’’Soon her eye fell on a little glass box that was lying under the table: she opened it, and found in it a very small cake, on which the words “EAT ME” were beautifully marked in currants. “Well, I’ll eat it,” said Alice, “and if it makes me grow larger, I can reach the key; and if it makes me grow smaller, I can creep under the door; so either way I’ll get into the garden, and I don’t care which happens!” She ate a little bit, and said anxiously to herself, “Which way? Which way?” holding her hand on the top of her head to feel which way it was growing, and she was quite surprised to find that she remained the same size’’ (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A BookVirtual Digital Edition, v.1.2, November, 2000, page 13).
Why did I start with this? I have a confession to make: My name is Alice, and I am roaming around in my own Wonderland. My name is Alice, and I have a terrible anxiety these days; I fear endings as I fear new beginnings; I fear going and not going; I fear being too much or too little, too soon or too late; I fear dancing with my rusty kneecaps, and not dancing makes me want to cry. People make me tired, and this is why I run away, but sometimes I fear more being by myself. I fear ”should have”s and ”shouldn’t have”s, and being in the middle makes my teeth turn sour.
My name is Alice and I came to Wonderland by car a few months ago. A one-way ticket to a better place — a better University. I only had my bag, my notes and a dictionary, in case I forgot how to say hi. (It never happened, but I still keep it with me, just in case.) But how did this happen?
You see, around this time last year, I decided to finally step out of my comfort zone. After being disappointed about not going to college abroad and mentally drained after the first exam session as a college student back home, in Romania, I said to myself that I have to get out of the country, as soon as possible. No matter what.
I had those images in my head, most of them gathered from books, TV shows and movies, of course, about this “going-away thing” and how much it would change me — more than all the things that I was going through at home did. I started talking to a few students who’d done it, and they had different thoughts on the whole situation. After telling my parents about it, well, they didn’t think I was being serious at first — but then they reluctantly agreed. One semester was better than two or three whole years. They could handle it. The problem was…could I handle it? I was confident, I applied, I went to the interview, I passed it and I got accepted to two places, having just a few hours to decide between them. In short, this is how I got here, in Spain, in a small city by the sea, called Tarragona.
I was Alice, and the whole thing was the cake. It had ’’EAT ME’’ written all over it, in bright colors, with signs pointing toward its core, and I was hungry. I am always hungry. Always on the run, not staying still for too long. I contemplated, and I remember saying: I will eat the cake, all of it; if it makes me grow larger, then it means the doors I want to open would not seem so daunting anymore. I would have the strength to gently push the doorknob and enter all the rooms I was afraid to enter before. If I grew larger, then I’d know I can do anything I want, then I would not be afraid anymore.
But what if I grow smaller? What if? Well, then, I reassured myself, then I could be at least painfully aware of it. I would be perfectly, fully aware of myself and my limitations; I would clearly see the doors I could not hope of reaching, but at the same time, maybe I could find another way to enter, another road, another path. And if not, and if not, I will completely turn my back on it and search for something new — for something fitted for my measurements.
Although, I am sure this permanent knowledge of having grown smaller would find a comfortable spot above the arch of my brows, and all that looking up, trying to find its tail hidden between the little hairs, would make my eyes sore. This is a given that I am scared of, but I have to go all the way, right?
The rule I made up says, as follows: maybe happiness cannot be truly reached, but I think we are happy, when we are trying to reach it. Maybe it’s exactly that the possibility of happiness makes us happy. We feel, as if we have a purpose. So we mend our bodies, and we put our hair up, and we head for the doorknob or for the crack on the side or just for the chair to sit. But we are heading somewhere.
And then there I am, eating the cake. The whole damn cake.
Artwork made by Tom Whalen