(This is a first draft of something that I’m going to workshop in one of my classes.)
Last year my friends and I decided to have a movie night and watch Castaway because it was on Netflix. I’d never seen it before, but I’d heard that there were some scary scenes. A classic Amanda move– I looked it up on Wikipedia and read the plot summary beforehand, scrolling through it on my phone as we watched and the plot of the movie progressed. (Yeah, whatever, why would I do that, that ruins the whole movie, blah blah blah, get over it)
At one point (SPOILER ALERT) Tom Hanks has to cut out his rotten tooth with an ice skate, which I already knew and was anticipating because I’d read it on the Wikipedia page, so I covered my eyes in a very obvious and dramatic manner and warned everyone, “This part gets scary, I know it!” This was met with groans from my friends and a chorus of “Really, Amanda?s” (Fact: most people don’t like being told what’s going to happen in a movie before it happens.)
There’s a show on Netflix called Jessica Jones that I recently just finished watching, but I couldn’t watch it without looking up the play-by-play of each episode on the Internet beforehand. Same with every single show or movie that I watch. Sometimes if I’m going to see something in the movie theater I won’t look it up, but most of the time I will. If I start watching a new show with a friend and I have questions about something that they won’t answer unless I keep watching, I threaten to look it up on Wikipedia until they tell me.
Why do I do this?
Answer: I suck.
Real answer: I am afraid.
I am afraid of the violence, the blood and gore, being surprised by loud noises and murderers and long lost aunts. (I have a very low tolerance for violence and blood, and also surprises.) I am afraid of that scene in The Incredibles where Mr. Incredible is walking through the forest and that giant robot thing comes out of nowhere. I am afraid of literally every episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I am afraid of that part in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 2 where Harry grabs Voldemort by the face and goes, “WE’LL GO DOWN TOGETHER!” and they both fall off the edge of a cliff and they’re grabbing at each other and screaming in some weird terrifying apparition sequence.
I am afraid of not knowing. I like knowing a lot better than not knowing. With knowing, you understand what to expect and what you’re going to get. You can prepare yourself for the worst. I knew beforehand that Tom Hanks was going to cut out his tooth with an ice skate. That was the whole point of looking it up– I didn’t have to experience it in full and watch it if I didn’t want to, because I already knew it was going to happen.
Over winter break, my grandma, Barbara Livingston, passed away. She died on Christmas day. I was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with my stepfamily and my dad when it happened. My dad had been on the phone with her that morning– she’d called Life Alert because she wasn’t feeling well, but sent the paramedics away because she figured it was just something bad she ate.
A couple of hours later, my dad got a bunch of phone calls from her nursing home and the hospital. She had had a heart attack.
20 minutes after that, my grandma had officially died. My dad and I quickly packed up our stuff in Pittsburgh and left.
Fact: Pittsburgh is a 7 hour car trip from where I live in New York.
Fact: My dad is an excellent multitasker.
For 7 straight hours, my dad was driving while on the phone with everyone that he was related to, was friends with, knew and probably ever existed. He explained what had happened, how the funeral was going to be on Sunday, which was her birthday, that the details of the funeral hadn’t been finalized yet, that he was on his way home, blah blah blah. Over and over and over.
My dad did not cry. He teared up a little, but he did not cry. It was weird because my dad is a crier (Fact: he cried when he saw High School Musical), but he didn’t have time to cry– he was on the phone for 7 straight hours.
For 7 straight hours, I sat in silence. My dad’s babbling on the phone filled me up. It became every thought that passed through my brain. The same explanation over and over and over, about how my grandma had died and that we were okay and coming home and things were going to be figured out tomorrow. I had texted my sister and a few of my close friends, but that’s it. My brain felt like radio static.
I did not cry. I didn’t make any noise at all. I had felt pressure behind my eyes like I was going to cry when we had first heard on the phone, but I didn’t cry on that 7 hour car ride. I didn’t have time.
Due to unfortunate circumstances, my sister and I didn’t get to see my grandma Barbie a lot growing up. (Or my dad’s side of the family, for that matter.) It was pretty unfair. We would have relatively short visits with her, and when we did visit my sister Carly and I rolled our eyes and gave short answers when she asked us questions about school and boys, and made comments about our hair. (She loved our hair. She would always try to brush Carly’s or play with it, which Carly hated, to be honest.)
It drove me up the wall when she made comments about my body, or about my hair, or about how I did my makeup. She always asked about my big high school boyfriend, and when we broke up, she continued to ask about him every time I came to visit. It made me want to die.
Like I said, these visits were short. And a lot of the time, they weren’t all that fun. Not getting to see my grandma Barbie a lot when we were younger kind of definitely absolutely took a toll on our relationship with her– visiting with her a lot of the time felt like an obligation, like something we had to do. But we did our best for our dad and for her, because we knew it made them happy, and answered her questions and let her play with our hair and ate the takeout food my dad always picked up pre-visit. And ultimately, we were lucky to have a grandma who loved us that much and was always smiling, even if she didn’t know what was going on.
One thing that I know my sister secretly loved but pretended to hate was singing for my grandma. My sister was the star of our middle school play Annie, as in, she was Annie in Annie, and she is probably the best singer/actress in the whole world, and probably the best person to ever play Annie in Annie. (As her sister, I’m biased. But I swear to god it’s true, she is the best singer/actress in the whole world) My grandma would ask her to sing songs from the play, and Carly would stand up and act like she didn’t want to, but she would sing anyway. I knew Carly did sort of want to sing, somewhere inside of her, because she always, always sang. She would sing The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow at the top of her lungs, just for my grandma.
When Carly would sing, my grandma’s face would light up. You know how when some people talk to you, they seem excited and interested but you can tell they’re acting like that just because they’re trying to be nice? My grandma Barbie was GENUINELY interested, captivated, mesmerized (all of these words are good and fit perfectly here, I couldn’t choose just one) by my sister’s singing. She wouldn’t–couldn’t take her eyes off of her when she sang. She was so excited and entranced and unbelievably p r o u d, and you could read it all over her face. It was so pure.
It was pretty shocking that my grandma died. I mean, she wasn’t all that healthy. She was overweight and diabetic and ordered out for every meal. She stayed in her room at the nursing home she lived in 99.99% of the time and didn’t really socialize except for when she called my dad on the phone 50 million times a day, more than I call my dad on the phone, which is a lot anyway.
So it might not sound like all that much of a surprise that she died (which sounds terrible, but it’s true. Even my dad admitted it), but I think that it counts as a surprise when someone is living and then all of a sudden they’re not. And you were so used to them living and existing, and now they’re not living or existing at all.
I’m writing about this because sometimes I think that if I was ever given the chance to, I’d like to read the Wikipedia page on my life. On Wikipedia profile pages, there’s usually (basically always) a section on aforementioned person’s personal life. Mine would maybe include/say these types of things:
Amanda starts Newsapalooza in 2007. Amanda’s grandma Fran dies in 2008. Amanda gets her first internship at Westchester Magazine in 2010. Amanda officially moves out of her mom’s house in June 2013. Amanda goes off to Ithaca College in August 2013. Amanda interns at Random House in 2014. (There are lots of other important things in between, but you get the gist.) Amanda comes to terms with trying to get better re: mental illness in the fall of 2014. Amanda discovers Writopia in 2015. Amanda’s grandma Barbie dies in 2015. Amanda gets a job/internship at ________ at this point in time, Amanda’s sister ends up at _______ for college, her dad moves to _______ after Amanda’s sister goes off to school, Amanda goes to grad school at ________, Amanda’s sister moves to _______ after college, Amanda gets married (yikes) (to Ryan Gosling? Best Case Scenario: He leaves Eva Mendes for me. If that happened, I might take back the yikes), has kids (yikes), moves to ________, and some things I don’t even want to think about right now that will inevitably happen that have to do with death, dying, and being dead.
Fact: It is not possible to read the Wikipedia page about your life unless you are a celebrity or a politician or an author or someone else famous/well known. And if you are alive, your Wikipedia page is still being written, so you’re not going to know anything that hasn’t happened yet, which is why this idea/concept would never work. (I mean, there are other reasons why it wouldn’t work, but I’m just saying.)
I think about this sometimes when bad things happen and when I’m really sad. How would I act differently if I saw it coming? How would I act differently if I had read the Wikipedia page on my life and could prepare for all of this stuff? Maybe if my Personal Life section went into detail, it would tell me about every time I would go into a depressive or anxiety-driven state, and maybe I could do something to change my circumstances and how I felt to alleviate those feelings. If I knew that my grandma was going to die over break, maybe I could have taken the time to get to know her a little bit better and call her more often, which is something I’ve been feeling guilty about and thinking about a lot lately.
That is not a plausible thing to want or wish for. If you knew everything that was going to happen in your life before it happened, you wouldn’t be able to develop as a person or learn or grow from it. And you would just be kind of floating along out there, living a life you already knew. And that wouldn’t be interesting or exciting at all. I wouldn’t feel sad or happy or anxious or scared or depressed or content or anything. I would just kind of be.
The point of this blog is for me to take all of the things that have happened to me and write about them, how they affect my life and who I am as a person– how I grow and learn from my life experiences and how they shape me as a human being. I am Amanda Under Construction. That means my life is constantly changing, things are always happening, good or bad, and I have to take them in stride.
This post kind of took a different direction than I had actually intended, but I think that’s okay. At first, I wanted it to be a post about my grandma Barbie, and the type of person she was and the life she lived. But I don’t think I was ready to write that in its entirety yet, which is why this came out instead. One day I will, but not today.