Writing Catalog

Zoe Bennett

Grade: 12

Hathaway Brown School

Instructor: Elizabeth Armstrong

Chasing the Wind

Personal Essay & Memoir

Chasing the Wind

October 9, 2021 is when I finally realized you cannot change people. How did I realize it? By being disappointed for the final time when someone failed to fulfill the one duty I hoped he'd recognize—to defend me.

For fifteen years, there was nothing I longed for the most than a caring, loving, and most importantly—present—father figure. I've grown up surrounded by caring, female faces, so much that the idea of seeing a man's face more than once every couple of weeks was an outlandish sentiment. That's because my father was never here. He always drifted back and forth across the country like a breeze and settled here for birthdays and holidays. A breeze I've longed to catch my whole life, but no matter how much it tried, it always escaped my grasp. I was twelve years old when it suddenly occurred to me that you can't catch a breeze at all. You can follow it to the ends of the earth but really, there's nothing but empty air in your hands.

Countless attempts to catch the breeze roused frustration and desperation inside me, and every time, it burned and grew. I thought, how could I not control this? Why won't it work? I changed methods so I could catch him. But he slipped away from me more and more, faster and faster. Only when I got an award for Varsity or played my heart out through a majestic keyboard onstage, did I see him, standing in the shadows, only there to say, "That is my daughter," as if they wouldn't be able to tell otherwise.

As I got older, he became more like a tornado that decimated the orderly flow of the village, and days were spent putting it back together. Luckily, it wasn't often. But it no longer burned when he disappeared because I had nothing to miss. It burned the most when I sat next to him and looked him in the eye, the all-too familiar feeling that inevitably, there would be some incident where I was offended in one way, by him or by his family, regarding what I ate, how I was shaped, or the clothes I was wearing. It burned because I knew he would indulge them and either forget to defend me, or he would do it "later without causing a scene." Inevitably, I would go home, rant, and muster all my patience together for the next time.

My mother always told me, I can't change people into someone I want them to, which I knew. But I thought, he's my father. Surely he'd understand me, no? I'm his only child. He has to care, and he could change for me. There was this feeling that there was no way I could tell him what I wanted to say: how furious I was at him, how angry I'd been because he doesn't treat me the way I want him to, like my mom does, and most of all, admitting how vulnerable it left me. Because what human wants to admit they aren't made of iron and steel?

October 9, 2021 is when the F5 touched down, and all the anger and frustration I'd pent up exploded. It shook up from the ground, every last bolt and chain, and shattered it into oblivion. I'd cried so much my eyes were blown up, lying my way home so I wouldn't explode on him with his family across from me. With my best friend on FaceTime to talk me down, safe in my bedroom, we laughed together afterwards. Even after I let out my screams for the heavens to hear, and tempered the clouds with a little. I felt surprisingly lighter, delicate on my toes, and concrete casing lifted from my soul.