Not too long ago when my parents drove out from New York, they brought my high school yearbooks. In almost all of the signatures, the ones saying how we’d keep in touch, the ones saying call me over the summer, more exclamations then you could shake a stick at, something very strange became apparent.
They all said to remember them when my book got published. At seventeen, from all indications, I knew what I wanted. I got out of writing a report on Light and August, by promising the teacher I’d write her a play. She headed up the school magazine, and needed it. I had no interest in the report, and voila, a partnership was born.
My play was awful. Awful. Then they edited, and it became not only awful, but additionally it made no sense. That didn’t stop my confidence that I would in fact be an author.
In seventh grade, a kid prone to depression, I wrote all the time. Journals, poetry, any form I could use to express myself. Then one day, my mother found my diary where I had written about her, and there was hell to pay. She wouldn’t admit to it but openly commented on things I had written, anger with which I had nowhere to go because my father would have stomped it down in a heartbeat. She humiliated me. I brought everything I had written up until then, and quietly tore up the pages during loud parts of classes at school, disposing of them in different garbage cans for fear anyone would read anything.
Now, should anyone think time heals and I look back and laugh, I don’t. I’m not built that way. I kept ruminating how she could hate me so, and not wonder why I wouldn’t hate her back. I was in seventh grade. Who doesn’t feel that way at times?
That is now many years, relationships, lives later. It has taken me this long to write something without fear that it will be read. But it has left a horrible scar, not to the rest of the world, trust me, people have far greater concerns. The scar is that part that I can’t shut off. I’ll start to write a scene, and if it gets too messy, too ugly, I start to think about my parents, and how this would embarrass them, and on and on. I think about how I should write about something neat, clean, something sweet and nice and something that would be nice for them to show off.
And I can’t tell you how much that pisses me off. Almost thirty years have passed since something was read that I didn’t think would ever be read. I fight that feeling often, that feeling of hurting someone. I talk a good game, but I do care what people think. I hope, that when I’m done, the story is just so compelling that the ugly isn’t held against me. Then again, what would we be trying to desperately work out on paper if our lives were so, so neat?
In the end, I wonder if I’m a better writer for it. I wonder if because I’ve been writing for so long in my head, and reading because it was far safer, far easier to keep your distance, if because of all that, maybe, just maybe, now is the time.
I do know that when I read the yearbook comments, a little bit of my heart broke. What happened to that girl who thought she could do it? Maybe though, I just wasn’t ready to do it before.
I’m ready now.