Monthly Archives: January 2016

Some Things Never Change…

I need to make a little PSA before I continue on to my first real post of the blog series/writing project. Pay attention because this is an important piece of information:

I MAY WRITE THINGS THAT ARE UNTRUE.

Not on purpose, but because memory is a tricky thing. As human beings, we are actually terrible at remembering exactly how things happened in our past. Our brains can only do so much! As I go back and recount things that happened ten to twenty (twenty?!) years ago, things are bound to get a little bent. In comparison to reality, my version might lose some detail here, gain some embellishments there, include things that never happened but that I once thought about a lot, or involve events that I literally dreamed about rather than actually having experienced them. I will do my best to stick to what “really happened,” and I’ll have a little help from my many volumes of written accounts since I have wavered between casual note keeper and obsessive journaler nearly my entire life.

So. What you’re getting may not be 100% the truth. But it will be MY truth. It will be my version of the story, through my eyes and my brain’s alterations, selections, and mistakes.

You’ve been warned. From this point on I allow myself the liberty to disclose information I am not actually certain is true. AND NOT FEEL BAD ABOUT IT.

Now on to the good stuff.

* * * * *

Ah, first grade! First time being at school all day long. First time being able to play on the big kid playground at recess. First crush on a boy. And I’m sure there were a million other firsts that I don’t even remember.

First grade was also when I kept my first journal, although it was for school assignments. My teacher provided every student with a blank journal bound in construction paper. Every once in a while, we would pull our journals out and be given prompts on what to write about (“Write about your favorite part of school,” “Write about what you did over vacation,” etc.), and if time allowed we would also draw an picture to go along with our entry. Of course the very first assignment was decorating the cover.

1stGradeJournal-cover

When I started preparing for this writing project, one of the first things I did was pull out the Official Archives of My Life, and my first grade school journals were the first items I dug out to start going through. What I found was that while some things were different than they had been back in 1994/1995, a lot of things were exactly the same.

First of all, let’s just establish the fact that I’m still as excellent of a speller now as I was then.

spring95_1stGradeJournal-grow up

The bad news for me was that I have a slew of animal-related allergies, which has seriously hindered my relationship with animals over the years (although I will usually brave the hives and itchy eyes to snuggle with a kitty anyway), so becoming a veterinarian (yes, that’s what that says) was something I eventually lost interest in. The good news for me was that being an artist could mean more than just drawing. Because WOW. Was my drawing great or what?

09-94_1stGradeJournal-call friend

Back when we used to call people. ON LAND LINES.

In case you’re wondering, my drawings still look just like that.

When I was in first grade, I was also really active. I played outside a lot and did well in P.E. at school. Climbing around on playground equipment was my favorite.

08-94_1stGradeJournal-monkey bars

Look at that happy face!

The funny thing is, it always feels like the best day ever when I find out we’re doing the monkey bars as part of our circuit at the gym! Yes, please let me climb on things.

Another thing that has certainly stayed true is my everlasting fondness for The Lion King. This movie was released the summer before first grade started for me and the obsession began immediately. Once we owned the VHS, it was all over. The first thing I ever bought with my own money was a stuffed animal set of Simba and Nala, both with magnets in their noses so they would “kiss.”

I’m pretty sure I could still recite the entirety of The Lion King line-for-line. The trend of “retro” Disney (aka, the 90s) recently being featured on clothing everywhere has been the greatest thing ever for me. I now own more Lion King shirts than I can wear in a week.

For our journals, our teacher had us fill out a “topic web” so that we wouldn’t ever feel stuck not knowing what to write about. This is a nice little snippet of what my 6/7-year-old self’s world was like, and I can’t help but feel some warm affection for that little kid. As you can see, The Lion King made the list of things I really wanted to write about. (You’ll also notice some more on-point spelling.)

1stGradeJournal-topic web

You can guess how excited I was when whatever parade I was watching on Thanksgiving Day featured a Lion King themed float.

11-94_1stGradeJournal-parade

I’m about 99% sure that’s Rafiki and Zazu on the left.

And the obsession with all things Lion King wasn’t just me. It ran in the family. My sister was also obsessed, as evidenced by how we celebrated her 15th birthday.

3-95_1stGradeJournal-Kristin's birthday

There is definitely a lion on that cake.

First grade was also the year I truly discovered my love for video games. For Christmas that year, we got The Lion King (of course) and Sonic and Knuckles for the Sega Genesis. I remember staying home from school on snow days consisting entirely of sledding, hot chocolate, and playing Sega with my brother and sister. (For the record, I dig out my good ol’ Sega Genesis every once in a while and still LOVE playing both of these games.)

1-95_1stGradeJournal-Lion King

Probably the best drawing of my 1st-grade career.

1-95_1stGradeJournal-Sonic and Knuckles

Complete with scratch-and-sniff crayons!

One last bonus entry. I honestly cannot remember what the prompt for this entry was. Was it to create our own silly toothpaste brand? WHY WOULD IT BE THAT? Regardless, I can’t help but see it as hinting at my soft spot for vampires.

11-94_1stGradeJournal-toothpaste

 

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The Official Archives of My Life

Have I mentioned yet that I am a hopeless pack rat? I feel like this needs to be touched on before moving on with my other posts. Part of my pack rat nature probably comes from my mom, who I swear kept every drawing and significant piece of art/schoolwork from my elementary school career (after which I started to learn to hoard things myself). I also liked to collect things when I was a kid. I had a keychain collection, a rock/seashell collection, a sticker collection, and a stuffed animal collection (the largest and most prized of the bunch), just to name a few. Sure, they were cool things to have, but part of my desire to keep these things was because they reminded me of people, trips, events, feelings, etc. In addition to collecting, I’ve also been known to hold on to strange or seemingly insignificant items simply because of the invisible memories they were wrapped in. A boy once gave me a box of chocolate for Valentine’s Day. I ate the chocolate and kept the box for YEARS. I once went to a Backstreet Boys concert. The glowstick my sister bought me at the concert eventually lost its glow, but I still kept it in a drawer in my room for YEARS. I once tied a piece of yarn around my wrist as a bracelet and never took it off until it finally frayed and broke. Instead of throwing out the sad piece of yarn, I kept it and had it for YEARS.

Although I’m a pack rat, I’m at least an ORGANIZED pack rat. A few years ago I went through all of my keepsakes and performed a major purge. All of the things I couldn’t bear to part with were then neatly cataloged chronologically in several giant plastic filing containers with folders labeled by year (I’M NOT OBSESSIVE YOU’RE OBSESSIVE). I even parted with the the chocolate box, glowstick, and raggedy piece of yarn I mentioned before. Don’t get me wrong. I am not cured. I am just more organized now. I still harbor serious pack rat tendencies. Name a roller derby game you have seen me skate in and I can probably dig out the program. That thoughtful Christmas card you sent me five years ago? I have it around here somewhere. And don’t even get me started on my hoarding of potential crafting materials (“I can’t get rid of all these bottle caps—what if I need them for a project later?!”).

Then there are the journals. I began writing in a tiny pink diary complete with lock and key when I was about nine years old (although my journaling may have pre-dated that age since I have found some mysterious and un-dated entries in various notebooks). When I first started writing, partially inspired by Harriet the Spy and Amelia, it was sporadic and often an outlet for really positive or really negative feelings or events. My writing became more steady, although usually in spurts during which I would write regularly for a while and then write nothing for a while, proceeding to cycle between the two. There was even a period of my life where I wrote diligently every day.

Writing every day is what led me to be addicted to the remembering, something that I still feel in my bones to this day. Do you know how cool it is to look at something your wrote a decade or more ago? Do you know how fun it can be to relive one of your favorite days as a kid? Or how touching it can be to see word-for-word your seemingly ancient reaction to heartbreak? Do you know how satisfying it is to get into an argument with someone and be able to pull out a journal, turn to a page, and say “HERE, LOOK, I TOLD YOU SO” (I’ll tell you: it’s very satisfying. Ha!).

But seriously. You get to look back on so many of the experiences that turned you into the person you are now. And you get to remember the tiny details that most people forget when their memories become hazy and leeched of specificity. You get to know so much—simply because you wrote it down. I think that’s pretty cool.

All of my journals from the past to the present!

All of my journals from the past to the present!

My rainbow of volumes has become my most treasured possession. I always say that if I lost all of my possessions in a horrible accident, my journals would be the one thing I would never get over losing.

I have never really shared my journals. Maybe a line or two here or there, but that’s it. And if I had a dollar for every time someone asked if they could read them (*cough*Dad*cough*), I’d have a good pile of cash. But they were always for me. 

In preparation for this project I have dug out the Official Archives of My Life (which includes all of the still-existing items listed above and more). When I look at all the things that have been deemed important enough to keep, most of it is paper in some form: journals (obviously), letters, essays, drawings, ticket stubs, etc. And luck you, I plan on sharing some of those things with you. Yes, even parts of my journals, which is a huge divergence from my usually fierce protectiveness of their contents. (After all, what good would this fun, embarrassing, scary writing project be without a little vulnerability?) There will also be photos stolen from my parents’ albums, projects dug out from under beds, and even some adventures into my Online Record (aka, my LiveJournal—eek!).

Consider this a short preface to the rest of the project. The many items in my stash will serve as tasty supplements to the memories I recount here. And they’ll probably be the funniest parts of the whole thing.

Enjoy!

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Old Schooled!

I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. I can only think of making one resolution in my entire life that actually ended up meaning something to me in the long run (but we’ll talk about that another day). This year I DO want to do something for the new year. It’s not exactly a resolution, but rather a New Year’s project. A writing project.

Because here’s the thing. IT’S 2016. That’s craziness. You know what I was doing ten years ago? GETTING READY TO GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL. Ten years ago. ONE DECADE AGO. Mind blowing.

Me graduating high school in 2006!

Me graduating high school in 2006!

2016, specifically, is a year that I’ve been thinking about, if only sporadically and fleetingly, for quite a while. Three words: Ten. Year. Reunion.

Now, with Facebook and other social media keeping people who went to school together so up-to-date on each other’s lives, I’m aware that reunions aren’t as big of a thing anymore. But that hasn’t stopped my high school friends and I from talking about it. At first it seemed like a far-off event. Then it seemed like it was sneaking around the corner. And now, all of a sudden, it’s here. The year that supposedly hosts my ten-year high school reunion.

Although I’m not particularly excited by the idea of a reunion (I mean, I might go if I’m allowed to wear my roller skates), the fact that 2016 is here (IS THIS REAL LIFE?!) has gotten me thinking. Not just about high school, but about school in general. School was such a huge part of my life for a very long time, and my experiences during those years helped to make me who I am.

So instead of the year 2016 being host to a tribute to the class of 2006, my plan is create a writing project that makes it a tribute to my entire grade 1-12 experience. This blog. Twelve months. Twelve grades. Countless strange, funny, insightful, and potentially embarrassing stories and memories to uncover. Not only will I be writing about things I remember from those years, but I will also be sharing the precious artifacts that my mother and I have obsessively kept, diligently documenting my academic, artistic, and personal endeavors. Trust me, the hopeless spelling and my earnest attempts at drawing should alone be enough to entertain.

This project is mean to be an opportunity to hone my craft (not to be confused with The Craft).

I am really looking forward to this project. I have not tended to my personal writing as much as I know should. It is such a passion of mine, but one that I’ve time and again dropped off my priority list as life has left me “too busy,” “too drained,” and “too unmotivated.” By committing to this project, I am committing to doing away with those excuses (and the many others I’ve invented).

This project is meant to be an exercise in imperfection.

Past me was not perfect. I was self-centered, insecure, overly guarded, and a terrible speller. Some of those things are still true, or weave in and out of still being true. Sharing these imperfections with the world seems like an interesting way to come to terms with them in a way I wasn’t able to when I was younger. Not only that, but I need to learn to embrace the imperfections in my writing. One of the reasons I have let my writing languish is because I expect too much of it. When I was a kid, my writing was spontaneous. I didn’t worry about where a story would go or how it would end. I would just write. Now, I dwell on an idea for ages before even putting a single word to the page. And rarely do I ever feel confident enough in an idea to turn it into a finished piece. And even once it’s complete, no number of revisions is ever enough to make it feel “ready.” These are roadblocks that often keep me from writing, and they’re ones I’ve built myself. Not everything I write needs to be a masterpiece. Not everything I allow others to read needs to be flawless. Sometimes you learn through writing, and the imperfections don’t matter. But if you don’t write at all, you gain nothing.

This project is meant to be an adventure in self-discovery.

If there’s one thing I know about reflecting on the past, it’s that you learn a lot about your present. What made you who you are? Do the things that mattered then still matter now? How have you changed? While there are many things I remember about my childhood and adolescence, there are a lot I have forgotten. Some of what I will find will be joyful, but I also know some of it will be dark. I hope to share a little of both of those.

I plan on posting at least twice a month, starting with 1st grade now in January. Follow my blog to get updates on when my new posts get published. I hope you stick with me throughout 2016. My first post should be out in another week or so. Prepare to get OLD SCHOOLED!

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