down on so that no one will think you have no taste? Is there a writer whose style you knowingly copy? Unknowingly? What is the difference between imitating and being inspired?