What makes people who want, want?
If there is truly a burning inside of us that makes us warm to the touch, who keeps up the flame? Contrarily, who keeps it from turning us to ashes?
The girl across the room is interviewing for the same internship as you. Her hands are folded, and her legs are crossed. Her hair is laid flat.
You feel that she nearly mirrors you. Coffee in her left hand while yours stings the palm on your right. Every few seconds, she takes a tentative sip - tentative, and for what? Anxious, for what? Her hair still sits perfectly, but her fingers noticeably tremble.
She uncaps her lipstick and reapplies it in the same motion, a dizzying cycle that repeats once every few minutes. The pink makes a heart on her lips until its perfect redness makes her inhospitable. Nothing flawed will leave those barriers; nothing imperfect will enter. Soon, the illusion is up. She stains the rim of her coffee cup and tries again to be still.
There is an energy when you lock eyes with her; there is a lack thereof in the room that surrounds you. This entire masquerade seems unjust, the dance of tapping feet and fingers all too familiar. You are sure your hair is out of place. Soon, she will uncap her lipstick. Misplaced is the word you are searching for, misplaced. You sought out your dreams like they were each tiny stars and found the only way up was through this stretch of metal hallways where the light never peeks through. Maybe by the time this night is done, you will be one step closer to touching the fire. Until then, the way remains cold.
You wonder if she feels this way as well.
It’s cold in there, she warns you as she leaves, and you press your sweater so close into your body that you feel as if the itchy fabric is protruding from your skin.
She wants to take your spot, you remind yourself. She wants to steal away your dream. Your freckles are lovely, you say to her, and a smile blossoms on her stained lips.
They say the world is man eat man. Because it becomes the only way we know how to survive, we create wars where they are not needed and spill blood when it is not worth it. But when is it that you feel best? Do these moments of violence inspire? Or is it the moments of compassion? The moments in which you appreciate the trivial humming of the bees on sunflowers and the sinking of toes into sweltering sand; are these not what fuel your thrumming heart?
I was once an incredibly competitive child. So competitive that, in the wake of any loss, I would drive myself to tears and condemn myself to at least a week’s worth of sleepless nights. Rather than learn from my opponent, a lost war was a matter of “What did I do wrong?” and “How am I messed up?” It was a contrived twist of holding myself accountable in that, as long as I humiliated myself enough, the loss would be worth it, and future loss would be prevented.
I look back on these moments now in ways that many would look upon a woman devolved into insanity. Was I so arrogant and self-serving that I couldn’t comprehend anyone might be better than me and, thus, worth learning from? But upon further examination, I realized quickly it was not the selfishness of youth that led me to these thoughts. In a world where problems of minor importance are solved with gunfire and “leaders” would rather ship out thousands of soldiers to commit heinous acts in their name than admit to a compromise, what else is there to be learned? War is about winning. Winning is reliant on bloodshed. Most importantly, victory must be self-detrimental. If you have not consciously decided to sacrifice fractions of yourself, day after day, you may as well be a failure.
This is tough to combat, undeniably. It takes, as aforementioned, a conscious decision made daily to work against it. It takes deep breaths rather than fighting words. It takes confidence and self-love. It takes a careful balance between an ambitious fighting spirit and a compassionate, loving one. It takes a strong heart.
But every second you are joyous, the battle is won. This world is not a war, and humanity is not man eat man, as everyone seems so inclined to believe. Every minute you choose to stare, speechless, at the bursting colors of the sunset; every passing stranger you compliment on their curls. It is all a promise, a devotion, a belief. It is trust placed into the curled hands of the world that you will get where you are meant to be, and you will do it virtuously.
And, if it is truly meant to be, you will be victorious.