Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Ahhh...the Memories

We are working to clean out our basement in order to make it into a nice playroom for our kids. This weekend I spent far too many hours weeding through the junk, throwing a good portion of it in a landfill somewhere (which is making me heartsick). The Salvation Army truck was here this morning to pick up nearly twenty boxes of clothes, toys and children's books, and a few miscellaneous household items they can hopefully sell for the cash.

Basically, out of an entire room full of boxes and rubbermaid containers, I sorted through a lot of crap that should have been pitched ages ago. But I did find one absolute treasure; a box containing things I'd saved from my senior year in high school and first years of college.


Best item in the box - a journal I had started keeping the August of my senior year in high school. I literally sat on the basement floor with a face-cracking grin while I read about my past self's angst and love life. Funny how much I'd forgotten in these twenty years that have passed, but even funnier is how familiar the person who had written those entries so long ago sounded to me. It was me talking to me. Same voice. Same general outlook. I've changed so much yet not at all since I was a wee lass of seventeen.

I nearly wanted to cry when I came to the last entry dated sometime in December and then turned the page to find nothing more written. Why, oh why, hadn't my stupid 17-year-old self stuck with it? How will I ever find out what happened to my love of the moment, or to the ex-boyfriend I spent so much time writing about but trying so hard to convince that I didn't care about him anymore?

After reading my little story and the sharp stab of regret that there was so little of it, I told my husband that when my daughter is older, I'm going to nag her about keeping a journal. It's such a case of obtaining a wisdom through age that you so much wish you had when you were younger. Reading that journal brought back so many good memories and feelings, and I'm just so incredibly sorry I can't go back in time and finish it. It feels like watching a wonderful movie only to have the filmstrip break half-way through. I want to encourage my daughter to start keeping track of her life and to keep doing it, if only so twenty years later she can reread what she'd written and get a good laugh out of it.

I also found the notebook that contained my first true efforts of writing down one of the many stories that always played out in my head. It was based around the high school girl's dream premise of an all boy's school allowing, for the first time, girls to attend, and what happens to the lucky five girls who are chosen for such an honor. Naturally, it's completely ridiculous, a textbook Mary Sue of epic proportions which clearly shows where my mind was when I wrote it. Oddly enough, though, I can still recall the songs and music I had intended to have play during the movie version (it was written as a screenplay, and I'm sure I had envisioned myself the star), and whenever I hear those songs on the oldies-but-goodies station today, I think about that story. I was assigning sound tracks even back then.

Badly as it is written and as stupid as the story idea was, seeing that folder with all of my notes and chicken scratches and the dot-matrix printing of the stuff I took the time to put into the then high-tech word processing program actually gave me the hugest boost of confidence in my writing ability that I've had in a very long time.

Because I often worry when I hear/read about writers who have been writing ever since they picked up their first chubby crayola crayon and used pictures to express the writer within screaming to get out. I didn't do that. I kept my stories in my head and played them out like scenes from a favorite movie. I never thought to write them down, probably because the stories were so crazy I would have been embarrassed beyond belief had anyone ever discovered them. Too, I was an art geek in high school, my creative outlet found in drawing and painting to the sultry strains of the Moody Blues my very hip and Stevie Nicks-like art teacher piped into the art studio.

Since I didn't fill notebook after notebook with my blossoming creativity often leads me to doubt if writing is my true calling. How can I think I can write now when I didn't spend the past 38 years practicing my craft? How can I think I'll ever be a success if the need to write didn't burn in my breast until the past few years rather than from the moment I learned the alphabet?

But finding this one story proves something to me. At one point in my early years, I did write something down. I did take a stab at getting the story out of my head and onto the paper. I wanted to tell these stories to someone other than myself.

I also found a folder with some stories I wrote for a creative writing class I took in college. I haven't had time to sit down to read them, but when I put back all of the other memorabilia, I kept that folder out. It's sitting on my bedside table. I can't wait to read it.

See, I'm a can't-put-it-down writer!

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