You know what really hurts? Thinking you have to be exotic, exceptional, the best, in order to be loved or even just respected.
These last few weeks saw the passage of two necessary landmarks I trip on every single year. On April 1st I celebrated 13 years since the day of my graduation from film school (yes, I graduated on April Fool’s day, now I know it was a full-frontal omen) and on April 11th, I celebrated 37 years since the day of my birth.
I love to count time. When I was little, I had this habit: I would take mental photographs of moments that struck me particularly and hold them in my thoughts as time-trackers. I would count back toward them and try to dissect the strange feeling it gave me to see that something present and real would morph into past and eventually fall out of my memory, gone.
I took one of the mental photos I remember most clearly on the day of my brother’s christening. I was 9, we had already left the house to go to church when I realized I forgot my purse. My mother allowed me to go get it, I dashed back into my room and stopped cold at what I saw. The shutters were sealed, the room was completely black except for a sharp ray of sunlight cutting through the keyhole and landing on the wall above my bed, where it projected a translucent, almost liquid, image of my mother climbing into the car, upside-down. My room had become one huge camera obscura, I had never seen anything even remotely like it. I stopped, stared hard at the magic dancing before my eyes and tried to memorize every detail of it. Later I would go back in thought to that image and count—it’s been a week since, it’s been a month, it’s been two months and three weeks.
It’s been 27 years, 9 months, 1 week, and 4 days today.
Maybe this is when the cinema bug began its incubation in my system. Or maybe, it’s when I started believing that life needed to be amazing in order to be worth living.
On the day I graduated from the Film Academy I was 11 days short of 25 years old. I was wearing an aubergine-purple satin dress and awkward black boots. On the surface, I felt confident, convivial, and filled with trust in a resplendent future. If you had asked me on that day what did I think my life would look like from then on, this is what I would have probably answered:
I am a rosebud, no wait, a baby peony. I am about to bloom and when I do, everyone will become intoxicated with my creamy white scent. Of course I do realize it will be hard not to get run over in this ritzy rat-race, but I know I got what it takes and I will make myself known. I am great and exceptional and I have something to say. I’m smart and I’m shiny and everyone will soon be proud of knowing me. I will go on, I will fight down my uphill path like the courageous gal I know I am. I will make movies, I will leave my mark on this world, I will be someone. Someone Awesome.
Now that those juvenile vapors of hope have left the stage for something that feels much more like sandpaper, I often ask myself this question: Have I failed?
If failing is when you don’t manage to do what you think is best for you or are so told by others, then yes. I guess I failed. But what if the important things are those that did not even cross my mind at the time I was making this grand plan for my future? What if the ability to digest rejection is a much more important skill to have than that of collecting praise? What if the ultimate life lesson is to learn how to give up on walls that do not want to be taken down and turn around instead, enjoy the bloody view?
I thought making movies would bring me happiness, creative fulfillment and the feeling that I mattered. I was wrong: It brought me 13 years of debilitating performance anxiety.
On the other hand, I never wanted to have children. I always thought it would ruin my life and shatter my dreams to dust, I always thought I would make for a horrible mother. Fortunately, The Universe knows better.
Filmmaking and childbearing—or—filmbearing and childmaking?
I bore ideas for films inside me that felt like millstones in my gut. I bore them for years and years trying to have them come out, but they got stuck. So I had to dedicate more years and years to re-absorbing them back into my system, digesting them somehow, but they are all still there—giant unborn debris polluting my fucking aura.
But my child? It was sweet to birth him and it’s even sweeter to see him grow. He is breathtaking and much more amazing than any movie will ever be.
You know what really hurts? Desperately wanting to be someone you are not. Living a life to prove something to others. Thinking you have to be exotic, exceptional, the best, in order to be loved or even just respected.
So to celebrate my birthday I would like to confess, slowly, these terrible truths: I’m not fantastic, I’m average. I’m not inspired, I’m confused. I’m not exotic, I’m a bit lame actually. I’m not strong and shiny and brave, I’m lactose intolerant, I have a bunion on my left toe and I still behave like a teenager when my mother is around, although I’m 37.
And it’s OK. Very OK.
I promise I will never want to be fantastic again. Now I’ll take a moment to freeze this image into my memory so that I can count back to it and make sure I’ll never forget: my cheap laptop’s screen on the messy table, the mayhem of high chairs and random objects all around it in this small flat we rent. Dirty cups and squeezed lemon halves, post-it notes and pink napkins dotted in white. This is how my life looks and I have never been happier than now.
Ready? Steady? Click.
One second, two seconds, three.
Writer by calling, Filmmaker by choice, Mama by surprise, Marta Parlatore still dreams of becoming a Rock Star, one day. Till then, you can find her at nap time drinking yesterday’s coffee and blogging at Baby Blues & Rock’N’Roll about the breathtaking marvels of being someone she never thought she would ever be.