Sunday, December 8, 2013

Becoming an (Ice) Queen

Ever scanned around the cafeteria at lunchtime? Each table full of preoccupied kids, some of which are your friends. A group laughs here, while another giggles there. Their meals barely touched due to all the fun that spread like wildfire around the room. And there you are, awkwardly holding on to your plate, juggling it with the utensils and a cup or a bottle of sorts, much like you would juggling life and academia. Suddenly, your skirt shifts as you begin to stoically wander around. Perhaps, your friends, the one that you have meals with, are sick at home or busy in the laboratory. I hated that sensation, of turning around to find no spot. I would say familiar face if this were at your distant cousin's wedding or at the first day of university, but no, this is high school, a place where you have roamed for the past two years. You know everyone, essentially, on a minimum basis and yet you are still alone.

The Tunnel Towards a Thawed Heart
Being odd and unconventional, I was used to turning and scanning and opting for the weird corner. If I passed some friends who were busy with their posse, I'd make an excuse that I had to catch up on some assignments. As Dr. DePaul, from Masters of Sex, explained in episode 9, "My first year of med school, I tried to sit with my friends, all men of course, who made me feel as welcome as a case of piles, and then I tried sitting with the nurses, that was a disaster, it hasn't much changed over the years-" Then she continued on to utter words that rung so true, yet so false "I focus on the work, at the end of the day that's what endures, that's the thing we leave behind."

To be socially awkward, an introvert, and ambitious comes with a box of other labels, be it bookworm, cold, or blunt. Throughout my days in junior high and high school, where I plunged into the social world, without so much as a life jacket, I adapted by minimizing my emotions. When a friend squealed at a "cute" handbag, I'd either stare at her or roll my eyes, with my lips pressed. Though, I wanted to invest my time to succeed in something, whether it is academics, arts, or society, I opted to detach myself from things that were bound to distract me, including being singled out from the social group.

Perhaps, what Dr. DePaul meant was that work came easily, much more so than being socially adept. For me, it came with the territory of wearing glasses, being good in English, and having ambitions. Since primary school, people thought I loved reading, when admittedly I demanded to be read to till I was in fifth grade. For Pete's sake, I only finished my first novel in six grade, which was late in comparison to my cousins and most people my age. Even so, the labels endured. I was stereotyped based on my appearance, behavior and background. It became a trademark of sorts and the fuel behind my academic and artistic success. Yes, it was much easier for me to bring a book, as back up, to the cafeteria than change myself to join in or to belong.

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway...
Taken from http://elsa-queenofarendelle.tumblr.com

On the other hand, minimal emotion might be the workings of a particularly boyish childhood. Being the only girl, the first social interactions that I ever shared was with boys. I remember putting together guns from legos and rolling on the floor and shooting at my cousins. I remember being physical and aggressive. These tendencies conflicted with my love with ballet, ice skating, tutus, makeup, dressing up, and pink. The clash, somehow, after so long, manifested into a cold, young, bionic lady.

This realization, however, is still premature. As a child, I had learned of a story called the Ice Queen. I remember antagonizing her, yet having this fascination for this glamorous, powerful and accomplished woman. This December, Disney Animation Studios premiered Frozen, which shares parallels with Ice Queen. Characters such as the Ice Queen, Elsa and the Witch in Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, are all portrayed as being a leader, ambitious and cold. The Ice Queen is often depicted as conniving and selfish, especially as she kidnaps the boy. Elsa unleashes eternal cold on her land and creates her own ice castle. While the Witch leads a troop of monsters and also kidnaps one of the children, Edmund. Somehow, society fails to see the heart of the matter.

Taken from http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/no-good-deed

Behind the icy exterior there is a soul that is fed up with loneliness, as well as social norms. Clearly, they can't thrive in society, so why shouldn't they build their own world and pick the friends that they want? Dr. DePaul does the same thing with her research. She invents a universe where she is comfortable, where she can succeed and leave behind meaningful artifacts. The same goes with Elphaba, the protagonist of Gregory Maguire's book Wicked and the antagonist of the Wizard of Oz. In one the musical numbers, No Good Deed, Elphaba announces, "I promise no good deed, will I attempt to do again. Ever again!" after arguing that "no good deed goes unpunished", that "All helpful urges should be circumvented-" and realizing that though she had meant well, "Well, look at what well-meant did".

Elsa and Elphaba
Oh Idina Menzel!
Taken from http://kc-eazyworld.deviantart.com/art/Elsa-and-Elphaba-416821008
I remember, ironically, feeling a sudden rush of warmth when watching Wicked and even listening to the Idina Menzel's (I see what you did there Disney!) rendition of "Let It Go" for Frozen. Their stories and struggles and eventual choices seemed cozily familiar.

When power and ambitions and weaknesses are juxtaposed with societal norms, sometimes, some of us, are left to retrieve to another world. Since I am able to successfully pave my way academically, artistically, and perhaps even professionally, I create a nest that connects these corners. Yes, I have become somewhat colder, but I do hope that something, somewhere could thaw this heart of mine and stop me from being an Ice Queen myself.

*Author only own the right to the first photo

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