You get a sense for your first job from a very young age, when you’re given extra work to do in third grade; as others play with a Simpsons chess set in the back, you learn cursive early alongside fifth grade math. You never learn to play chess. Instead,
Juggle these three balls.
Big Things are expected of you; you cannot simply be some secretary somewhere. You must be a lawyer, a doctor, president. You must work harder and harder, so
Juggle two more balls, and juggle everything faster. Create more of a spectacle of the juggling. Impressing the world is half the point.
And as you juggle, you realize there’s something you actually love. And you try and you try and you actually finish writing a book and you spend all your high school years on your stomach on the living room floor highlighting and annotating thousand-page manuals filled with publishers. In this way, you have chosen to
Spin a plate on your head now, and keep finding new ways to spin the plate and maybe spin two more plates on your shoulders if you have room and spin plates in such a way that you garner praise.
And while spinning plates, which ironically enough doesn’t put food on the table, make sure to pick a Real Career, something like teaching, but teaching that requires at least two and preferably three degrees and so now you don’t mind if you
Trade out your five juggling balls for five juggling knives, which are much less prone to forgiving your slip-ups; don’t neglect your plates, either, never neglect your plates.
Diagnose your chronic existence, but bury the disabilities deep inside because you can’t afford to dedicate one hand to a cane—How does one juggle knives with only one hand? —and the most important thing is to
Forget that there is a real, living, breathing body being crushed by the weight of the plates and the balls and eventually the flying knives, because bodies and awareness of bodies and consideration of bodies only trips up the whole process.
You decided long ago that you want to be a mother, knew everything from her name to the green dragonflies that would dance along her nursery walls, so when you start degree number three,
Learn to Irish Stepdance to the rhythm of the plates’ spinning, keeping balance, juggling knives, maintaining perfect form but also forgetting the body and its limitations.
Anything is possible if you ignore the weight of accumulating possibilities.
Audrey T. Carroll is a Queens, NYC native and the author of Queen of Pentacles (Choose the Sword Press, 2016). Her work has been published or is forthcoming in peculiar, Glass Poetry, Foliate Oak, and others. She can be found at http://audreytcarrollwrites.weebly.com and @AudreyTCarroll on Twitter.