Playwright's Perspective: This Flat Earth
By Lindsey Ferrentino, Playwright
A few years ago, I found my journal from the year 2001.
I was 13 years old, living in a small beachside town in Florida. I played the flute, spent my weekends trying to get tan, and was on my middle school dance team (which mostly meant jumping around with pom-poms to Mandy Moore songs at basketball games). My parents were getting divorced. I hadn’t yet been kissed when my best friend started having sex. I had never even been to a real party when I learned that a few students were apparently sneaking water bottles full of vodka, flavored with Skittles, into school so they could drink all day. It was a time where the gap between child and teenager didn’t just widen but became two separate planes entirely – where you were defined by what you had or hadn’t done. My journal from that time is full of bad poetry about heavy emotions I had not yet experienced, elaborate plans to acquire more pets, and bored responses to journal prompts from my English teacher.
On September 10, 2001, her prompt was: List the things you are most grateful for. Along with my family, my dog, my friends, and my dance team, of course, I said I was grateful I didn’t grow up during a time of war.
The very next day, during science class, I watched the second plane crash into the World Trade Towers. I remember thinking that it was a strange coincidence; two planes into two towers. The concept of terrorism was new to me, entirely. My mom immediately checked me out of school — the act of which I didn’t understand, but was just grateful for the free day off. I don’t remember much else, except my friends and I weren’t allowed to play on the street but were limited to my yard where we giggled hilariously at hypothetical scenarios about what we’d do if we happened to see a plane during the nation’s no-fly period. As a country, we of course hadn’t come to terms with the gravity of how much the world was about to change. As a 13 year old, who that morning had tried to look older and more experienced than I was, I looked to my parents for instructions on how to behave, copying their emotional reactions. When I went to journal the next day in school, and saw my answer to the previous day’s prompt, I was horrified that I’d stated I was grateful not to grow up in a time of war. My pubescent, superstitious, solipsistic brain thought I’d somehow caused September 11. With this journal entry, I was convinced I’d jinxed the nation — that this was all my responsibility and I should help fix it.
I often tell this story, comically, as an example of my own anxiety and as a nostalgic shrug to the naiveté of a time where I was convinced that the world orbited around me. That as a 13 year old, before people start telling you otherwise, I thought that I had the power for great nationwide change. After the election of 2016 and all that has followed, I find I’m thinking about that story now with a sense of jealousy and loss. As I continually shrug off news headlines more hideous than the next, as I feel more and more powerless, as my political awareness grows in proximity to my numbness, I long for a time where I truly believed that I had influence.
Post-election seems again to be about growing up. I still feel like that young girl: trying to figure out my personal role in the national narrative, afraid of change, terrified of all the things out of my control, of my life, my loved ones, my country, and of time itself hurdling forward. Perhaps that’s what becoming an adult is; a long journey down a road with no definable end goal; the realization that there is no one person to look to, or become, who has all of the answers. Or maybe it’s about recognizing my own powerlessness, but still choosing to get out of bed anyway. To control, love, and find empathy where you can. To make small differences that hopefully add up to big ones. Like my mom did, check your children out of school and hold them close, something that may seem futile in the grand scheme of things, but what else can you do?