Friday, July 9, 2010

Amelia Earhart Never Knew; or what it feels like now.

As I edit, I'm deep into Amelia. She gets a chance that most will never get. But one can dream, can't they? I'm writing how it feels to her when she's given an opportunity to be anonymous again. And I think about anonymity and how much of our lives we strain against it, in small ways and large. We begin with our parents. As babies we demand attention. The unluckier among us don't receive it. The rest do. How it's given matters. Good parenting, mediocre parenting, bad parenting . . .then our peers, our teachers, our mentors, our bosses, and for some of us public attention because we need more. We want more. We hope we deserve more. Amelia was a star. Her popularity was something she pursued relentlessly. It was the vehicle for everything. For freedom from financial strains and freedom from the life she'd led before, plus freedom from family because she could finally assuage whatever guilt she felt, having given her mother bad investment advice that ended up losing what was left of her inheritance. Freedom from her sister too who wanted more than she could give, or at least this is my version of Amelia.

My version because as in all things creative, it comes from me. From my own experience. I write about how she enjoys her anonymity. But of course, I write to become someone. To matter. I do it despite the mixed blessings attention brings. I craved approval and attention. I wanted my parents to be proud of me but they offered a decidedly mixed response. Now, being orphaned, I have no need for their approval. Or at least no chance in gaining it. Freeing, yet also sad. The truth is my parents were flawed as we all are. Each of us is imperfect. People can have huge holes inside of them, and no one else can be expected to give them the support or strength they so evidently crave.

My favorite line in Gatsby, "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." It's magnificent writing and the perfect ending, but it's not my ending, not for Amelia. She gets a second chance. We all deserve one.


  1. I think this post is probably going to strike a chord with a lot of your readers. Maybe it's a human universal that we spend our adult lives pursuing whatever things our parents couldn't give us?

  2. I'm sure believing it today. Thank you so much.

  3. Loved reading this post. The universal craving for positive attention from others is something I've wondered about too. On the one hand it seems positive- our drive for connection and relatedness must occur through the medium of human attention (given and received), and this seems like a good thing. There is something so tender, endearing, vulnerable, and human in the longing that a small child has to receive positive attention from parents and others. If the child didn't long for our admiration and love, it would be so cold and flat.

    Yet sometimes the obsession with collecting attention from others in some adults can seem somehow small, degrading or exhausting. It's hard to imagine the Dalai Lama or Gandhi or other great souls craving admiration, fame, or attention from others. There is something ennobling in a level of autonomy and inner completeness that seems to exude from some people. Why are some people ravenous for attention and others content without it?...Thanks for a beautiful post Naomi.

  4. Thank you Colleen. I think even the Dalai Lama was a child once. And children crave approval, even the most confident of them. But that may well be my western take on things.