"I came to the conclusion that I wasn't smart until I was thirty." That's from Madness's current post, and is an observation made as a result of reading her own old journals. Ah, me too! Me too! A few weeks ago I put up some silliness from my college writing journals and some readers responded that they can't bear to read their old journals -- well, me either -- those were "writing" journals filled with exercises, daily writing, poetry. NOT my whiney personal journals that seemed to be concerned with a) how fat I was (I was not), and b) boys. How vapid and silly was I? Very. But I thought I was quite the serious young woman. That's the funny part of it. I thought I was smart. I got good grades. I had a good vocabulary. I was worldly. I grew up in Europe, ooh la la. Didn't that make me sophisticated? Ha.
I wish I could rewrite the journals of young me and doing so, rewrite young me. I mean, not really, because I'm very happy with who and where I am now and I know it's that wending game-board trail of malarkey that brought me to this particular space, so I wouldn't actually back up and change anything even if I could. I'd be afraid things would arrange themselves differently and I might end up married to the wrong person, living in the wrong house, with the wrong dogs farting in their sleep! But I do wish I had been more like a character in a book.
I read young adult novels. Do you? I recommend them. There are incredibly fine books being written for young people. If you haven't seriously perused the YA section since you yourself were "y," you should. Things have changed since I was a teenager. Books are gritty now, about serious issues facing kids, and anything goes. (there is also "junior chic lit" which makes me shudder, it's SO inappropriate!) Well, I wish I had been like a character in a book, perhaps a bit offbeat and wrapped up in my own world, publishing underground literary journals in highschool and sneaking out in the middle of the night to plaster the school with stickers I had printed up with odd sayings on them. I wish I had played the ukulele to strangers on their birthdays or caused an explosion in the chemistry lab while discovering some heretofore unknown principle of... er... um... magnesium? (I don't really know what that is. I never ever took chemistry.) Instead, I was trying to make my bangs stand up straight like everyone else in Orange County in 1988. I had a crush on the quarterback from afar, like everybody else. I went to stupid loud parties I didn't enjoy, and pretended not to know my mohawked brother when I ran into him and his punk friends around town. College was better, but I could wish it was better-better. I mainly wish I hadn't cared about a) being fat, and b) boys so much. I might have gotten more done.
So what can we do about that when we grow up and find ourselves becoming less dumb at last? I admit to feeling some shame about how shallow I was, in a way feeling like that girl wasn't really "me." I don't want to disown young dumb me, not really.
I do have a bit of a fear of trying to "write" my children when I have them, though. Will I try to turn them into characters in books as they grow up? Try to make them more interesting than I was? Disdain them for being as shallow as I was? Urge them to take up the ukulele and publish a poetry journal? What's that quote? (Alexandra - help?) About the parent's unlived life being such a powerful force on the child? I can see it. My parents didn't do that to us, but I fear I might. I'll meddle. Even last night as Jim was working on an illustration I kept wanting to somehow jump into his brain so he'd do it just how I envisioned it; I'll want to do that with children too, about their lives! Plot them like books, design them like characters. I don't want to be a monster parent! I hope I will be able to control myself. I hope I will keep getting smarter.