My mother gifted me a small green notebook for my twelfth birthday. I was surrounded by many brightly coloured, glossy packages and at first glance, this trinket did not make much of an impact, my boundless love for stationery notwithstanding.
But it was a wonderful day and it was one of many pleasing things, so I grinned and expressed my gratitude. And then she told me it was for my poetry. My father interjected from the corner that I was to write only completed poems in it, and that fuelled a playful argument about poetry being a spontaneous outburst of emotion. Meanwhile, that gift had instantly become one of my favourite things.
The pressure of other people knowing I had a tangible outlet for my creativity (or in other words, my preteen mood swings) proved too great to handle for a very long time. When my teachers at school annoyed me, I wrote a poem about death. It was terrible. I knew nothing about anything, and it took six months for that piece of garbage to find itself being swallowed by flames. When we celebrated new year, I wrote another poem. It was terrible. It was entitled ‘A Song for the New Year.’ It was terrible.
I refused to acknowledge that it was terrible for the longest time, but subconsciously, I knew, because it was kind of obvious that my poetry was terrible. The subconscious repulsion led to me shoving that little book to the very furthest corner of my overstuffed drawer, and I did not open it for two whole years.
When I did, it was the same as finding one of your Facebook posts from five years ago and wanting to slap your old self. I wanted to knock her down a peg or two. She was incredibly pretentious. Kind of pathetic, yes, but mostly pretentious. Well, more pretentious than I am now. I’m sure five years from now, I’ll want to slap the idiot who wrote yet another poem about hating her life choices. Right now, I’ll just say I’m okay with shameless self promotion, since you’re reading this anyway.
Back to the book. So, two years later, I tore out the ridiculous excuses for creative writing that I’d managed to scrounge up – and please don’t tell me about savouring memories, no one needs to see those- and over the span of the next year and a half, I filled it up with somewhat better writing. For the most part.
Another two years later, I’m sitting in a completely different spot, I’ve upgraded to better stationery, and I’m supposed to be a better person. I’ve been cramming for my senior year finals for a few weeks now, and sometimes I get tired of it. Today I was thinking about the future, and about how amazing it’s going to be once (if) I clear my college qualifying exams and get into a good college and how amazing it will be once I’m done with college, and the kind of clothes I’m going to wear in five years, and about running into people from my past – you get the gist. Daydreaming, whiling away the time I could be utilising for something productive and beneficial to this fantastical future. So I reached for this book on the second row of my shelf and I was flipping through it with an air of superiority, when I came across a hastily scribbled piece of prose from when I was in a nearly identical situation in tenth grade (yes, it’s a national thing. Don’t worry about it.)
Fantasies of grandeur 03.03.2015
I’ve come to a crossroads. I have two choices- either work hard, or plan the consequences of hard work. It’s not the first time I’ve found myself meeting this ultimatum, but it’s no less daunting each time. I know I must work hard, but all I can do is imagine all the happiness that awaits me at the end of this trying period. If I work hard, I’ll have much to celebrate. And I know that. But all I do is plan out the party. I’m doing a lot more planning than working. Which makes me fear that I might not get to celebrate at all.
That sounds terrifyingly familiar to me. I guess I am the same person after all. My past has not done much for me. I’ve always been less than I could be. I don’t want to be the person who sat down to write that instead of studying History, days before an extremely important exam. I don’t want to look back years from now and hate myself for ruining my own life. If I think I’m doing enough, then I’m probably not.
The last thing I want to do is be stagnant. But it looks like I am. Twelve, fourteen, seventeen- it’s always the same. I believe people don’t change, but that they grow, as Sandra Cisneros wrote, “like an onion or the rings inside a tree… each year inside the next one.” But if I want to grow, I should probably stop looking behind me for direction. So, past self, go away. I love you, and I don’t want to kill you, because we all know that disturbs the space-time continuum, but I don’t like you very much. I know more than you do, and I have to be better than you are. You’re terrible. Just like your writing. If you want to spare yourself some embarrassment, stop writing that story about your own funeral. Please. It’s terrible.