That old ghost can go

by Esther Emery

I just threw away an old version of my friend Eva. It was heavy, and poorly drawn, and not very accurate.

I found it by accident. I was trying to throw away an old version of me that had been misfiled. E for Esther. E for Eva. It’s an understandable mistake.

Oddly enough (and has this ever happened to you?), my mind was playing a little trick on me.  Superimposed over the actual person that is Eva, the person that I really did lose touch with after high school, the person that I am absolutely sure that I respect and adore, but otherwise am not incredibly well informed about, there is this ghost of myself when I was fifteen years old. She’s on her way to college (early!), and she thinks she is perched on the brink of something amazing. But I’ve seen the trailer. She has no way to prepare herself for what happens next: life, square in the face, with no armor.

Shhh. She doesn’t know yet.

I’ve kept her like that, on ice. I caught her in the moment just before my dreams started calling themselves compromises and hid her behind a life I didn’t live. What if I could have stayed in the Ivy League? What if I really had an equal shot? What if holding on as tightly as I did to those bootstraps had actually helped to fill my mother’s bank account? Well, then maybe I would have been just like Eva.

Through no fault of her own, Eva came to represent for me the path I didn’t travel, the potential I didn’t tap. I didn’t get the Ivy League education. She did. I didn’t finish Organic Chemistry. She did. I didn’t become a doctor. She did.

But you can’t resuscitate them, ghosts. You can’t teach them now the things you wanted them to know back then. It doesn’t matter how many times you scream at them to open their eyes.

And I’m not going to medical school.

I thought about it. This time I really thought about it, and this time I have what it would take to make it happen. But the path that I am on is not that path. And the more I open my eyes to the multitude of options, the more I find my footing on the way I have already chosen. I’m glad I direct plays, even when they aren’t all successes. I’m glad I work with artists, even on the occasions that they are incorrigible, close-minded, or unrealistic. I’m glad I do what I do.

So that old ghost can go.

Here’s a little something for the Eva that is, and a little less the Eva that helps me hold on to a Mouse that was.

By Georgia O’Keefe…

Nobody sees a flower–really–it is so small it takes time–we haven’t time–and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.


Red Canna (1923)