My father hasn’t read my blog since I started my “365 Project” on January 1st of this year. This is my 103rd piece and still I haven’t received a “good job” or “fun read” or even “nice to make me look like an asshole in that piece.” Instead, I got nothing. At first, I wondered had he read the piece which had gotten press, the one about him giving me a blood transfusion? It got abundant praise from strangers, yet, from him, the hero of my story, I got, “I’m too tired to read at the end of the day; you know I get up at 4 in the morning.”
Initially, I was disappointed. He expressed his opinion on the project and said it was intense and a waste of time. “Why do you have to write EVERY DAY? Can’t you just do it once a week?” Or else, “If you don’t get to it, who cares?”
My Soviet immigrant parents can’t get behind this artsy passion project; my free internship with myself. I was raised less in the “trophy for participation” manner and more like “what happened to the other 5 points?” when I got a 95/100 on a test. I don’t doubt my parents’ love for me; I simply understand they’re not easily impressed.
“I have to make the art before I can sell it,” I try to explain. “I guess you’re right,” he mutters and we’ve stayed clear of the topic for the last 103 days.
“What’s new?” he’ll ask in our daily conversations mostly about the weather. “Not much,” I’ll answer and think how I’m spilling my life history, my heart, and my soul out onto the world and he doesn’t care to have a read. But it is not his intention to hurt my feelings, I’m sure by this point, 103 posts seems like too much binge reading.
Then there’s my mother. Earlier today I had a lovely phone conversation with her. “How’s the writing?” she asks as if she’s inquiring about tomato plants I’m trying to grow on the windy balcony above the world’s busiest bridge.
“It’s going well,” I tell her. “I’m doing it every day!”
“Do you really think you’ll be able to keep this up?” She asks. This was my mother being encouraging. What she actually meant to say was, “Why are you wasting your time, wearing yourself down when you can sell your soul (and time) back to the Corporate Man and go back to living for 2/7th of your life.”
“Of course, I’ll be able to keep it up,” I continue. “Unless I’m dead.” (You can take the girl out of Russia, but you can’t take the Russian pragmatic cynicism out of girl.)
“I mean how will you be able to keep coming up with new ideas?” she clarifies.
“Well it’s not brain surgery and I AM a writer, this is what I want to do.” I’m seemingly defending myself to my mother even though I’m 41 years old, have a journalism degree from NYU and have worked professionally for 15 years. After we hang up, she will forget all about this conversation while I will fold it neatly into a mental note and store it in the cabinet of mother memories in my mind.
“So have you made any money off the project yet?” She asks.
There you have it! This was the punch to the stomach I had been waiting for every day since I told her of the 365 project. She says she enjoys my writing and even tried to follow my blog, but you know, technical difficulties mean she can only read the ones I share on Facebook (not this one). My own parents will only support something that yields money.
Why else would you “work” if not for money? Passion is for Americans; not Soviet immigrants. Our enthusiasm has to come through as survival, and we’ve made it this far despite my mother convincing me there was an eternal bullseye for unfortunate events placed on our family.
“I’ve made a few dollars here and there on some freelance pieces,” I tell her and feel like a 12-year-old overweight teenager who was never good enough.
It’s not surprising my mother says things like this; it is not her intention to hurt my feelings; she was just making conversation. She will say she is my biggest supporter and cheerleader. The startling fact is, after years of what she will call innocuous digs, which she discounts as silly or comical, they still affect me. I still want to make my parents proud, but for now, I will have to settle on making myself proud first.