When I was a kid, about seven or eight, before things began to truly fall apart, I believed. I believed that everything would always stay the same.
I was eight when my dad died, so it must have been before that. I was eight when my mom had a fight with Geoff’s mom and they stopped speaking. I was eight when my sister’s marriage began to fall apart.
When I was little, before I knew better, I thought that people always did everything right. I trusted my family to always be together. I thought that it was only a matter of time until my dad decided to answer my letter and be part of my life. I thought that any day he would walk through the door and whisk me away. Any day, he would love me.
When I was a kid, I thought that my big sister was the best. I thought that any day, she would get out of bed and clean up her house. I thought that any day she would do something interesting.
When I was little, before I learned just how much people can go wrong, before I realized how badly people can fuck up, before I learned to bury people alive, I believed that life would all be good.
When things first began to fall apart, I thought that I could fix them. I tried. I wrote to my dad, asked him to meet me. I cleaned up my sister’s house. I thought that if I just did everything right, I could stop bad things from happening. I thought that I could save my sister, make my dad love me. I thought that I would be just the right kind of daughter to my mom, the perfect granddaughter to my Bubbie. I thought that I controlled the world.
You know, I’ve always tried to do the right thing. It’s hard trying to amend so much wrong. I’ve always lived as though by doing everything right I could somehow redeem my family’s mistakes. I’ve tried to prove to myself that even though they could not make everything turn out right, I can. I’ve spent so much time forging an identity in opposition to my family’s negative qualities that I’ve never experienced my own bad side.
Lately, though, I want to mess up. Oh, let me tell you, this is not good. Suddenly, I find myself – inconveniently – wanting to break my rules. I want to be unaccountable, or better yet unobserved. I want to do what I want and not think twice. I want to know what that would feel like. Somehow this experience feels essential to me.
I know it’s self-destructive, not to mention impossible. I’m an adult and I have a family counting on me. I know what’s at stake – I learned when I was a kid. But I finally understand what it means to say that history repeats itself.
And one more thing: Nothing ever, ever, stays the same.