Posts Tagged ‘nostalgia’

Have you ever dared go back and read what you wrote, oh so many years ago? Ever dust of that journal, try and stick the old faithful 2.5 inch disk into the nonexistent drive, or crack open that old school exercise booklet? You are cringing aren’t you? I can feel the gut punch and the always descriptive groan. But…there is a but…If there wasn’t this would be a fairly short, pointless and downright mean post. If you have the courage to grab that bankers box down off the top shelf in the closet, the one hidden by old sweaters, Anne Rice paperbacks and that hat you bought that was in style long enough for you to drive home from the store. Bring that that box down, and breathe in. You know what that is you are breathing? Dust mites…and humility. One of those can be a very good thing.

Humility is that precious little gift that keeps us all from being ignorant little pricks and pretentious little snobs. It is a vital component in what makes up a decent human being. It is what lets us know that at one point we all… sucked. It is important for our overall growth and definition of our character that we as people sucked at one point in our life, and recognize that we will most likely suck again. Oh, and if you are that person reading this now saying “Nope, not me”. Well…then you are in that point right now. Of course I am talking about writing, since that is what I know and what I have been doing in one form or another for twenty five years. However, you can apply this to anything. A good friend of mine is a very successful competitive runner, guess what? He used to fall down…a lot. It is important, and it gives us perspective to know that everyone was terrible at some point. Accepting that is what makes us better, and lets us grow.

Do you want to know what was in my metaphorical “box on the shelf”? There were some real gems. The first few are illegible. Not because I had such terrible penmanship, but because they are literally just squiggly lines…As I recall, we kept a daily journal in grade one. Our teacher had instructed us that if we didn’t know a word, just put a squiggly line. When we were done we would go over it with her and she would help us with the words we didn’t know. Of course when I walked up with all squiggly lines, and the teacher asks me, “Well, what do they mean?”…My obvious answer is… “I dunno, they just look like a bunch of squiggly lines…” Lesson learned: Don’t depend on the memory / attention span of a five year old.

Let’s skip a few years down the road, to my fondness writing memory…Not my best, but my fondness. In grade five or six (can’t remember…damn glue addiction) I had a teacher who would give me exercise booklets, the ones with the dotted lines between the two solid lines, for students to practices cursive (do they still do that? I can’t remember the last time I saw a kid write cursive? I guess they can just choose whatever font they want on their macbook…). He would give me these books, because he knew I liked to write stories. I remember this time with a smile on my face. When I wrote in those silly little books, I didn’t write for attention, praise, money, or to argue a point…I did it simply to entertain myself. I wasn’t concerned about being original. I just wanted more stories from my favorite characters. When I ran out of things to read, and still wanted more Garfield or Carmen Sandiego, I would just write my own stories about them. It made perfect sense. I didn’t occur to me that for most people the story ended when they put down the book. I saw no reason for endings….I wrote long nonsensical stories starring my favorite characters and filled countless exercise books. I think it may be part of the reason I did well in school at that age. I knew if I did a good job, and got my work done early I would be awarded with more books to write in. Again, reading these stories today, they make no sense. But they are pure and came from the heart and head of a kid who just liked to tell stories.

It is from those heartfelt tells that I stumble across a journal from my university days when I flip to a page containing a drunken manifesto on the beauty and purity of masturbation. Here is the stage where the cringing really starts. Not that it was that bad, but that I thought it was that good. I still remember finishing it and gleefully running out of my dorm room and down the hall. I burst into the room two girls who had known me for a total of two weeks, proclaiming: “You gotta read this!” Their looks should have told me all I would ever need to know. This was me at my pretentious, narcissistic best. University was a great time for writing in theory. I was surrounded by other artistic people trying desperately to find their place. Looking back now, we were all trying too hard. It was here that I entered my “pained artist” stage. Everything was so self-loathing and filled with anguish. It was the self-indulgent bullshit every twenty year old writes, because they have a profound understanding of the world, that the rest of us couldn’t begin to fathom. This is the stage I like the least. I tried too hard to be something I wasn’t, because I didn’t know how to be who I really wanted. I didn’t realize then that I just had to wait.

Then came the drunken writing phase. Like the grade one phase, all works from this period are completely illegible.

Once I realized I could write without booze, I spend about seven years trying to figure out if it was possible to be happy and still write. For the most part it was hard. With considerable effort some good things came out. Eventually I produced something of substance; something I was pleased with (well, almost pleased with). I did this (mostly) sober, but definitely happy. But….there is that but again….It felt like work. I guess it was…I was doing it more because of something I wanted, and less because I actually wanted to do it. At this point, it seemed that I wanted to be a writer more than I actually wanted to write. This “forced” work began to bleed through on the page and I needed a change if I was going to move forward. I looked to the past, because… well, you can’t see the future. For me, lifting the lid of the “box” and dredging through utter embarrassment was insightful. I saw the kid who wrote with a pencil just for the sake of moving it on the page, who just a few years later, was making up stories simply to entertain himself. I want to write like that kid again.

Sometimes I lay awake at night, reliving those painful memories of bad decisions or the awkward moments that always accompany youth. What I take away from those moments now is not the pain, but the intentions; the intentions were always pure and natural.

Dig through your past, you’ll find some cringe worthy things, that I do not doubt. If you look a little deeper at the things you have hidden in the shadows, you might just see something else; something you have been missing. We all sucked…And are better for it.

Think of a picture of yourself you hate from your childhood. A picture you would hide away in a closet or bury in a box. You were ashamed of for how awkward you were. It was always that picture that your parents showed off as your face turned red with rage and you wondered why that we do something as horrible as display that picture. I’ll tell you why, because of what they saw in it. All of the best parts of you now, the things that define and inspire you, were already there in that picture. Take another look.

Thanks for indulging me yet again.

Jason.

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