As I listened to the song Oh Rebecca last week, I began to cry. I played it again, and again, More tears, more feeling. Finally I began to write. Within only a few minutes I had composed what follows, a lament of sorts very different from my usual style.
We look out upon a landscape we never expected. We can tell from the air around us that something is fundamentally broken and fractured. In front of us there is wilderness, and it is beautiful, but it also dramatic and bold in a way that can be both inspiring and frightening. We look back over our shoulders and see nothing—and everything. We shiver, we set our faces, and we weep.
We take a plunge, gasp at the cold, and we swim, hoping we won’t sink. We stand in the middle of an empty desert and lift our arms toward the heat of the sun. We close our eyes and feel the silence. We sit in a dark corner and put our arms around our knees, shutting it all out. We run, we leap, we hope, we fear. We cry.
We are castaways.
We long for our parents’ love—and yet we flinch away, needing space in the way we need air or water. We are wounded. We are scarred. We are afraid. We are also free, but our feelings do not always match the word. Our freedom brings with it both pain and glory.
The past haunts us. We mourn for those we left behind. We watch from a distance, and hope, and worry, and wish. We want to reach out, to give them a taste of what we have, to point the way, but there is only so much we can do.
Our parents were pioneers, charting new territory. So sure of themselves, at least on the outside—we can see that now. With their formula they set out to raise perfect children. What could go wrong?
We were guinea pigs in an experiment gone badly off kilter. They cannot understand us. They did not grow up in a lab with the dials set just so. They cannot understand what went wrong, so they blame us. We know this because we feel it.
We were defective. We are the dross.
Through our tears, we knew.
The moment we failed them we became at once disposable and dangerous. We were radioactive, and they could not risk contamination. They waged battle for purity over our minds and souls. They threatened and cajoled. We retreated to inner safe havens, but it was not enough. We cried, and through our tears the world they had created for us became our own personal hell. We could feel their condemnation as it surrounded us and pressed in.
And so we left.
We became refugees, outcasts from the world they had shaped around us. They could not see that the heaven they built for us became our hell. We look back at that world and wish it could be different, wish it could be shorn of its cages and bars, its oppressive atmosphere bereft of tolerance for difference or disagreement. We long for a world where we wouldn’t have to choose.
Our choice was one of heartbreak and tears. Sometimes it still haunts us.
And now we look out on a new world, a world at once wonderful and terrifying—a world we were never prepared for. As we look out, we set our faces for a life we were taught to fear. Our apprehension mixes with anticipation. Steps uncertain, tentative, hopeful. The wind, the salt air, the spray of the sea.
And yet we look back.