Hathaway Brown School
Instructor: Elizabeth Armstrong
There's No Dream Without Sacrifice
Personal Essay & Memoir
There's No Dream Without Sacrifice
When I was 3, I dreamed of owning my own unicorn that would live in our backyard and take me on sky adventures every day. We would bond in our moments of flight and explore the nonexistent evergreens that took up the landscape of Ohio. When I was 7, I dreamed of being a professional ballerina who danced in the Nutcracker. I would live in a world filled only with spins, jumps, bruised feet, and beautiful choreography. When I was 10, I dreamed of becoming the President of the United States for the sole reason of me being able to boss my sister around. The thought of having the world at my fingertips and anticipating my next move excited me to no end. When I was 12, I dreamed of having a solid group of friends. The ones that I saw in movies, who had sleepovers everyday and did nothing to hurt each other's feelings ever. When I was 14, I dreamed of being liked by everyone. I wanted to rid myself of the annoying and awkwardness that came with my existence and replace it with traits that people actually enjoy. I am 16 and I dream of looking and being 'perfect.' The type of 'perfect' where it's impossible to find a flaw even under a microscope, the kind that draws people in regardless of their personality. The type of 'perfect' that is effortlessly good at everything, the kind that doesn't know what failure is.
James Gatz was born in North Dakota into a family of poor farmers. He thought lowly of his parents and never acknowledged them as such. James believed that he was worth more than the life that he was given at birth, thus starting his craving for more. His thoughts were overtaken by big ambitions, achieving unthinkable dreams, and having wealth and status within the world. Around the age of 16, James set off to Minnesota, leaving his past behind him, with the goal of working "toward his future glory" (Fitzgerald 99). That same year, James found his way to Lake Superior where he worked on Dan Cody's yacht. Through him, James learned the mannerisms and ways of the rich. By the age of 17, James' employer died leaving him behind money he would never receive and new ideas of who he wanted to be. When Gatsby met Daisy, it affirmed his need to be successful and important within the world as he needed to prove himself worthy of her love. With hopes of recreating himself entirely, after meeting Dan Cody, and finally achieving his dream, Jay Gatsby was born.
Anna Sorokin was born in Russia on January 23, 1991. At the age of 15, Anna moved to Germany for her father's work. According to Anna herself, she was given a seemingly normal upbringing being a part of a working class family. But, there was a part of her that "dreamed for more freedom." She aspired to be known within the art and fashion scene. Like any other kid, Anna grew up watching MTV and having role models like Kelly Cutrone and Anna Wintour. By the age of 19, she left Germany for Paris with the hopes of making it big within the fashion industry. Anna then permanently moved to New York City in 2013 in order to form new connections with other people and work towards establishing herself in the art scene (Mamona). With hopes of recreating herself entirely and finally achieving her dream, Anna Delvey was born.
"Be yourself." "Never let anyone change you." "You can't change who you are." These words are repeatedly thrown at us, shoved down our throats from a young age. I've never heard words that were so untrue, words that only led us to our own downfalls. The world doesn't want you to actually be yourself. Yes, they want to hear your dreams and hopes, but only if you go about it in a way that pleases them. See if you deviate from the line that they have drawn out perfectly for you, it is guaranteed that you will be betrayed, ripped apart, and slaughtered. Dreams don't come at a fair cost, no, they are unreasonably expensive and then they put a tax on it to top it off. The world wants for these dreams to be unachievable because it means that they profit. The world profits from watching you fail time and time again.
Over the course of the book, Jay Gatsby leads the reader through the unreliable truth of his backstory. At the beginning of the book, no one truly knew who Gatsby was or what his intentions were, only being able to rely on the assumptions and gossip of others who surrounded him. Even with all the parties that occurred at his house, no one took the time to get to know Gatsby. Through their rumors, Gatsby was portrayed as someone who "killed a man" and "grew up… in Germany" (Fitzgerald 44). Gatsby let these falsehoods about his past spread around because he knew if people were to really find out who he was, then his dream would be at risk. In actuality, he had spent years concocting the perfect identity to take on. He earned his fortune through bootlegging alcohol and scamming others, bought a house across from Daisy's, and threw extremely lavish and expensive parties every weekend in order to gain her attention. And through the time that this was happening, Gatsby was able to come out unscathed.
Through Emily Palmer's research for the New York Times, it was discovered that throughout the time that Anna Delvey spent in New York, she fabricated hundreds of stories of her past and how she came to acquire as much money as she claimed to have in order to build the perfect narrative to achieve her dream. Anna worked her way into events filled with powerful people and was able to make important connections with them. She swindled hotels and restaurants out of money by promising wire transfers worth hundreds of thousands of dollars that would never reach them. Anna forged bank statements in an attempt to receive money into her accounts and obtain loans from big banks within New York (Palmer). But through the time that this was happening, Anna still managed to come out unscathed.
Through my unachievable dreams, the ones I know will never be able to happen, I find myself reinventing my own being for them. I have carefully selected and crafted bits and pieces of my own narrative and the one I wish I had to form the person I wish for everyone to see. But through this process of copy, paste, and cut, I have lost the real me. The image I have now created for myself feels like a complete and utter lie. A distorted truth told by an unreliable narrator. I've forgotten my roots, my stories have been blown away with the wind, and my desires have now disintegrated into ash.
See, Gatsby was driven by one dream and one dream only that he would risk everything for: being successful for Daisy. Even after years of being apart, Gatsby still loved Daisy unconditionally. His drive and motivation for those years was the chance in being able recreate what was between Daisy and him in the past. But, Gatsby did not even think for a second that maybe his dream "was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city" (Fitzgerald 180). Through time, Daisy had changed, had opened her heart to another man and family. Of course, she still loved Gatsby, but she also had grown to love Tom. But, Gatsby failed to accept this notion so he continued to live a distorted life. Gatsby would endure the feeling of being nervous to speak to Daisy, risk his reputation by people finding out he was having an affair with a married woman, and even jeopardize his life if it meant being able to have Daisy. And through Gatsby's risks, his dreams were slowly coming true, until they weren't.
See, Anna was driven by one dream and one dream only that she would risk everything for: being successful within the art world. Throughout the entire time Anna was in New York, she was striving to reinvent her image in order to be considered 'perfect' by society's expectations. Anna did not care if that meant losing herself along the way as long as she got what she had dreamed of since she was a little girl (Copper). And she came daring close to achieving that dream. Through the lies, schemes, and false promises, Anna was able to put her dream at arms length away by creating A.D.F, the Anna Delvey Foundation. The foundation was meant to serve as an exclusive club for the elites of society to observe new artwork, eat at the finest restaurants, and stay in luxury rooms (Palmer). Anna's dream was slowly coming true, until it wasn't.
My image is almost entirely fake, but isn't everyone's? Every person that I have ever interacted with in my life has painted the canvas of themselves to reflect what they wish for it to look like. No person is too willing to share every part of themselves with others. We falsify information as needed as a way to maintain this image that we hold so dearly. No one is ever truly themselves, not ever. Without my fabricated image, I would be one step further from my unrealistic dreams. One step closer to failure. One step closer to not being 'perfect.' So no matter how much I want to stop, the web of lies will keep spinning, the truth will soon be buried 6 feet under, and an imposter who's taken control of my being will surface, all because of an inconceivable dream.
When Tom revealed the truth of Gatsby's upbringing to Daisy, his dream of having her ceased to exist. Daisy no longer wanted Gatsby and all the flaws that came with him, as she only wanted what was deemed as 'perfection'. At that moment, in Gatsby's eyes at least, he was no more than James Gatz, a poor and inexperienced boy who had no chance in achieving his dreams. Gatsby had based his entire life on a lie, and once that lie came crashing down, so did his entire life. In the end, Gatsby failed to understand that dreams can quickly lead to your downfall if you follow them for too long. But Gatsby was determined to achieve his dream and would not give up. And he chased his dream to the very last second, til his final breath.
According to the coverage done by Shamsian for the Insider, Anna Delvey was arrested on October 3, 2017 and was charged with 10 counts of larceny, theft, and attempted larceny and theft. At that moment, Anna's dreams had come crashing down on her entirely. The world no longer saw the false narrative that she wanted them to see; Anna Delvey was dead and Anna Sorokin was back. The jury's ruling ended up finding Anna guilty on 8 of the counts made against her, subjected her to 4 to 12 years in jail, and fined her 24,000 dollars (Shamsian). To this day, Anna claims that she did nothing wrong in her attempts to achieve her dream. Anna knew that faking her identity was the only way to get remotely close to achieving her dream and she did what was necessary to make it happen (Copper). Spodek, Anna's lawyer, claimed during the court case that "There's a little Anna in all of us. Everyone lies a little bit." Lying is a part of who we are as people; it's something that's impossible to escape. Anna lied because she knew how society worked; she knew she had to lie to make her dream come true.
When Jay Gatsby and Anna Delvey came to New York, they both came "with the same mission as everyone else: to turn [they're] dreams into reality" (Spodek). Without Gatsby and Delvey faking who they were, the world would have never recognized them, they would have never been given the chance to achieve their dreams. The world tends to look over the little people in this world who aren't born into important and prominent families. People like Anna Sorokin and James Gatz weren't given chances like others to achieve their dream, but "the opportunity existed for Anna Delvey" (Spodek) and Jay Gatsby. At a young age, they were faced with one question that would define their entire future: Do I want to stay true to who I am and never be given a shot or do I want to give up everything I am in order to achieve my dream? They made their choice, yet I refuse to. My dreams will be achieved, my ambitions will be fulfilled, and my true image will come back. But, no matter the opportunities that pass, dreams that float away, and my own growing need for perfection, I will never make the ultimate sacrifice: letting go of who I truly am.
Personal Essay & Memoir
It's hard to keep track of the endless hours I have spent locked in my bedroom closed off from a world I have no desire to be a part of. The world that is exciting, inviting, and packed to the brim with opinions, words, laughter, experiences, and fun. But, contrary to many, I crave locking that door and keeping it locked until I am dragged out. See I believe that the moment when I am given one more breath before I am pushed underwater is a rarity. I don't know when this insatiable need to bask in my own presence started, but the feeling of it is too good to let go, I am addicted to it.
I am alone in my bed. I am still here, caught in between moments of tranquility. I speak to no one and no one speaks to me. I look at my walls, sit in my thoughts; these are the only forms of entertainment that I need. The only sounds heard are from those who I consider to be "outsiders." At this moment as I lie in my bed with my ears horizontally across from my door, even from a distance I still hear the creaks of the hardwood floors as my mother floats across them, her gulping noises as she drinks her ice cold water, the relentlessly insomniac crickets outside who seem to have no intention of settling their chirping come morning, and my father locking all of the doors hours into the night. From my room, behind my closed doors, I am still an observer, I feel the moments that occur around me, I hear and see them. In my solitude, I am alone yet surrounded. In my room I am able to listen so closely to the slight crunch my mattress makes as I curl my toes into it. I notice the way my world map is slightly misaligned. I feel the slight chill that comes from the air vent below me. I am in a state of serenity. Here in my solitude, I am in charge, I determine reality. I listen out for the loud silence, truly wallowing in it. I notice the sounds around me, but in the room with just me, they are nonexistent until they serve a purpose.
My fingertips run across the spines of the books lined up perfectly on the bookshelf part of my nightstand. I love this feeling. The feeling of a whole world of ideas right at your fingertips, ready for you to pick it up and dive head first into them. My hand shifts to touch the leather bound notebook and felt tip pen that I lazily threw the night before onto a disregarded pillow left on the floor. At this moment, I desire nothing more than to vanish into a world filled with comfort characters, scribbled words, charming settings, passionate thoughts, and recreated dreams. My brain is completely unaffected by the noisiness of the world. In this room, at this moment, it's just me, my books, and my writing. I could stay in this little, cozy bubble until the end of time if I was given the chance. There's nothing more that I need in order to survive. I would tune out the world forever for this, even if I missed a lifetime of memories in the process.
This silence, this aloneness, these moments where I truly get to sit with myself are where I grow. In this space, I am forced to sit with the mistakes I've made, the people I've hurt, the people who I have deliberately and intentionally stabbed in the back, sob over all the experiences I've had and ones that I missed because I was too scared to try, scratch away the uncomfortableness that I feel when I am with people, go back in my head and replay the constant lies, think about the times I have cheated myself in order to be praised, here as I sit alone, I come face to face, eye to eye, heart to heart with the true Alexis. The one who has messed up well over a million times, but is still slightly perfect in her own messed up way. See I have described the tranquility, the disturbances, joys, and anguishes that I feel when alone, and I know to many it may seem like a contradiction. But the truth is that in my solitude, I am in a state of tranquility and chaos simultaneously and it is beautiful. Aloneness is the only way I get to see the true me, so for as long as this remains true, in my seclusion I trust.