had an entirely different topic in mind when I set out to write this week’s
blog (belated, I know, but I’m making no apologies for the luxuriously lazy day
of writing I enjoyed Sunday). I
had planned to write about rejection letters and their possible usefulness in
this world, which I will get to, perhaps next week, possibly even on time. In search of inspiration for that idea,
I unsuccessfully tore apart my filing cabinet looking for my first rejections
from back in high school. I kept
the piece of gum I was chewing during my first kiss in a box under my bed for
over a decade, but the letters of encouragement from the few kind editors who
took the time to write back to a high school freshman with big dreams but not
quite enough talent, I’ve managed to lose. Go figure.
I stumbled upon another folder that presented a topic I couldn’t put
off. The folder I found was full
of writing, from the first detailed story I created just for fun at age eight, to
the first story I submitted unsuccessfully for publication at fifteen, to the
editorials I wrote for my high school newspaper at eighteen. It was my writing. But it wasn’t, not really. It was the loosely organized tale of a
curly haired, eager-to-impress child.
It was the emotionally heavy narrative of an angst-filled teen trying to
make sense of herself and her world.
And it was the cocky presumptions of a young woman who thought she had
that world all figured out. Each
piece was a version of my writing, written by a version of me. Reading each was like slipping on a
pair of old running shoes–familiar, comfortable, but not quite right
anymore. But old running shoes
tell a tale of their owner: the stains speak of the terrain trampled
through, the wear on the tread tells the type of stride.
old writing told tales, too, beyond just the stories on the page. And my old versions of me seemed to be
reminding me of lessons I had forgotten.
My eight-year-old self reminded me I was once unabashed to share
anything and everything I had written, assaulting unsuspecting visitors by the
pool with my stories. All I needed
was a hand-written title page and a few “good job”s from family and
friends to feel accomplished. I
didn’t seek acceptance from the world, because, at age eight, family and friends
were my world. And really, they
still are. My fifteen-year-old
self reminded me that writing could be both a means of catharsis and a means of
discovery. The end product doesn’t
have to be a great work of literature; it can simply be a quieter mind, a
deeper knowledge. It can be
selfish. We all need to be selfish
sometimes. Finally, my
eighteen-year-old self reminded me to rock the boat now and again. For a short time, I actually welcomed
controversy and tried to push the envelope. As I teacher, I now cringe at the views I had back then
(‘sucks’ is not appropriate in school,
young Lauren), but I admire the conviction and nerve I had at that age. There are some beliefs important enough
to rock the boat for. When the time comes, I want to have my sea legs.
So while I
went looking for words of others to remind me of where I’d been, I found words of my own that helped
me see who I could be again.
Wearing those old running shoes will only give you shin splints, but taking
the lessons from the miles they traveled will make plodding along future paths
a whole lot easier.
go ahead: tear through the filing cabinets, crawl under the bed, see what
your mini-me’s have to offer.