A little while ago, I read Writing is my Drink by Theo Pauline Nester. It was interesting, but out of all the exercises that she mentioned, the 26 Minute Memoir was the one that intrigued me the most. Basically, you set a timer for 26 minutes and try to sum up your life.
So here's my unedited 26 minute memoir:
Act 1: I am Good
I am the good girl. I have always been the good girl. Good meaning ‘well-behaved’, meaning ‘doesn’t ask for much’. A conversation and an occasion stick out in my mind as to what ‘good’ means, how the word has been defined for me all these years.
A word of warning: I don’t know if these were separate conversations, if they took place of the course of months, if it’s related to the occasion I’m going to tell you about. They have all melded together to form one big occasion, a neon light pointing the path forward. Funny thing, these memories of mine.
In my memories, I am young. Primary school, perhaps. There’s nothing I want more than an actual doll’s bed. The reason why is immaterial, probably I read one too many Enid-Blyton novels and decided that a doll’s bed would give me a life like her protagonists. I don’t recall anymore. All I recall, is that I wanted the doll’s bed. Wanted it so very very much.
It took all my courage to open my mouth to ask for it. I remember we were in the car, and surprisingly, none of my siblings were there. It was just me, my mom and my dad. I asked for my doll’s bed, half-expecting a ‘no’, because it was not a necessity, it was not a book. But to my surprise, my dad said yes.
“Eustacia rarely asks for things, so when she does, we have to say yes.”
“Eustacia is a good girl. Unlike your siblings, when you’re sick, you don’t ask for anything."
Was this one conversation or two? It doesn’t matter because that sealed it to me. I must be good, and I must learn not to ask for too much, because if I ask too much, my requests would be denied. Keep it infrequent, keep the requests big, and they had to say yes.
“May I go to Japan instead of England to study?”
Was this even a request? I don’t know. It was something I wanted that was not what my family expected. I was supposed to head to England, with my fancy IB scores that would have let me in. But I secretly applied for the scholarship to Japan - my parents have even turned it into a bragging point “We didn’t know she applied for the scholarship until she came back and told us she had to skip school for the examination”. Cue the laughter at how independent I am.
Keep my requests infrequent, and the answer will be yes. Because I am good, and I don’t ask for much.
Because if you’re good, people will love you. And if people love you, they say yes to your request. Therefore, if rate that my requests are granted at is higher, then I must have more love.
What stupid thinking. What childish thinking. My parents love me no matter what, I know that much.
But I am the good child, and habits are hard to break. I do not bother my parents with phone calls at 2:30 in the morning, complaining of homesickness (unlike my sister). When I’m sick, I lie quietly in bed and eat whatever I’m given. I take care of my brother without complaining.
I am good and therefore I am loved.
Act 2: I am Strange
I am the strange foreign girl. I say the things that no one will say, and I say it without care for the consequences. No one knows how to deal with me.
I was not always so strange.
Even in MG, even in AC, I was weird, yes, with my sugar highs and my insatiable appetite for books. I was weird yes, but we were all weird. I cried at nights, yes, but deep down, I always knew I belong. I may have been the misfit, but in a school of extraordinary people, a misfit may pass as extraordinary with the help of her classmate-family. I was not as strange as I thought I was.
Here, I am just the strange gaijin girl.
I will open my mouth and tell you that Japanese guys are not gentlemen (in front of my male classmates). I will tell you exactly what I don’t like about the Japanese unemployment system, how awful it is to girls and foreigners. I will propose the weirdest things - let’s take a trip to go to a wine tasting. Oh, not everyone can drink yet? Oh, but there are other things to do.
It has gotten to the point, that when, in a pique of anger, I told my senpai that I thought him useless, he took it all as a joke. There was no need to apologise, he said, because you were joking. In truth, it is because I am the strange gaijin girl and I am always saying things like that. I do not need to be taken seriously. My words have lost their power. I am stranger than I thought I was.
Me, who was so proud of my words, so proud of learning my third language, so proud of having won MUNs and presentations. I am no longer good with words. All I can say are strange things, because I am the strange girl and I do and say what the normal people don’t.
I am weird, I am strange, and I do not fit in. My words don’t need to be listened to.
I am to be humoured, I am the amusing companion when you’re drunk (and I’m not, but finally we’re on a similar wavelength to the foreign girl). I am the one who openly asks about everyone’s marks and relationship status.
I get to ask the intrusive questions, the rude things. I get to say what I think, because my words don’t matter. The mask I put on to get some freedom has become my cage.
I am the strange foreign girl and I don’t belong.
Act 3: I am a Fake
I am good (but I’m not). I am strange (but this is exaggerated). I don’t care (but I do). I have friends (but do I?)
I am a fake.
Act 4: I am Loved.
I may be a lonely fake, but You still love me anyway. I may not accept it, and I may run from You, but You still love me anyway.
I am running straight back to you, like the prodigal son. I may take some time to get there, I may get lost and distracted along the way, but at the end, I will go home. I will go to my heavenly home, and I will be real.
If a toy rabbit can be make real through love, a fake girl can too.