I am a cube, not a square

We’re always more than what we seem.

I’m sitting in Feature Writing class; my left hand, with pen in palm, itches with agitation.

Not because I’m bored, and certainly not because I dislike the class discussion.

But my mind, it wanders. It wanders when I’m restless; when I’m unsure; when I’m dissatisfied and can’t quite find the words to admit it. Out loud.

“So, I start sketching — and it’s always the same thing,” I tell my mom a week later, driving back to campus. “It’s always a cube.”

I’m not one to doodle, usually. I don’t design cute, bubble letters with dots and stripes and hearts. Or abstract, artistic expressions of society in multi-colored Sharpies.

I start out by drawing a square. Just a simple square. A box. Four lines. Perfect symmetry. (Well, that’s the goal anyway.)

“But then, it changes,” I finish. “Changes into a cube.”

I then extend the lines out from the top of the square, then out from the bottom lines. I connect the back-end with the front-end. Finally, I shade in the borders, adding depth, layering. Complexity.

“What do you think it means?” I ask her, most inquisitively.

She pauses. (I’m sure she’s never gotten this question before. What kind of daughter asks her mom why she draws cubes in class? Me, obviously.)

Suddenly, she answers: “Because there’s more to you than meets the eye. Your peers have put you in a box, and you’re striving to be more than just that one box. Because you’re more than just a square on the surface — there’s another dimension to you.”

I’m flabergasted. I thought maybe my obsession with drawing cubes in the margins of my notebooks was something significant (almost every page is cluttered with them). But I didn’t expect her to read me quite so clearly.

YES, I want to scream to the mountaintops of Appalachia and all around the world. I am three-dimensional like a cube.

I enjoy multi-disciplinary work. I like reading about and learning all different types of study: international politics; social behavior; biology; American literature; women’s movements; philosophy. Maybe that makes me schizophrenic. Maybe that makes me an overachiever.

Maybe that makes me, well, me.

I’ve been shoved into boxes since middle school, when my less-productive peers called me out on my overachieving-ness. Never, after that, would I feel comfortable not to achieve. I had a reputation to uphold. To glorify.

And the boxes, they’ve continued to follow me, all throughout high school and into college. I thought I could start afresh, but I guess old habits die hard. I thought I knew who I wanted to be, but I was wrong. I thought I had the answers, but I don’t have a clue.

Why, then, have I been practically pushed onto this path before me? Is it because I’ve showed promise? Or has anyone ever bothered to ask me, a second time, am I okay with this predestined life?

I should want what I don’t desire. I should dream about what I dread.

My pen knows me best: I am a cube, not a square. I will not conform to these boxes, these four corners, if I can help it. It’s time I start thinking outside the box, start coloring outside the lines.

It’s time I take back my life.

This essay also appears on Medium

2 Replies to “I am a cube, not a square”

  1. Bethany,   I loved your story!!    Once I started reading about you always drawing a box I thought THAT’S ME TOO!!!  I always try to be the best I can be to my friends because they are so important to me and I want them to know that no matter what I am there for them.  So it’s refreshing to hear that I’m not the only one who is in a cube and reaching to do better and better for the people around me.   Thank you for giving me the opportunity to also look outside of the box!! Have a good week 🙂   HUGS!! Debi      

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