An Empty Plate
food spilling over the edges,
dripping onto my mother's favorite placemats
turkey, potatoes, stuffing and broccoli
making my mouth water
but it's my mother's chocolate pie
the one she made every year for him
that lift my eyes to the empty plate across the table.
the plate that used to be piled high each year
Smart but not smart enough. Athletic but not good enough to play in college. Cute but not pretty.
I was a confident child. I was told daily how smart, athletic, and pretty I was.
"She'll make the boys crazy one day" strangers would tell my mother.
"I bet you'll be a lawyer like your daddy" my grandma would say with a proud smile.
It's easy to feel successful when your accomplishments aren't your own. Sure, people think you're smarter than everyone when your reading specialist mother has you reading novels by the time you're in first grade. Of course they think you're a born athlete when your rugby-player dad has you in the yard throwing pitch after pitch until you throw harder than girls twice your size.
Then you get to high school. Your teacher recommends you for honors calculus instead of advanced-placement and it feels like your world is crashing. That's the first time you see disappointment in your parents' eyes. You don't make the school softball team and have to play travel instead. You graduate, and your parents note all the cords around your friends necks.
"Where are yours?" they ask.
You finally make it to college- not with a scholarship like your friends got but at least you're going. You gather the courage to get out of your shell after being invisible for so many years. You notice that you don't get attention from boys the way other girls do. You aren't cut out for pre-med- you need to switch majors. You watch your parents' faith in you fade as they switch their focus onto your younger sister.
I should have everything I need to be happy. I'm smart enough to get a good, average job. I play on the club rugby team. I have a few close friends and a boyfriend who loves me.
I know deep down that this will never be enough. I want to make a difference in the world through my career. I want to be the best player on my team. I want everyone to love me.
My biggest obstruction is being an ordinary person who was raised to be extraordinary.