A Message From Your Landlady

Dear tenant,
You have not paid rent for 18 years
But that’s OK —
That’s alright with me,
Because now the interest has accumulated
And you’ll be slaving away for me
For the rest of your life.
I gave you not just a roof
But also
A little five dimensional blob called love.
I gave you a bed on which you could rest
But you weren’t allowed to rest
Until you had finished your best work.
I gave you a seat at the table.
No, it wasn’t a round table,
But we aren’t all equals, are we?
We are not Arthur’s knights
But we have countless days ahead of us
And you will use them
To pay me back for the little purse I slung on your shoulder
The one I filled with hopes and dreams
Not lipstick or mascara —
But I did slip a wallet in there too,
Because you, little tenant,
The only valley you’ll fall into is Silicon Valley,
The only man you’ll follow is the man that follows your woes.
I want you to build a house
On top of the very ditch you fell into
And fill it with gold and silver and diamonds
Because I’ll be living there with you,
Reaping the rewards that you owe me.
But you’ll also fill it with bronze
To remind you that you can go singing in the rain
But you’ll still get wet.
To remind you that focusing on what should be
Distracts you from what could be.
Focus on what is.
To remind you that sometimes the best way to touch the stars
Isn’t to fly, but to climb on the shoulders
Of someone strong enough to lift you, and tall enough to touch them himself.
In an ideal universe
Your wings would be enough,
And you would soar and soar and soar without wondering
If the waves crashing below
Are going to claim you someday.
But it’s not an ideal universe
And you have to be gentle with the wind beneath your wings
Or it will never agree to carry you.
Instead it will pummel you,
Turn your face beet red —
Bears, beets, Battlestar Galactica.
The three B’s of life.
Remember, always,
That man was only the first draft
And while first drafts claim the glory of being first
The perfect copy is the one that is published,
The one sitting on the bookshelf of time,
Gathering dust and sitting quietly
With the rest of the wise volumes of the world;
While the first draft remains on the author’s desk
Still screaming loudly into the silence that it was the original
Still seeing itself as an opus
When it was only ever a prelude.
When you finally move out of this house
Take your notebooks and pens with you
But take the piano as well —
Strike any key and open any door.
Once you do that,
Once you cross the threshold into prosperity
You’ll race into my open arms
Smile meeting lovely smile
And as you pull away, I’ll lift my arm,
Palm facing up,
Ready to take cash or check.
Love, Mom.
– Sarah Ouyang

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