Save me, I can’t be saved, I won’t / I’m a president’s son, I don’t need no love
One of the most unbearable, cringeworthy activities for me to do has always been to read my own writing — especially if it was written a long time ago. To my older eyes, my writing always seems immature, foolish, silly, and downright awful at times. I can’t read it like I would any other piece of writing because I’m constantly evaluating it and finding faults with it (and if you follow my blog…why yes, psych majors, I realize I might have a self-esteem issue to resolve haha). And I can usually read no more than a few pages before I put it all down. Usually I tend to avoid this situation at all by letting my old writing sit in a dark room somewhere just gathering dust so that it’s never exposed to the world…
But unfortunately it’s impossible for me not to come across all my old writings when I’m cleaning out years and years worth of junk from my house’s study room, a Herculean task that my mother has been asking me to do for, um, a few years….oops. With some extra time on my hands, I finally took it upon myself to do so, and I began by digging through the piles of old textbooks and notebooks. It wasn’t long before the entire table and floor were covered with a plethora of half-filled, sloppy journals and dozens of weathered, ancient school notebooks that have definitely seen better days. It’s very funny to look back and see my notebooks, homework, and projects from 11th grade AP Human Geography, or AP Calculus, or 9th grade world history, or even 6th grade English class. And it doesn’t take much rummaging to find almost every single essay, in-class or otherwise, I have written for my English classes grades 9-12. Truly, I could have my own Hoarders episode featuring all of the clutter I have accumulated in the past eight years.
It was pretty easy to decide which textbooks to donate/attempt to sell but unfortunately for my wallet, I found most of them were probably very out of date or used (review books for the SAT anyone?). Even though part of me unbelievably STILL wants to keep them as some sort of touchstone or token of memory of whatever class I used them in, I know my mom will not stand for my junk to be rearranged instead of cleaned out! I plan on donating some of the better ones to the local Naperville library because I notice they’re selling old books all the time, but I think some of the AP review books might be salvageable for reuse. Maybe I’ll try to see if some neighborhood kids (who really aren’t kids anymore like I remember) would like to have them. Essentially, getting rid of the textbooks was definitely less concerning than handling the notebooks.
As I picked through which notebooks to keep and which to recycle, I thumbed through the pages and skimmed the words of Sarah age 10-18. Only some of it was legible, much of it was nonsensical, and all of it was nostalgic…and awful to read! While it was interesting to recall certain events or people that I journaled about, even reading the words that I wrote in order to seem like a good writer to myself kind of made me want to crawl in a hole. But at the same time, I could not bring myself to throw even the worst of the journals away, despite knowing that it is extremely unlikely that I would ever open the covers and read it again. And I most certainly do not want anyone to ever come across it and read it either! But just flipping through the pages felt a little bit like stepping into a time machine and meeting younger versions of myself again, hearing my old voices in my head…I ended up spending the entire day perusing though my formative years in scribbled, incomplete journals and half-finished manga and puppy sketches. Looking back I wish I had kept the diligence to actually finish journals and notebooks that I started before starting a new one…but I have always been in love with beautiful journals and want to use a new one! Thinking back to the number of journals I used to buy at Barnes and Noble…it kind of left me with dozens of journals that are a little too used to be donated, but also still empty enough to feel like a waste…
But within all of the half-finished notebooks, I have countless half-started stories that were born from dream journals as well as more organized, fleshed-out stories whose characters sadly never saw an ending. It felt like visiting old friends and becoming reacquainted — it just so happened that I made these friends up in my head. But their dialogue and the “clever” characterization (spoiler alert: hardly any of them are clever) of them were so familiar to me, and I recalled all of the times I had spent class time daydreaming their stories and backgrounds. I pondered briefly over giving them a resolution now by picking up where my writing before left off, but there are far too many stories, and at the same time it also feels impossible because I am not the same writer I was those years ago when their stories began. Elementary school Sarah mostly wrote about anthropomorphic hamsters (probably inspired by Hamtaro — anyone remember those adorable hamsters with eyes that were way too big for their head on Toonami?) and video game/reality crossovers. In middle school, it seems I even had a fanfiction-type phase where I wrote stories that starred characters from my favorite fiction novels, including Animorphs, the Alex Rider novels by Anthony Horowitz, and a slew of Kenneth Oppel novels. While some of these older stories might be endearing, I think my creative writing in high school was nearly unbearable…I’m sorely tempted to dispose of it all! A good bulk of it comes from a Creative Writing course I took my sophomore year of high school, and I must say, a lot of it seems to embody the worst of moody, angsty teenage writing that is cringeworthy indeed. Not that the class was bad! It was actually probably one of my favorite classes I ever took in high school, and I miss the journal times where we would all receive a random prompt to write about without stopping for 10 minutes straight. A lot of gibberish may have come from that, but also a lot of memories and vented ideas as well. In the end, I decided not to throw the creative writing away (what if one day I really do want to reread it?) but I did box it away carefully to keep it hidden from the world.
Reading all of these writings made me feel as if I was reintroducing myself to old friends that I made up in my head and long forgotten and then remembered again, and I can’t stop thinking about all the ongoing stories and plotlines I had circulating in my mind throughout middle school and high school. Why didn’t I write more of them down? Why wasn’t I more careful in preserving them? What about the details that I can’t remember, even now, after trying to refresh my memory?
So today I picked up yet another new journal — but this one I’m determined to finish from cover to cover. Even though I’ve taken to typing of most of my thoughts on my laptop because it seems faster, I want to bring back my old habit of freewriting for the sake of writing and just feeling my pen on the paper moving nonstop, even if I’m only producing more drivel that I will undoubtedly cringe to read in the future. Even if none of it’s “good writing”, it’ll be fun to see how my style has evolved in the past few years and just let my imagination run absolutely wild again.
And who knows, maybe 25-year-old Sarah might find it interesting to read when cleaning time comes around again.
What a lovely day, yeah we won the war, may have lost a million men but we got a million more / All the people, they say
(People Say - Portugal the Man)