Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 30, 2024

An utterly honest letter home to my Mother

By KATIE BARAT | April 10, 2014

Dear  Mum,

I text you, call you, Skype you fairly often, but I’ve been feeling as if I’ve been dishonest with you.

Maybe it’s to prevent your worrying, or maybe it’s to pretend that I’m doing a better job without you (I’m not, not, not). You say that I do everything contrary to what you advise, but – wrong! Your opinion still holds more authority in my life than any other.

See, I live my life for an audience - or an auditor - of one, and every time it’s different, so I get confused. If I were to live my life for future possible children of mine, I would like to tell them funny stories relating to these crazy times of ours, with Apple and Instagram, which they’ll consider very vintage probably. If I were to live my life as a writer, I’d gather all the crazy people, listen to them, maybe kiss them or write them poems. Form a medieval legends club or go to a Satanist church? Everything to experience, nothing to miss. Observe.

But  I am not a writer and I may not have kids, so I live with a model called, “Do Not Disappoint Anyone. Live a Life That Society Considers Successful.”

Does this sound like stoner talk? That’s because it is.

Just kidding. Really.

Oh, well. I have Calc homework due tomorrow that I haven’t looked at yet (at Hopkins everyone seems to be very proud of two things: how much work they have and how much less time than necessary they have to do it - freakin’ high school geniuses). It was supposed to be due last Friday but I asked for an extension because I didn’t feeling like doing it. Today, too, time ran away from me to have adventures with Carousel and Grand Budapest Hotel and Milan Kundera – he wrote some neat stuff about infinite repeats, you’d like that (“in a society of no returns everything is cynically forgiven” – I read this for a friend of mine, but she laughed. It may or may not be a Latina thing. Need to check, do some research).

You claim that I don’t have the ability to miss people, but without you I’m a coward. And I don’t make my bed. And I don’t eat, or eat too much. Scratch that; it’s not about that. I can do all of that and I do that mostly, it’s more of an inside thing: unmade beds inside (my, I should write a bestseller like Fifty Shades with metaphors like this).

Guess I’m just tired of being strong. Bring on the kittens. I may even start a relation-s**t with someone proper: I know you want me to be with a true gentleman who’s tall and such (not like those losers I’m usually attracted to). But, no, of course, sorry, I know you do and will understand anything and everything I do or don’t do. Even if I drop out. I remember reading a Thought Catalog piece by Daniel Coffeen about the kids these days with their hipster motto “Live. Work. Create.” This sounds like something I’ve been living by, but Sir Coffeen suggested something else: “Turn on. Tune in. Drop Out.”

So, there, I’m dropping out. If I don’t write the next Fifty Shades, I’ll probably teach French to kids. I know French well - I can go live somewhere where not that many people know French as well as I do. All I need is a crappy one bedroom apartment, Modcloth dresses on sale and expensive tea. Everything else will turn out fine. I’ll read books in some bookstore and never buy them. Get a pet kitten from Craiglist for free. Pretend to be a tourist and use Couchsurfing to make friends, or get an OkCupid account and exchange the small amount of feminine charm I possess for free meals.

Coming to an ambitious place like Hopkins has diminished any ambitions I had. Because everything that’s too much gets devalued, Econ 101. Or maybe I just gave up. Or realized that science, powerful as it is, is a mere servant for Arts and Crafts (and pure math). You can dedicate your life to making humans live longer, faster, healthier, whatever-er, but in the end what are they going to do when all of their needs are satisfied? Create good art (hi, Neil Gaiman). It’s a bit like playing God… But I better get back to my Calc homework, since it is almost midnight and, I admit, I’m a coward. For going through all of this for the sake of others. For the safety of an engineering degree. For the way you’ll see me, partially. For the absence of the stinging sense of failure that I kind of blame on you. Well, now you know.

All my ability to miss,


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