my tragic flaw

In ALL, INTROSPECTION by Stephanie Klein8 Comments

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Destiny isn’t a matter of chance it’s a matter of choice.  It’s not a thing to be waited for; it’s a thing to be achieved.

I received an email about Greek Tragedy from sleeptodream posing the following question:

“There is this theory that the protagonist of the story possesses some sort of tragic flaw which contributes to his/her downfall. The theory explains that the character must not be entirely all good or all evil, but must be someone the audience could identify with. So I wonder, what could be your tragic flaw? “ 

The quote above isn’t mine; it’s William Jennings Brian’s, and it appeared in a serif font, beneath my senior year high school yearbook photo.  Growing up I fed on a diet of achievement, feasted on honors, devoured papers down to their narrow margins, basted myself on progressive ideas, stuffed in theorems until I needed to lie down and do some unbuttoning.  I will get whatever I want if I work at it hard enough. 

Hard enough doesn’t work.  It turns out just to be hard.

I’m that girl, the one who worked on the assignment the day it was given, even if it wasn’t due for another month.  The one who as an infant cried in my crib, drenched with sweat, until my parents caved and put me on a mattress.  Determined to get my way, I had a plan; and it’s in a warehouse box today.  In the warehouse, in a box, in my old high school diary, you’ll find a one page forecast of my life. 

A good college.
Graduate school.
Get married by 26.
Wait two years to have a baby by 28.

Dear reader, I’m 28, and I never went to grad school.  The list might have ended there: baby by 28.   Cause in high school that’s all I wanted for myself: to be in love and to have a family.  I didn’t bother to scribble down a career that day.  Though in an interview with my teenage self, I would learn that she wanted to go to law school to become a trial lawyer specializing in defending abused children.  And if she had an interview with her grammar school girl counterpart, she would have learned she wanted to be a writer… um, or Annie.   

Ambition knocked me on my ass.  My peripheral vision was for shite, too many blind spots. All I really knew was that I wanted to be married.  I wanted to have a family.  And I didn’t care if he didn’t… let me repeat, I didn’t care if he didn’t.  I don’t know if it gets more fcuked up than that.  It was my plan, see, long before he ever came along, and I was working hard on it.  I was patient, not flippant.  We were together for three years before marrying.  So we’re getting married now, and if you don’t want to, I’ll find someone else to marry, you idiot.  And so, we got married.  And after two years of paying marriage dues of sunny yellow weekends alone, abandoned dinners due to his pager, and weekly promises of I’ll-make-it-up-to-you’s, I was finished compromising.  And we made a baby.  And then the glass ceiling broke on my head.

I know it sounds like that play-it-safe whimpass spin when a potential boss asks you to tell him what your weakness is, and you chirp some song about being a perfectionist.  Blah blah.  But my being ambitious (to a fault) is my “tragic flaw.”  The days of beating myself up over it, though, are behind this female protagonist.  See, I’ve learned from that mistake, and it will always be my inner ear, but I’ve learned to keep the voices in check. Cause when you don’t—well, that’s called crazy.

Comments

  1. while everything you mentioned is correct, there is one minor detail you overlooked. the reason for the tragedy, the cause behind the effect we adopt into literature, is that this tragic flaw leads to an eventual downfall and from what i gather that is not the case here. you wanted those things, yes; but that does not mean that by not acquiring them you have failed. your priorities changed. i doubt that you wanted to remain married unless the circumstances changed. i doubt that lots of your goals in high school are current goals. until your ambition is, or leads to, your downfall, you are not a tragic figure. yes, there are minor tragedies in your life and those make the great posts i enjoy so much :). So just keep your last paragraph in mind, change with the circumstance. change for the better, grow, and everything will work itself out. ;)
    you're not a greek tragedy, you're a greek goddess

  2. "All I really knew was that I wanted to be married. I wanted to have a family. And I didn’t care if he didn’t… let me repeat, I didn’t care if he didn’t. I don’t know if it gets more fucked up than that. It was my plan, see, long before he ever came along, and I was working hard on it. I was patient, not flippant. We were together for three years before marrying. So we’re getting married now, and if you don’t want to, I’ll find someone else to marry, you idiot. And so, we got married."

    Which explains (in some part) how you eventually found yourself in that antique store in Nyack. But we grow and learn, and we realize life is not a plan or an agenda; it's a process we join through happenstance and experience by trial and error — mostly error. At the end, we realize that there is no "moving on" or "closure" to any of the pain. We become adults when we realize that we will never stop feeling the pain and laugh still.

    Best,

    M

  3. You are a 1/4 jewish so you must know the old saying "We make plans and God laughs". I'm currently 26 & have many girlfriends that are trying to follow that exact same plan. I have to remind myself everyday that I'm not your average cookie cutter 26 year old. My life is not going to follow a set plan.

    It seems like you have had your fair share of hard times in your brief 28 years. However, this has made you stronger and ready to handle what life throws your way. You gain a greater understanding of who you are and what is important to you.

  4. Your posts are not only records of growth but snippets of your wisdom. Wisdom is rare nowadays and to think that you're only in your 20's. I agree with hugo, you are a Greek Goddess. Sending my best to you, always.

  5. This post and comments have been pissing me off all day.

    Sleeptodream doesn't know what he's asking.

    “There is this theory that the protagonist of the story possesses some sort of tragic flaw which contributes to his/her downfall. The theory explains that the character must not be entirely all good or all evil, but must be someone the audience could identify with. So I wonder, what could be your tragic flaw?"

    You answered this question with "Ambition." I couldn’t disagree more. This is a loaded and invalid question to begin with. And, although enjoyable to read, your answer is misguided. Sorry.

    You have a bunch of traits that you like, you have a few that you don’t like. We all do. You have some moments that you are proud of, and you have some that you are not so proud of. We all do. You recognize those, you learn, you adjust, you move on. You made some plans, you changed them. You'll make more, and you'll change them too.

    What sleeptodream misses is very simple. The concept of "tragic flaw" is literary. It is a dramatic device. You or I don’t have a tragic flaw, BECAUSE WE ARE NOT FICTION. You are not a protagonist. There is a huge difference here, and maybe blog readers and reality TV watchers are failing to see it. You are a real person, flesh and blood, that survives, persists, and kicks ass. You have had no downfall. You will have no downfall. You may have some transformations. You may change. You may get burned from time to time. You may burn from time to time. None of that matters because you survive. Good or evil? What a joke. There is no black and white. Anybody who sees the world as such is an idiot. It is all gray area. All.

    I love reading your blog because is it real. It is raw, uncut, emotional. Do I read some things that I don’t love about you? Yes. Do I read things I love about you? Yes. Is your tragic flaw ambition? Absolutely not. Fuck that. Your life isn’t what you planned exactly? Fuck that too. You are on a journey. Planning at age 10 is immaturity, uncertainty of a future of change. Your audience identifies with you because you are just like them. Well, maybe not JUST like them. You have lovely hair. But really close to just like them. It is not because you are well written. It is not because you write well. It is because you have the audacity to write about things that everybody thinks about and put your name on it.

    Ambition is a good thing, embrace it. Enjoy your journey. Enjoy the change. Learn from the mistakes. Move on. Go someplace you want you go.

  6. Heres one I heard

    With one foot in the future
    And one foot in the past
    Your pissing all over the present.

    So vulgar, yet so wise.

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