I believe there is a reason most parents throw away their children’s drawings and homework, they do it to rid away evidence of the child’s incompetence. But what do my parents do? They keep every piece of paper I have ever scribbled on. Going through it while I was home really freaked me out. I could see the progression of my intelligence. I could see that a drawing one year, a drawing that could not even be classified as an abstract piece of work, transform by the next year into a structured drawing of a rainbow, a swing set, a house. As Sandra Cisneros pointedly puts it, when you’re 9, you’re also 8 and 7 and 6 and 5 and 4 and 3 and 2 and 1. At 25 there are so many layers to what I know and yet at 25 I realize there is so much that I have yet to learn. I get scared thinking that in 10 years I’ll look back on all my work and laugh at how naïve and stupid I seemed to be, how if I had only known such and such how my life would be so much better.
What really made me laugh was going through all the gossip-filled notes I exchanged with friends in grade/middle school (yes, I kept most of them—I guess at the time I thought I could use them as blackmail if needed haha). Anyway, reading through them and seeing sentences like, “are you mad at her?” “who do you like right now?” “I don’t really like her, she acted stuck up to me in gym will you not be friends with her with me?” etc. etc. Makes me want to go back in time and yell at myself. What I didn’t realize, and what most kids don’t realize after going grade after grade with the same people their whole lives is that everyone wants to be liked, even the most popular kids struggle to find acceptance, and going to such a small school actually gives you a bigger group of people to relate to in the long run. When I look back on the people I didn’t really like at the time I realize that I didn’t like them for the most trivial of reasons and a part of me wishes I would have gotten to know them better. That I wouldn’t have been intimidated. That I myself wouldn’t have been so mean.
But alas, such is life. And I seem to have a talent for meanness that hasn’t faded with time. But luckily I have learned to balance it with thoughtfulness towards the people I care about, even if sometimes my 6th grade tongue unleashes its venom. I learned how to put up a protective wall at an early age and ever since have been tearing it down for love and friendships and then re-building it after each heartache.
I guess it’s good that I can look back on my grade school and middle school days and see the humor and the pain and understand that I didn’t have it so bad even if at the time I thought I did.
While looking through my stuff I found a coloring contest drawing of mine. We all had to color a picture of a stained glass candle. At the time I thought I had done a really amazing job (and so did other people since I was one of the winners), I remember having it on the fridge for at least a year and how every time I passed it the brightness of all color made me happy. And I remember how much confidence it gave me to know I could create something beautiful from something as simple as an outlined picture. But recently when I pulled the picture out of the pile and looked at it closely I noticed how I didn’t color it in that neatly, how there were still white spots, and how it was actually not really very pretty at all. This sort of bothered me. I’ve been thinking about it though; I feel we all have things that get us through—whether it’s something we create ourselves, a movie we watch over and over, a person, chocolate chip cookies etc. etc. And what got me through at the time was a drawing I managed to make beautiful in my 5th grade eyes; whether or not it is beautiful now is beside the point. Just sort of like whether or not I liked Clayton or Joe or Todd or if I was mad at Nicole or Margo or Alisa; at the time it is what we needed to learn about who we were and who we wanted to be.
All of the reminiscing makes me put my current situation into a clearer perspective. If I look within, at my own singular life (and not pay attention to all the shit that’s happening outside it) then I really can’t complain….well, I could complain, but I shouldn’t. I have it pretty well. And even if I look back in ten years and laugh at what I’ve created at least I’ve created something to laugh at.