Warm summer night. It’s February.
The sweet sad smell of cherry blossoms wafting through my third story window. Saturday night is alive in the Mission District but I’m in a remembering sort of mood. So I scour our apartment for a journal I haven’t seen since July. The journal containing so many secrets and the stories of three different boys. Where the fuck is it?
I imagine a local scavenger picking it up (could I have somehow thrown it out? Left it in a Coach bag that I sold to Buffalo Exchange? I wouldn’t put it past me). A Vietnam vet or beer bottle hoarder reading my life anonymously. Or a twenty-something like myself delighted to find a piece of someone else’s life that they can scan and post to Found Magazine. I guess there could be worse fates for a journal – namely, never being read again at all.
In my search I have sifted through the disorganized records I’ve kept of my writerly exploits. Creative writing projects from college, sorted by year and class and tied together with scraps of ribbon. High school essays (so many of them!), and some very flattering letters of recommendation, circa 2001. An “essay” I wrote to my World Religions teacher about why I couldn’t in good conscience turn in an analysis of contemporary practices in Christianity (my favorite line: “maybe I’m ornery, maybe I have integrity, or maybe I’m just lazy, but I honestly do not feel like employing my ‘extensive vocabulary’ or my ‘ability to unify several ideas into one, comprehensive whole’ toward a paper that will not be coming from me.”) I was such an egotistical little punk, but damn, for a high schooler? I could write.
And now, being a slightly less egotistical high school teacher, I can’t help but wish I’d done something more with that. Not that it’s too late. I’m just so scattered these days. Preoccupied with the whole, you know, survival thing. Trying to figure out what will pay the bills (Psssst! It’s not teaching!). Trying to be a real-life adult with good hair and good credit, with creative side projects that don’t detract from my social life.
So what stories are still worth telling? There’s been this whole young adult novel-in-the-works for some time now, but some part of me feels strange about dwelling on the experiences of adolescents. Maybe it’s that I’m surrounded by them all day. But really, it’s one of the more interesting times in life, and maybe that’s why we keep coming back to it. Why we buy yearbooks and keep journals and binders full of old essays, why we are still absurdly obsessed with youth. Why we start talking in plural pronouns when we don’t want to take personal responsibility.
Maybe I should just take it easy. You know, be in the now. Breath. Find a better, cushy job and take up Pilates or jewelry making. Take supplements and detox, or indulge in some organic 98% dark chocolate (rich with age-defying antioxidants).
But something tells me it isn’t so. And a piece of advice a dear teacher of mine gave me in 11th grade comes to mind: “If you’re ‘happy’ you’re not thinking!”
Simplistic? Perhaps. But important. Because in my quest to quell my ever-present anxiety, I still haven’t found “happy,” at least not consistently. Frequent moments, sure. A sense of hope and well-being, often. But 95% of the world never expects to be happy. Only our strange little American Gen-Y bubble was ever promised that.
So I guess on this Indian summer night, my head cold raging and high on Day-Quil, I will vow to keep on writing. Even if it means confronting the fear that I peaked in high school. Or facing the fact that my journal is lost forever. Or acknowledging that maybe I’m not that special after all.