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Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Life as Alice

This is a piece I wrote as I was reflecting on my life and how in some ways I am similar to Alice. Enjoy!

I remember the first time a saw Alice in Wonderland. I was maybe five or six years old, and my mom played a videocassette that she had used to record several cartoons, in which the movie was included. She had recorded it when it premiered in the Puerto Rican network that was then called Tele-Once. Although the movie was in Spanish and I understood the conversations, I really did not have any idea of the depths of Alice’s story. For me, it was just a movie about funny characters, colorful places, and beautiful songs. I thought that it was about a little girl who got lost in the woods and just wanted to go home. I could relate to that. Not long before that I had gotten lost at the supermarket and thought that I would never see my parents again. But I remember the very good advice that my parents gave me and went straight to the manager’s office, where my parents were paged and soon picked me up. I always thought that Alice should have done something similar, but in a way she was thinking similar to me; she was thinking about all the good advice that she had been given and tried to apply it to her situation, although for her it was not successful. My attraction to the movie, however, did not begin with me being able to see myself in Alice; it began with my fascination towards the Mad Hatter, for he was the character that I loved the most (and still is). His big hat and funny comments made me want to one day be able to sit down for tea with him. After that, I read the books on which the movie was based, and fell in love with them. Yet, I never imagined that a story that I loved so much would become such an important part of my life, so much, that I can mirror my life through it.

In a way, I am a real-life Alice. She is somewhat different and she does not always do what she is told. She speaks her mind and stands up to others, even adults, always defending her beliefs. Most of all, she cares about those around her, the good and the evil, and she tries her best to understand the pains and frustrations of the people and creatures she has contact with. Alice, more often than not, does not fit in, not in the real world and not in Wonderland; yet, she always follows her heart even if it means being different. She went through difficult moments in Wonderland, yet she was able to overcome any struggle, turning what could have been a nightmare to someone else into an adventure. I remember not fitting in and always being odd in school. I was often teased and boys would make fun of me because I wasn’t the prettiest girl in the class. I never wanted to follow the crowd, and never did I give in to peer- pressure, which made my peers tease me even more. But as much as I was teased in school, it was never a painful experience for me. It wouldn’t be until years later that I would really understand the struggles of finding yourself and not knowing where to go.

Being a graduate student has made me realize how similar I am to Alice and how much her struggles resemble mine. Just like the Cheshire cat sends Alice to different paths when she asks for the Queen, life has thrown me through different ways and I am always confused as to where I am supposed to go and who I am supposed to become. As an undergraduate I always thought I knew who I was: a dancer, a singer, a Linguistics major, a catholic, a loving daughter, yet a little hard-headed. But as it became time to grow up, everything that I thought I was became a question. This is where my struggle, or adventure, began. Now that I am on the verge of finishing my Masters degree I have lost myself in the fight to understand who I am. Who am I? That is an interesting question. If I had to face the caterpillar today and he asked me what he asked Alice, what would I say? “Who are YOU?” is what he asks Alice, and she does not know what to answer, but she is seven years old, and it is hard to answer that at that age. But I am older and I am supposed to know that. So if the caterpillar said right now, “Who are YOU?” I would have nothing to say. I know that my name is Emily Rose, but that is all that I can come up with. Academically, I am not a major in linguistics, I am not trained in pedagogy either, and even less am I an expert in literature. Just like Alice, I sometimes use the concepts I know just to sound intellectual, but I feel that I am not using them correctly because I have no idea what they mean. I am a catholic, yet I am against some of its beliefs. I love to dance but I am not a dancer anymore. I am a daughter who loves her parents but constantly fights them for not accepting her ideals. I was always at the top of my class, but now I feel like I have no more knowledge than a bird has. I speak my mind, but I feel that my mind is not fit for what I am studying because there are certain beliefs that are emphasized and which I do not agree with at all. And likely, I feel that my beliefs are not accepted here. I have never disrespected those who think differently from me because, like Alice, I try not to judge others’ opinions, but at the same it has made me question myself. If I want to succeed in this program and my career, do I have to remain silent? But why? I feel it is time for me to stand up and pretend that I am 12 feet tall, and speak my mind, just like Alice did during the trial in Wonderland.

I feel the same way that Alice feels in the movie when she says: “Will I ever learn to do the things I should?” I always try my best to do everything right, yet somehow there is something wrong with it. That has made me question myself more than ever. I feel that if I do not change who I am I will never be able to face that monster, the Jabberwocky, who is waiting for me in grad school. “I don’t know who I am! I don’t know who I am! Stop asking me who I am!” said Emily to the caterpillar with a scream that made everything around her tremble, “Could you point the right direction for me? Maybe that way I will know who I am.” I have cried and cried incessantly creating more than a pool of tears, maybe an ocean. But unlike Alice when she cried a pool of tears, I do not have a magic cake that makes me bigger, and perhaps stronger. And worse than that, I have no Wonderland. I cannot escape my reality because there is no magical place down a rabbit hole or through a looking glass. I cannot wake up from this dream because it isn’t one. I feel like my world is falling apart and I have no control over it. I have to face the evil queen and the madness of the world on my own, and I have to learn who I am, just like Alice was able to. For now, I have to accept that life is an adventure and part of that adventure involves confusion, pain, laughter, but most of all learning.

Alice’s story has become my outlet and my comfort when I feel like I do not belong anywhere. Writing a thesis about her has become my Wonderland, the place where I can escape to and I can be myself. Never in a million years would I have thought that a nonsense children’s story would have so much meaning in my life. The mere thought of it makes me think that I may be just as mad as a hatter. But I cannot forget what the White Queen told Alice: “Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." I guess it time for me to believe them too.