Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How Far I've Come

I've been spending a bit of time lately with the me I used to be.

Freshman year of high school, my English teacher, Mr. Montgomery, assigned us a class project to begin keeping journals. I was so into it that when the official assignment was over, I kept on writing for myself. I checked in almost daily, beginning each entry with "Hey Mont," which was what I always said when I walked into class or saw him in the hall. I wrote in my journal all through high school (and over the summers), and when I left for college in the fall of 1992, I left behind eight notebooks that pretty much documented my life over those four years. As you might imagine, it's something I'm really proud of. The collection (plus a couple of failed restarts) is one of my most significant possessions.

About three weeks ago, I decided to bring up my journals from the basement and take a trip down memory lane. It's been a long time since I've done this, and I was instantly struck by how lame, fickle, and impressionable I was. Oh, and did I say lame? For example, multiple times I wrote about how uncool I thought people who drank alcohol were. "I haven't smoked, drank alcohol or done drugs yet and I don't ever plan to," I wrote during the fall of sophomore year. Other times I would bitch about something — a person, a class, whatever — and then an entry or two later, I had completely changed my opinion. You'd think I truly hated going to summer camp if all you read were the entries from the first half of summer 1989; by August, camp was the best place ever (no kidding), somewhere I wrote about for months after.

In addition, I used some pretty awful language — and I don't just mean grammar and spelling (I must have misspelled "honnestly" about a bjillion times, for example). C-words, f-words, racial and ethnic slurs, derogatory terms ... I couldn't believe this was me who had written such things. It was horrifying.

I was also embarrassed to see just how little game I had with the ladies back in the day, and just how gullible I was when people said and did things to me. I mean, really ... the BS I bought that people told me. Apparently, I just missed making the tri-state softball team at camp (something that really did ease the pain of not making the cut at the time). Apparently, some of my classmates really would have dated me if they didn't have boyfriends. There were people I thought were my friends but who clearly weren't. And so on. It's ridiculous the crap I believed back then.

But it wasn't all bad. It's fun to remember how much I enjoyed calling up WPLJ and either winning contests or introducing songs or whatever. I did that a lot. I was totally into the first Batman movie (even though I didn't love it when I actually saw it). As noted, I had really fond memories of camp and the people in my group (despite saying a lot of mean things about them during the summer). There were so many women I had crushes on that went unrequited. And I truly hated New Kids on the Block. Too funny.

The point is, reading my own words more than 20 years later is both scary and totally amusing. I had forgotten so much of what I said and did, and reliving it (in small doses) is quite an experience. Still, how great is it that I have this document of my high school years? When I'm older, I can share these with my kids and say, "This is what I was like." It's a time capsule that photos could never capture, and it's truly invaluable to me.

I'm only in December of sophomore year right now (just after I appeared in the school production of Ten Little Indians) and I'm looking forward with mixed emotions to continuing. One thing I know for sure: I'm not the boy I used to be, and I'm proud of how far I've come.


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