Category Archives: Old Schooled

Wild Kingdom

It was the middle of summer about four years ago, and I was visiting my family—just hanging out in the refuge of the cool air-conditioned living room of my parents’ house. My family had the TV on, and I was knitting on the couch. My dad was working on his laptop; my mom was reading the newspaper.

Suddenly my mom asked for my attention, referring to the local newspaper she was perusing. “Did you ever know a Perry Moore?” As soon as she asked I felt an odd twinge in my gut and I knew whatever came next wasn’t good.

“Yeah, we went to school together. Why?”

“He drowned in Pleasant Lake. He died.”

Not only had I gone to school with Perry, but he was the boy I had a crush on in third grade. He was in fourth grade that year, but we were in a 3/4 split class that was made up of half third graders and half fourth graders. I only vaguely remember the specifics of my pining—he was funny and cute, and I remember he had some bit where he ran around on all fours pretending to be a dog. He was a crush I admired very quietly; I don’t even think I told any of my friends.

And now he was gone. As if it weren’t unsettling enough for someone you knew from childhood to die while still so young, the details they gave of his drowning left the whole thing a mystery. He had been at a family gathering at the lake and had started to swim from the shore to a pontoon boat out on the water. About 30 feet from shore, he just went under, and no one knows why. Nothing weird, no alcohol or anything involved, Just gone. And this is a tiny lake we’re talking about. What’s more, this is a lake that I spent many of my summers on in elementary school and middle school since one of my best friends was part of the lake’s membership. So this was a lake that always felt safe and inviting to me. I’d been all over that lake. I’d swum across that lake. I’d probably swum a million times in the exact place where he drowned.

My mom clipped out the article describing his death from the local newspaper, and it’s been neatly tucked into my third grade yearbook since.

What are the feelings tangled up in the knowledge that someone you used to know is now gone? It could be someone you knew a little or knew a lot. How are you supposed to feel when it’s someone you haven’t truly known in a long time? Are you allowed to be sad? And where exactly does that heavy and uncomfortable eeriness come from that seems to cover you when hearing the news? This was not the first time I had learned of the death of someone I knew from childhood.

Back in 2006, just about a month after I had started college, I was driving my Camaro homeward on the expressway in a weird-but-not-THAT-weird October snowstorm (this is Michigan after all). I underestimated how slippery the roads were and one wrong movement caused my car to skid, bashing the back driver’s side against the median before fishtailing and bashing the front driver’s side as well. I regained control of the car in a split second that felt like an hour, and was suddenly just driving along, as if nothing had happened. I quickly pulled off to the side of the road, breathing in big ragged breaths of delayed panic over the sound of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods trickling from my speakers.

My car was in bad shape. It was drivable, but only just. I was terrified of telling my parents when I got home. What would they say? I wasn’t supposed to get into this kind of trouble. I was supposed to be responsible. I was always a “good kid,” so any mistake that risked bringing my parents disappointment felt like the end of the world.

I remember so vividly how reluctantly I skulked into my parents’ house, tail between my legs. I found them in the living room, and as I was on the verge of tears I explained to them what had happened and that the car was in really bad shape and that I was sorry.

They immediately came over to me to wrap me in a huge hug and both began to sob.

Something wasn’t right. This was not the reaction I had been anticipating and there was a moment of confusion before they spoke the words.

“Lisa Meyer died.”

Lisa’s mom and my mom met at church before either of us were born, and Lisa and I were best friends from the very beginning and all through elementary school. There are a billion memories where our games and adventures are at the very center. I remember playing with homemade play-dough, pretending to be Sailor Scouts, and making weird concoctions in the kitchen that we would dare each other to try. I remember playing on the giant rock in her front yard and making mud tacos in my backyard. We were in girl scouts together and we were in youth group together. We went trick-or-treating together, quoted The Lion King together, and crushed on the Backstreet Boys together. We were inseparable for so long. And now she was gone.

I was stunned as my parents held me there in the living room while everything slowly sank in. She was gone. And I was here. The storm of tears was heartbreak and relief all crashing together. The accident didn’t matter. The car didn’t matter. I was here.

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Me and Lisa at a camping event in 1999

Lisa’s wake was surreal to me. She and I had grown apart in middle school, and though we attended the same schools all the way through high school, we had barely spoken since sixth grade. I recognized a bunch of people from my high school at the wake, but I didn’t talk to them. It felt like they were mourning a completely different person than I was. They had lost someone they had seen just a couple months ago. I had lost someone from many years past. I remember looking at the poster board of photos at the funeral home. They were all of Lisa, but only half of them were recognizable to me. The girl at the birthday party, mouth smeared with frosting and a goofy grin—I knew her. But the girl in the senior picture with the sleek hair and the model-like stare—I didn’t know anything about her.

When I think of Lisa, I’m certain I will always think of the woods. Of all our adventures in my memory, the ones that took place in the woods behind her parents’ house are by far the ones illuminated most brilliantly. We spent whole days wandering those woods, making up games and stories that we would build on for weeks, and that time has taken up a special corner inside of me. It crops up in my mind sometimes, and in my writing too. The following is a short writing exercise I stumbled upon from a college course I took:

Lisa and I are children again—unafraid and listening to the crunches offered by the forest floor in response to our footfalls. We see this patch of wetland and woods wedged between suburb and golf course differently than most. Our home. A wild kingdom of which we are the sole rulers.

Past weeks of rain have transformed the forest’s stream from a trickle to a rush of muddy water breathtakingly dangerous to cross. The ground’s been covered with a leafy mosaic of autumn colors. If a certain tinted tile catches our eyes, it will likely be snatched up to pocket and show off later. Other places are carpeted in lush mosses perfect for royal dozes. It’s even been arranged that some trees curve their trunks just so, providing seats on which to rest. Companions and subjects range from the bugs humming above our heads to the deer too shy to stand in the glory of our presence. Balding branches politely crowd the sky, hoping to supply what shade they can to the queens roaming the land beneath them.

This has been declared a day of exploration so we trek to the lesser known edge of our forest where the maze of tree trunks abruptly comes to an end. Through this wooded veil there’s a span of grass, properly cut and well-watered, speckled with sand traps and the flutter of red flags. Monotonous. Predictable. It’s obvious that the terrain ahead lacks the adventure and tests of courage we require so we turn back from this border between worlds.

Another hour of aimless wandering finds us far from our usual spots in a place brown with dead leaves that squish and gurgle underfoot. With a gasp it dawns on us that we’ve strolled right into the lair of our nemesis. The stench of decay hangs above a swamp stretching out to devour us. A huge jagged tree stump protrudes from the middle of the swamp, looking like a decrepit finger bursting from a grave to thrust an obscene gesture towards the sky. This is the throne of the enemy we despise most. We brace ourselves for an attack but our nemesis is too spineless to step forward with a challenge. Laughing with satisfaction, we turn from the dank place of evil and hike back to the heart of our kingdom.

I see her parents sometimes at the church where they and my own parents are still members. On these occasions, part of me is struck with such deep sorrow that I want to run. I want to hide from them an image of what a future may have looked like. Another part of me wants to tell them that Lisa will always be a part of me and how I see and remember the world. I want to tell them I will always remember the woods behind their house and our fearless adventures. I want to say something that will make them remember the things that made their hearts light instead of the crippling agony I’m certain they must carry every day.

Usually I just say “hello.”

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A Writer in the Making

Second grade was important for me in a way I didn’t recognize until now. Until I went back and surveyed all of the available artifacts. What did I find? The usual—pictures, school journals, classroom projects.

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Me with my art hanging in the school

But while going through all of these things, I noticed something that was so present that I suddenly recognized second grade was the year it would become so important to me that I’d never let that something go:

Stories.

I remember that second grade was the year that chapter books became a thing for me. It started with my teacher reading The Boxcar Children aloud to my class, reading a chapter every day or so until we had finished the book. I loved it. I loved the characters and I loved the adventure. I loved that they were out on their own and had to come up with creative solutions to just get by and care for each other. And when it was over THERE WERE MORE BOOKS AFTER IT! More stories following these characters that I had already become attached to.

Not only that, but I took their stories into my own hands. My friends and I spent a good span of time that year playing Boxcar Children at recess under the shade of a giant tree near our elementary school. We would plan how to survive on our own, making salads out of grass and dandelions and heeding warnings from whichever one of us was playing Watch, the children’s dog. We got to engage in the Boxcar Children’s story and take it to new places.

I soon latched on to a different way of taking stories to new places: writing.

I really enjoyed writing in my school journal. I wrote about vacations and what I was going to be for Halloween. (I know this will come as a surprise, but that year I was a cat.)

SecondGradeHalloween

I gushed about movies I had seen (Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story, to name a couple) and books I had read (Stinky Cheese Man FOREVER). I also started to tell stories like this gem written in my school journal in December 1996:

“I have a story to tell you. Rudolf Gets Lost. Christmas Eve. Rudolf got lost. He started to cry. I can’t find my way home. I’m lost. Then he heard something. Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas. Hi Rudolph said Comet. Welcome home Rudolph. HO HO HO. I was so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so scared. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

Brilliant, no?

In the second half of second grade, my storytelling became more and more refined. My journal entries got longer and more articulate. Most importantly, we started writing stories as projects for class. But they weren’t just stories—they were BOOKS. We would write a story on notebook paper and then it would go to the class’s para-pro who would take it to the library, type it up, print it out, punch holes in it, and bind it with those plastic circular spines. We would then get our book back so we could draw illustrations on each page. At the very end of the process, we would share our books with the class.

So, not only could I read books but now I could make my own?! This was earth-shattering to me and I immediately fell in love. I was a fanfic prodigy. I wrote stories about Garfield, about characters from Tiny Toons, about characters from my favorite books. My books were almost always about animals, and I would often make an appearance too, usually has a hero providing a safe haven to the animals in my story. According to the autobiographical blurb in the last book I “published” in second grade, I was the author of the following titles:

  • See Kitty, which was a play off of the See Spot Run and involved charming sequences such as this one.
  • All About Me, an autobiography, of course
  • Garfield’s Christmas, I’ll let you check that one out for yourself
  • The Cool Cats, which was about a group of cats who decided they could bully other animals into giving them food if they dressed like they were “cool” (i.e., in leather jackets, sunglasses, etc.), but they eventually get kidnapped by Elmira.
  • Cats, a book where I wrote down all of the “facts” I knew about cats.
  • Tux and the Skunk, a story about a penguin who runs away from home and has a bad run-in with a weird, mutant skunk (but is eventually saved by me, naturally).

As you can see, almost every one of those books was about a cat of some kind, and even the one’s that weren’t about cats featured cameos from my cat Snickers because I LIKE CATS, OKAY.

But my point is this: I took this writing thing and I RAN with it.

By the end of the school year, my stories were longer and more intricate than most others in my class. They included dialogue, exposition, character development. Looking back, even I’m impressed.

This was the start of something. I hadn’t started calling myself a writer, but I was right on the cusp. After second grade, I started saying I wanted to be an author when I grew up. And I haven’t stopped making stories my mission ever since.

But truth be told, I have gone off track.

Take this blog post. I was supposed to write it in February. I sat down on at least four different occasions before now and nothing happened. No words appeared on the blank page in front of me. I didn’t know what story to tell.

When did writing get to be so scary? When did I start caring so desperately about whether what I was writing was good? What even is “good?” What is the trick to overcoming this bizarre paralysis that has turned me from a lover of stories into someone who spends more time worrying about things I haven’t even written yet than actually writing them?

Growing up is weird and hard.

As a kid, I didn’t think before I wrote. I just WROTE. I didn’t fret over whether I had a plan for the plot or the ending. I didn’t worry about showing it to other people. The idea of my work being “good” never really crossed my mind. I wrote because I liked to tell stories. I would get a funny idea and I would just let it guide me. No questions, no anxiety, no pressure.

No one tells you that growing up makes all of that a million times more challenging. No one tells you that growing up can mean losing track of that quirky creativity you didn’t realize eventually takes effort to maintain. No one tells you that growing up causes the word “good” to morph into a strange monster scarier than any that used to hide in your closet or under your bed, and one that will relentlessly lurk in the shadows and never leave you alone. Is this idea good? Is this piece of writing good?

Am I even good?

It’s crippling. And I still don’t understand it. Or how to fight it. But I’m trying.

Which is part of why this blog and this writing project exist. I am trying to figure out how to keep room in my life for creativity amongst my real-life adult endeavors and responsibilities. I am trying to create space to let my imagination stretch its legs and build up its strength again. I am trying to make this happen without also inviting in pressure and self-judgment.

And I am letting eight-year-old me be my guide. She created so many stories. No worries. No anxiety. No judgment. She did that. Me. I did that. And I can find that again. No matter how much I have ignored, suppressed, or forgotten it, that drive to write and create and tell stories is still part of me. I am not here to give up.

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Old Stomping Grounds

No, I have not forgotten about this blog.

But YES, I am behind.

Don’t worry! I’ve definitely got some things cookin’ that will be posted soon, and I’m going to do my best to get back on track. I just wanted to pop in and acknowledge how cool it was that when I went to go exercise my right to vote this past week in the primaries, I got to do it at a place that look awfully familiar…

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My old elementary school! It was a little surreal being there considering how much that place has been on my mind lately as I’ve been digging through things from my past and working through my memories in my writing.

More to come! I promise!

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Boys: From Cuties to Cooties and Back Again

Boys.

If there’s one thing that’s made clear when looking back at my personal journals it’s that I have always really liked boys. Remember how I mentioned that a lot of the time I was writing about super highs or super lows? Well, what gives one more of a super high than when you LIKE like someone?! (Or a super low when the feelings aren’t mutual?) My journals are practically an ode to my infatuations, which in comparison to other things in my life are written about with the most frequency and fervency by far. In fact, the very first personal journal I ever kept opened with a list (a RANKED list) of all the boys I had affections for at the time. I can easily catalogue my K-12 adventures based on which boy I was crushing on at the time.

In light of that, I just can’t bring myself to move on to second grade for February until I’ve written about one of the most monumental events of my first grade: MY FIRST CRUSH ON A BOY.

See, before first grade, I had never had a crush on a boy. There was this one time in kindergarten I had gone out to lunch with a boy from my class and his family. Afterwards, kids from our class teased me, telling me that the boy in question was now my boyfriend. I was mad. Not because it was uncool to have a boyfriend (it may have been–I really don’t remember), but because people were saying something that wasn’t true. At that point, it was still okay to have friends who were boys, and I didn’t understand why anyone would go around saying I had a boyfriend. Up until first grade, my experience with boys was limited to my family, preschool playdates with my friend/classmate Teppei, the aforementioned boyfriend accusation, and two boys (both named Hirofumi) who used to chase the girls around our kindergarten classroom trying to kiss us (?!).

And then there was Sean.

Alphabetical order is a beautiful thing sometimes. As fate would have it, Sean’s last name and my own fell directly next to each other on our class’s list. I don’t know how your elementary school classrooms worked, but mine always assigned each student a number, and that number was based on the alphabetical class list. These numbers were used for everything from seating charts to the line order used for walking to the cafeteria. And so Sean and I found ourselves next to each other constantly.

First Grade School Picture

My picture from my first grade yearbook

I don’t remember when I realized how hard I was crushing on Sean. First grade was still a time when boys and girls could play together and it wasn’t outside the norm. In fact, I distinctly recall having playdates with Sean and his buddy Clay. We were friends. But somewhere down the line it evolved into more.

One distinct memory I just can’t get over is one of me riding in the car and worrying that there was NO WAY I’d EVER be able to memorize how to spell Sean’s last name. Which was a big problem because what would I do when we got MARRIED? HIS name would be MY name! You’ve all seen how bad my spelling was back then. This was a disaster waiting to happen.

And it wasn’t just me. I’m nearly certain the affection was mutual. Now, my memories are quite fuzzy given that this was literally over twenty years ago, but I can’t have made it ALL up (okay, it’s possible). I remember being over at Sean’s house for a playdate. I remember playing a make-believe game in which not only were we married, but we were some kind of Bonnie and Clyde criminal duo, and the game involved us being in prison together and having to break out. I have never quite figured out if there was a peck-of-a-kiss involved in the game or if that was an embellishment I added to the memory later. Regardless, there were definitely feelings both ways. However silly they may have been.

Now, it wasn’t all blissful lives of crime and happy endings for Sean and me. Oh, no. Something changed. Because in second grade, boys officially became gross. This was when the cootie shot started going around. And the snarky chanting of “Girls rule and boys DROOL!” You could still associate with boys. They could still come to your birthday party. But they were more for pestering than for pining after. In second grade, I took up taunting Sean on the playground with my friends. We would perch on the tire swing and call him “Shenzi” as he ran by. I can’t remember if this was supposed to be insulting because we were calling him a hyena or because that hyena was a girl.

But don’t be fooled. I carried a torch for Sean for a long time. I think he moved to a different school after second grade. Other crushes came and went, and still I would wonder what could have been with the boy who was my first crush. Did he ever think of me? Would things have worked out somehow? Could I have EVER learned how to spell his last name?!

Don’t worry, mini Emilie. There will be plenty more affection, infatuation, and, yes, even love in your future. In fact, with pen to paper, you’ll rarely shut up about it. You’ll use that heart of yours with all your might–often in secret–and it will bring out your bravest, dumbest, happiest, silliest, and most poetic selves. Embrace it.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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

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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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