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You Cannot See the Earth from the Moon – Nicola Xanthopoulos '23

I was in 4th grade when my mom taught me how to be a winner. It was 10 PM and I was sitting at the table crying while gluing my beads to my plant life cycle poster at the kitchen table. My mother walked in on the scene, sat down across from me and told me she was gonna teach me the secrets to being successful. “Number one- Nicola stop crying and listen up- You cannot succeed if you don’t delegate. You must pick what needs to be done right, done by you, and what you can risk being done by those around you. Let me show you how it is done, you said you needed pipe cleaners for your project?” I nodded quickly. “I am delegating the task of taking you to Michaels in the morning to your sister. See how it works.” I did, in fact, not see how it worked but I nodded again. “Number two, this one is important, you must make a list of everything you have to do. On this list, put the most important things at the top and do them first. That’s it. That’s all it takes.” Seemingly pleased with herself, she left the room and headed back to her office. I promptly went upstairs to google the word delegate on my dad’s computer.

My mother did not intentionally place me at the bottom of her tried and true to do lists. When she delegated the task of raising me to my nanny, Ms. Letty, she took each “I thought Letty was your mom, who is Gaylene?” with a pained smile. My mother received hand-me-down knowledge of the ways I was growing up at the same time I received hand-me-down clothes. She spent her scarce free time seeing me through a one way mirror that was composed of pictures and secondhand stories. But even then, the mirror started to crack and she stopped seeing me at all.

Each night before bed, my mother used to tell me, “You are just like me.” I came to believe that our souls were made from the same soil and our brains swam among the same too-high-to-reach stars. Just as her hair is my hair and her proud chin is reflected back on my face, her ambition is embedded in my heart. My sister seemed to be free of this plaguing drive.

“This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard”. This was her response to the printed out pink cursive quote my sister taped above her desk that read “shoot for the moon because if you fall short you will land amongst the stars”. “If you shoot for the moon and you land in the stars, you simply are left in the stars feeling sad about how close the moon is”. She was never a woman who took placing second well. In this way, I am my mother’s child. We flow through life with our heads down, not held high like my father, but looking down at our feet ensuring we never missed a step. We fight to prove our worth to no one in particular, taking the hardest classes and the highest paying jobs to show everyone we are smart, though no one questioned it in the first place. Because of this, together, my mother and I pick up speed and move so fast the images around us blur. I watch her through a kaleidoscope, dancing colors reflecting her ever changing movement, an image so constant that I fear if she ever stopped moving I would not be able to recognize her.

My grandma recounted endless stories of my mothers childhood to me and she once joked that “your mother came out of the womb choking on air. She tried to swallow too much at once.” Deeply fearful of landing in the stars, my mother spends every moment and every minute

climbing a ladder that has led her to president and CEO. At this view point, she can see the stars down below her and she feels sorry for those poor fools who ever felt that was enough. She can see the space above her and begins to feel that the moon itself is not as high as she liked. She is looking up, but I am down on Earth, too far away for her to see, even if she tried to look. But then again, my mother is never one for views.

We rotate around the same concept of success and the scarce times we see each other is as rare as the planets in retrograde, the same uncomfortable feeling that this action is only the result of moving the opposite direction from where you should be going. In truth, I cannot be upset that her goal setting skills passed so easily onto me as well as her lack of satisfaction with achieving any of these goals. I cannot be upset when she misses subtle tears over friendship squabbles or poor test grades. It would be unfair to expect the stars to recognize the changes on Earth when their view was so far away.

Art by Annika Haagensen '22


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