May is a special month. Winter finally looses its chokehold on the Earth and at once everything seemingly springs to life, like the ending of a movie when the good guy wins. In May, men start getting down on one knee and handing girls expensive rocks. Pictures of happy couples litter my newsfeed. I lay on the lawn on the warmer days, hoping to bring some color to my abnormally pale legs. My sleep schedule gets progressively worse. I start out waking up at 8:30 almost instinctively. I stay up past midnight because the impossibility of sleep before then doesn’t appeal to me. Waking up increasingly later in the morning defeats my chances of sleeping like a normal person again. I sometimes eat. By that I mean I eat when I think “Oh yeah, it’s noon. I should eat lunch.” Other times food is neglected for whatever I’m immersed in at the moment. Neglecting food for work is a terrible habit that I should really quit before I die young.
Now my normally overstuffed closet lies bare. There’s a mountain of luggage in the center of my room. The hours pass slowly but quickly at the same time. On Friday I leave for Nashvegas again. I say “again” because even as I fold my clothes and put them in my suitcase my actions drip with deja vu. Suddenly no time has passed and I’m a year younger, deciding which of my belongings were necessary for the next three months. These days make me unbelievably sentimental.
I don’t know if you’ve ever had an opportunity to get a good look at who you used to be, but if you’re a writer, you know as well as I do that your past never really completely vanishes.
Oh no. Even if your memory is faulty (as mine has a reputation for being), chances are, you’ve written something during every stage of life thus far, and somewhere a composition of paper and ink exists detailing that time and place and exactly how you felt in it.
Oftentimes realizing that you essentially have a journal full of living skeletons, memories drenched in raw emotion, is freaking TERRIFYING.
C’mon. Don’t tell me you’ve never unearthed that love poem you wrote in a flurry of feelings for that brown-eyed sensitive guy from the bus you dreamed of marrying or that girl with the perfect hair you couldn’t get out of your mind. If you haven’t, perhaps you can imagine with me taking a trip back to your junior high school and walking down the hallway with 13 year old you. Would you cringe at the things coming out of your mouth? Would they seem so ridiculously ignorant with all of the experience you’ve accrued in the years you’ve lived since?
Now you understand:
Writers live through embarrassing memory hell.
Crack open the journals, let loose the blog posts. Everything we pen is immortal.
I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes my own writing makes me hate myself.
In my writing, I see my flaws.
I have this book of poetry I started during a rather emotional patch of my senior year of high school. Emotions often welled up within me during the most random of times so I properly armed myself with a thick journal. I would feel something. Rather, I would be overcome with emotion. Immediately, like Batman responding to a Bat signal buried deep within my dark poetic soul, I would hurriedly reach for my journal and scribble whatever thoughts came to mind, as though I was rushing to get them out before they disappeared forever.
Most of the time it was free verse. Professional poets would scoff at me. I have no concept of rhythm and meter like the most talented poets do. I can’t emote like Sylvia or say so much with so little like Walt. I just wrote because I was a hormonal kid and it was what I knew to do.
Nowadays, these poems come alive when I read them. I always wrote immersed in pockets of such deep feeling that putting these feelings into words left them etched permanently in my mind. Today when I read Poem J from two years ago about sitting in studyhall, watching the seconds click by on the clock as the last moments of my senior year slip away, I’m that senior in studyhall all over again, seeing “Years fast-forwarded to minutes” before my eyes.
The fluorescents burn my corneas as I sit on the edge of my chair.
Counting the moments as they pass
the almost silent voice of my clock whispers.
it is only audible in the densest of silences.
the minute hand clutches 2 within its fingers.
the hour hand vies for a grasp, ultimately winning as the minute hand
hovers over 3.
It’s almost. Time. Now.
Years fast-fowarded to minutes.
Soon it’s all over.
Of course, with poetry I sometimes venture into much more intimate subjects than senior year studyhall. I write about love and love lost. I write about periods of depression. Oftentimes I just attempt to make sense of my own feelings with words.
The point of all this discussion about my annoyingly emotional poetry is this: sometimes it’s easy to hate who you used to be.
There’s a lot of talk in the public sphere now about “self-love” and “self-esteem”, but what is self-esteem worth when we hate who we were once? The me of today is composed both of me yesterday and the potential of who I could be tomorrow. We can and must not forget that who we were needs love as much as who we are…because they are one and the same.
Does that make sense?
I’m saying…love yourself. Love who you were then, who you are now, and who you hope to be into the future.
The reason I cringed upon reading these poems (let’s be real – mostly the ones about love…lost) doesn’t stem from a petty embarrassment of my honesty. No – my cringe represents my distaste, and my distaste runs deep. I made stupid decisions. I didn’t think anything through. In my arrogant accued “wisdom” of today, I tell myself I know better now. I would never have made such a stupid decision now, at 20 years old! How foolish I once was!
I give past Angela zero credit. I don’t take time to reintroduce myself to her, sit down with her for coffee and ask her what influenced her thought process. I don’t stop to ask her where she was with God, or if she herself had weighed the options. No – it’s as though I’m in a petty competition with MYSELF, saying “I can do anything better than you. And that one bad decision you made proves it”.
Tonight I had a breakthrough, as I thumbed once more through my collection of poems, reading about my many heartbreaks at the hands of bonehead guys and my uncontrollable emotions on display on a multitude of different stages. I expected to read some of my most sensitive poems, the ones that make me shy away or blush at my sheer honesty, and immediately shut the book for another long while. This time something different happened in me. It was as though I took the hand of the past me, the me close to tears as I wrote heartfelt words through clouded eyes. I sat down next to her and I said,
“Tell me your story”.
And she did. She started to tell me that the words she’d written gave testimony of her heart at a particular point in time and her intentions alone made her writing valid. Who was I to point fingers and bully myself for being “foolish”?
I WAS LEARNING.
We all are. So why to we allow ourselves to be victims to ourselves? Why do we hold ourselves captive like prisoners the rest of the world deemed innocent long ago? We are our own worst enemies.
If I hadn’t made the stupid mistakes I made last year I wouldn’t be here. And here is a good place to be. I think I’ll stay.
There’s a Buddhist saying that goes:
“When your demons come, offer them a piece of cake”.
I love that! I think sometimes our demons are past versions of ourselves. We’re forgiving and loving to the rest of the world but we are hideous to ourselves. We cut everyone breaks but our own decisions are inexcusable.
So Past Angela, keep going. Keep learning. You’re doing your best. I’m done being your loudest critic. You can say I told me so.
So, friends, Nashville awaits. Adventure awaits.
I’ll keep you posted.
thanks for caring,
photos, as always: