For Those With Dreams of Nutcrackers and Ballerina Princesses

ARTIST’S STATEMENT: When I was 17, I had already seen my sister graduate and go off to college. My sister was always my biggest inspiration, my biggest role model. But having a sister so successful and following her so closely meant always being right under her shadow. I kept reinforcing the idea that I would never be as intelligent, as pretty, or as perfect as she had turned out. I realized, however, that I did this all the time.

I was constantly placing myself in confining boxes based on the achievements or actions of others and not based on my own limitations or strengths. It never helped that I was into literature and poetry while she was into numbers. She was a groundbreaking woman with extraordinary achievements in male-dominated fields. I was doing something “for fun,” a “hobby” that, while pretty, was only just that. I started to get angry about this, yet I began to accept the fact that my interests simply weren’t as important as hers in the grand scheme of things.

I wrote this poem knowing I would be performing it for my (all-girls) high school’s Poetry Slam my senior year, so I wrote it with a positive message. Honestly, it started off much more negative than it ended up. But, in the process of writing it, I spoke to my English teachers and friends, and they all gave me insights that allowed me to not only shape my poem but my perspectives. I realized it was okay to be angry about the idea that my accomplishments were not being taken as seriously by people. I realized it was okay to be my own person and to excel in my own domain and to actually be proud of those accomplishments.

Writing this poem allowed me to celebrate our accomplishments. I stopped being angry when my sister did extraordinary things because I realized there was never any competition to be had. We are different individuals, flourishing in our own ways. Today, I have never been prouder of anyone than my sister, yet I’ve stepped outside of her shadow. She has constantly told me not to compare my experiences with hers, and I finally understand her. It has given me the strength to celebrate myself in ways I never thought possible before.

The visual art piece is myself when I was five years old, dressed as a ballerina princess for Halloween (or, honestly, any random day). I decided to highlight the colors, because I wanted to highlight what my childhood aspirations truly mean for me; they have informed my life and allowed me to find unexpected treasures. I feel they also represent my experience. It was varied, sometimes dull, sometimes bright, but always beautiful, constantly filled with differences and paradoxes that converged to create a singular “me.”

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For Those with Dreams of Nutcrackers and Ballerina Princesses

 

I’ve always had this acute sense that I wanted to change the world.

5: I wanted to be a ballerina.
Tiny me, covered in baby fat,
tiptoed around cabins with my arms outstretched,
jumping over alligator ponds,
as graceful as any baby-fat-riddled five-year-old could be.
“I’ll be the ballewina pwincess and you.. you can be the nutcwacko”
And I waltzed onto the top of the couch in order
to get more attention than my sister,
who was walking around the cabin
as a nutcracker going “Ahm.. ahm.. ahm…”
and yet, for some reason, my dad decided to follow her with his camera
I quit because my friends did.
I quit because it must have been boring.

7: I wanted to be a writer.
My second-grade teacher had written a book
and introduced me to words.
I wrote stories about dragons and sarcastic princesses.
I wanted to be recognized, to be different,
to be talented, to be original.
But Monica was the best writer,
and she always won the award for the smartest kid
in the class, just like my sister.

I’ve always had this acute sense that I wanted to change the world.

10: I wanted to be a baker,
because that’s what my sister
said she wanted to be.

11: I wanted to be a scientist.
I know, right? Me?
But it was really more about
wanting to be an explorer.
I wanted to trek farther than roads would take me,
lower than the oceans even go.

I’ve always had this acute sense that I wanted to change the world.

13: I wanted to be an actress on Broadway.

14: I wanted to be a mathematician, but only if that acting thing didn’t work out.

15: I wanted to make some friends.

16: I wanted to do anything to make my sister stay home. I also wanted to be a psychologist.

I’ve always had this acute sense that I wanted to change the world.

17: I wanted to shrink
when I realized that I couldn’t,
when I realized that I would be far too stuck
analyzing ghostly apple trees on green hills
and the Earth’s asthmatic, lonely breath
because all I wanted to do was
drive my eyes down concrete phrases,
previously unexplored and
hold my breath and dive deeper into
Kate’s “seductive” seas
teeming with hermit crabs with
Tennessee’s claws(es) and sharks
with Sylvia’s “full set of teeth,”
teeming with Allen’s jellyfish of poetry
and Eliot’s O-mouthed sucker fish
gobbling their Shakespearian rags
and words and writers and
scraps of age old thoughts
sparkling under the heat of the sun.
I wanted to stop believing the implications
when my cousins and uncles and aunts asked me,
“Is there even anything you can do with an English degree?” or
“Why don’t you study computer science like your sister?” or
“Do you think you’ll go anywhere with that?”

Today, I crack my knuckles
to remember my Nutcracker dream.
I cling onto poetry to
remind myself that I can find
cradles in the loops of the
alphabet.
I question everything I see.
I travel and explore,
I trek the Himalayas and dive into the Atlantic.
I read plays to remind myself
of that time I welcomed the stage.
I count and count and count,
I make sequences and series to
find patterns in my life. I integrate and derive
memories to remember my sister’s
dreams and my mother’s dreams and my father’s dreams.

And I love every dream I come across that is not my own,
I love that my sister can change the world
and that my classmates can change the world
and that my parents have changed the world.

But I had stopped allowing myself to waltz on couches
and write stories about dragons and sarcastic princesses
because I figure that someone will win that award while I’m
sitting there with the award for “Nice Try! But not quite good enough.”

Yet somehow, I still find myself having the acute sense that I want to change the world.

So, … I am a ballerina princess. Writer. Dragon slayer. Explorer. Capable of changing the world.


Artist and Author: Olivia Jimenez

Olivia Jimenez is twenty years old from Miami, Florida. She is a student at Georgetown University where she is studying English and Psychology with a minor in Film and Media Studies. In her free time, you can find her watching The Office, thinking about house plants, or searching for a chocolate chip cookie. She is excited to join the Make Muse team to develop her feminism and artistic expression while contributing to a necessary and beautiful space.