Sunday, February 19, 2012

Tales of an eighth-grade something


A rebellious young pencil didn't like his owner Sally, so he decided to eraser.

So begins the entry dated 9/11/1996 in the flowered notebook I found yesterday in my nightstand drawer. Written in pencil, smudged from the years, it kicks off a writing journal I kept as part of my eighth-grade English class with Mrs. Marzola.

The prompts aren't recorded, only my responses. Oh, for want of a reframed sentence ... now I'll never know what I was referring to when I said, "I think that this shows that everyone is now paranoid and suspicious of everyone, including 6-yr-olds."

I don't remember sitting in class writing this journal, and I didn't remember holding onto it. Thus, finding it warranted a good 45 minutes of re-reading, during which several things struck me:
  1. My cursive was admirable for a 13-year-old.
  2. I was not yet a fan of the Oxford comma.
  3. When faced with evidence, I now believe I've inflated my supposed adolescent brilliance.
  4. My brother was REALLY irking me at the time. He features prominently in a few entries, like in a list of "Things I Fear (At Times)" and in this sweet sentiment: "My first resolution is to be more patient and understanding with my little brother, especially when I'm ready to maim him."
But what stood out the most was how much me was already present. Take, for example, this spurt of introspection-slash-seed for future therapy:
When all is said and done, I guess I motivate me. I have a deep desire for achievement and recognition and pride in the eyes of my peers and parents. I don't like to disappoint people, and since people say I have much potential, I shouldn't disappoint them.
Or my fervent, totally realistic goal to become a god-like writer/philanthropist:
1. to have so much wealth I could lavishly give it away and not be a whit the worse
2. to be famous in the writing world and be loved/liked by every person I meet
3. everyone to be educated, well-off and happy
Or my assured definition of success:
Success, in my eyes, has 3 parts. One, you're successful if you're loved, respected and have true friends. Two, you're successful if you've reached your highest point of achievement. Three, you're successful if you're happy with your thoughts, your feelings and you.
Or my analysis of fear:
Fear is deep. Fear is a mix of hatred and loathing, anxiousness and pain. Everything people fear involves one or more of these feelings. Fear is when something you dread finally occurs and you can do nothing to help.
Or my first hint of life's fragility:
Some things I take for granted are that my family will always be there, we'll stay here forever, I will always be well-provided for, my grandparents are around, I'm going to college, and that tomorrow will always be there.
I take for granted that tomorrow will always be there? I'm surprised I didn't start drinking that summer.

Seriously, I was a pimply kid with big hips and Sally Jesse Raphael glasses when I wrote these lines. What did I know about fear? About success? About not having everything stay the way it was forever and ever, amen?

Yet I 'knew' something nonetheless. Somewhere in the core of my being -- somewhere in the universal knot we each host -- life in all its pain and promise was emerging. Some people never get it. But I was fortunate to get at least an inkling at age 13, and I was thinking about it hard enough to write it down.

My smudged journal, incomplete as it is, reminds me my soul was changing as much as my body at that time. I was doing the real work of childhood: I was growing up.

Today, in all my presumed 'adult' wisdom, I contribute only a wider vocabulary, this blog, and more questions -- certainly no answers. Instead, I'm still stumbling along, feeling the ghost of my glasses on the bridge of my nose, wondering what my next entry will read.

And if there's a merciful and humorous Being above, I'm hoping that entry goes something like this:

Suddenly, Billy Joe the pencil realized he had to do #2.

Prayer #200: The Answer

Excuse me. Excuse me, Moderator? The exam question is legible, but the answer choices appear to be smudged. Can you please clarify?
...

Well, then do you mind I just fill in the blank?
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Oh. Sorry, didn't realize that was your expectation. Do you want a short answer or an essay?
...

I really would appreciate a little more direction.
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Seriously, are you ready for this? Are you ready for a free-form, free-agent, free-will response? Because I swear I'll give it to you.
...

Ok then. If that's your preference. Here goes.

...
...
...

"Yes.(?)"

Amen.

3 comments:

  1. Oh man, this totally makes me need to see a picture of you at 13.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Josh: No it doesn't. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. "Yes.(?)" - Such a confounding ending that I read through twice more and still... poof. She's a thinker, yes she is!

    As for going back and reading very distant writings, I've done that once or twice and came up more or less dissatisfied from reading a journal that was apparently from the point of view of an outsider looking in. So misunderstood. Ppbbtthh, aren't they all? Blech.

    If I could go back and confront my childhood writer I would pick him up by the scruff of his neck and tell him to listen to some of the things you are saying here.

    What is 20/20 again? Retrospect? Hind-n-go-seek-sight?
    Bygones.

    Cool post!

    ReplyDelete