Natalie sat alone in her apartment lost in thought. She was at a dead end and couldn’t think why she was on this planet or what she wanted to do or even who she really was. Suddenly she wondered, and not for the first time, how different her life would have been if she hadn’t watched her mother die. She was not quite five at the time and in fact she had very few memories from that time or earlier. But the vision of her mother being stabbed by the bank robber when she and her mother had just been out for a day’s fun, that vision remained seared into her brain.
Natalie knew it was totally absurd, but she felt responsible for her mother’s death because if she hadn’t begged to go to the zoo they wouldn’t even have been at the bank, getting cash for the outing. Natalie knew that this was absurd and it wasn’t until she was an adult that she even realized how responsible she felt, but there it was. Her life had been completely altered in those few seconds. And that horrific event is really the only memory Natalie had of her mother.
After that moment, her life was changed forever. Her father loved her, she knew that, but she also knew that he never recovered from the loss of his wife, and even though he remarried when Natalie was nearly 10, he still mourned for his first wife. Natalie tried even harder to be his “good girl,” and so she did anything and everything to try to make her father happy and heal his wounds. Of course this was an absurd thing for a child to feel she had to do, as Natalie’s therapist kept reminding her, but growing up Natalie was determined to make her father happy.
Natalie was obedient and trusted that her father knew what was best for her, and he for his part, tried to mold her into someone who would be able to survive in a cruel world. He had her learn martial arts so that she could defend herself no matter what. He taught her to be aware of her surroundings at all times, ever vigilant, so that she wouldn’t become a victim of crime the way her mother had. He sent her to the very best schools and let her know that she, like him, should become a lawyer, not only a lawyer, but a criminal lawyer so that she could get the trash off the streets.
And Natalie did as she was told. She excelled in school eventually becoming, just as her father wanted, a top lawyer in a prestigious firm.
But then tragedy struck again. This time Natalie was the victim of a rape, and everyone said there was no way she could have prevented it. Working late one evening on a particularly difficult case, Natalie was suddenly confronted by one of the other lawyers, someone she had worked with day after day, and he attacked her as a way of getting back at all women because his wife had left him.
Natalie felt as if she had failed in not predicting this behavior even though rationally she knew she could no more have seen that then her mother could have known the bank would be robbed. Her father was wrong. All contingencies cannot be covered and living in a state of constant vigilance had done her no good in the end.
So where do I go now, Natalie wondered. She had finally realized that she didn’t have to live her father’s fears or dreams. Tragedies do happen, but that does not mean one has to live in a state of terror. Natalie didn’t like being a lawyer, at least not the kind of lawyer her father wanted her to be.
Deep down inside Natalie was a warm and empathic person and she wanted to be of service to the world. So how would that look, she wondered, and she realized that there were lots of places where she could use her sharp legal mind for the benefit of the world. She could become an advocate for women in crisis or for the environment or for animal rights or for human rights in general and gay rights specifically.
Tomorrow, Natalie decided, she would resign from her law firm and then she would look for a legal career that was truly hers, and she would not see tragedy around every corner, but rather she would live a life filled with joy, knowing that the world is a good place where bad things sometimes happen and not a bad place where good happens very occasionally.
With her decision made, Natalie headed off to bed, and for the first time she was looking forward to the challenges ahead.