Sunday, May 16, 2010

The 16-Year-Old In Me

When I lived in southern California, I didn't understand spring cleaning. Why, on earth, would anyone save up all their cleaning for spring. Preposterous. I get it now. It's so cold, so bitterly and frigidly cold, here in the winter that I habitually chuck stuff into the garage where it goes to die. Then I simply shuffle back and forth between the house and the car and I ignore all the junk that's lying, haphazardly in my garage. Then the spring comes. I survey the situation, have a mild heart attack, and set to going through my crud.

This time I've actually been going through some of our boxes--the ones that moved with us from San Diego and haven't seen the light of day since. A few nights ago I stumbled upon a box of school work, crafts, and projects that my mom saved. There were handmade cards, paintings, a drawing of my hands at three. I discovered that when I was four my new year's resolution was, "To have a baby sister." Yeah. That never happened. I found a poem that I'd written to my mom in the summer of 1990. I was eight. It began, "God made hills/God made milk mills."


I don't even know what a milk mill is, exactly. Troy pointed out that in the United States we call them dairies. But, man, that was some fine poetry. It went on to list all the wonderful attributes of mothers including, but not limited to, the fact that they help their hubbys remember their briefcases.

I found drawings and portfolios and family trees. And then I stumbled upon it. An essay I'd written at the end of my junior year of high school. You know how I'm always saying that I don't have it all figured out? Guess what? In eleventh grade, I did! I read the essay with an incredibly dramatic voice to my husband and declared that if he'd seen this essay prior to tying the knot it would have been a deal breaker for sure. Every word foams with teen angst covered in the use of the thesaurus covered in an excruciating attempt to get an A (or, as it was, a 6) and dipped in pitiful overly confident goo. It's painful. It makes me embarrassed for the me of back then. I'm offering an official apology to my eleventh grade English teacher and, for that matter, anyone who knew me twelve years ago. I'm wondering if the me from twenty years from now will look back on the things I write and shake her head in shame. It's one thing to write beautifully tragic lines of poetry when you're eight and another entirely to turn in an essay in the eleventh grade that drips with lines like, "I'm ready 12th grade, here I come."

It begins like this: "Each day holds a new plan, making the start of each day the start of a new life." -Gina Blair. Where I even found such a banal quote is beyond me. The sun had not yet begun to lift its face over the mountain tops. I was warm in my bed, and still very asleep when my alarm began to beep obnoxiously into my dreams. So far, so good, really--for a sixteen-year-old. My eyes flew open and my arm routinely flung itself onto the insufferable little box. It was another day, but it was a new day. What? Who was I trying to kid? A new day just meant another day full of honors classes, swim practice and homework. Don't get me wrong, I liked my life, but it's not like I was off delivering babies or discovering cures for disease. A new day was pretty much just like the last one. The tiny tremors of the past days were nearly forgotten, the larger quakes were pushed into the back of my mind. Eh? I have no idea what in all the world I was trying to say by that wonderful mention of natural disaster. For every day throws us new problems and new delights, and each dawn, essentially beings a new life. New delights? Who talks like that? I certainly don't. We cannot return to the past, so we must try to change the future. Wait, what? Change the future? It hasn't happened yet. No changing need be involved. Was I a time traveler? This year helped me realize the truth that each day is a new life. In my life, I have been somewhere, I am presently somewhere, and I am going somewhere. Oh the brilliance. Really? You've been somewhere, you are somewhere and you're going somewhere? Stop the presses. This is major news!

Understand my level of humiliation when I tell you that it just keeps getting worse.

Young, a little nervous, maybe even a little insecure, that was me at the beginning of this year. Yes, my teacher made that comma a period and turned that lower case t into a capital. But do you like where this is headed? I can't possibly finish it up with, "And I'm still young, nervous and insecure." Oh no. The natural progression of things is that I'm going to explain to everyone how now, at the ripe old age of sixteen, I'm old, not nervous and completely secure. I need a lesson in life from this girl, clearly. I'll spare you the entire essay at this point and give you some of the highlights. I had direction, I had my schedule in my hand and I had a smile on my face, covering up my anxiety. Lies! Direction, maybe. My schedule in my hand, never. I always had it memorized frontward and backwards and tucked in the back of my binder. Never, ever, in hand. Anxiety? About starting a new day of school? On the day I went to seventh grade, yes. On the day I started ninth grade, probably. Eleventh grade, that's just hilarious. I must have been trying to convince my teacher that I'd been terrified to start school so that my later claims to know everything would seem more believable. I don't think I knew very much about who I was and why. That's a good claim there. I can relate to that girl. But the one writing the essay, the one who suddenly has it all figured out, I have no idea who she is.

Apart from growing as a writer and student, I have expanded my mind intellectually. Oh honey child, you should have stopped writing. Caedmon's Call sings a song called "I Boast No More". In my defense, it was released in 2001, three years after this dreaded essay was released. I don't believe that you ever truly understand your thoughts. There are too many factors, a changing world, faith, and the sheer complexity of the brain, to pin point what you are feeling and why. Good point, Lori. However, I do feel like I have achieved a strong grasp on my emotions, and on reality this year. Oh. My. Goodness. Um. Firstly, no. No you didn't. Secondly, if you did, you apparently regressed and need to give your 28-year-old self some lessons.

I have done some real soul searching this year and think that it's safe to say, "I'm ready 12th grade, here I come." There it is.

I do not really know if what I wrote about is what you wanted to hear. My money is on NO. I certainly could have written an entire essay on how I grew as an analytical essay writer and as a thinker and how I learned to interpret a book quicker. Somehow, I felt like you would appreciate an essay that told you about how I changed and where I stay in the future. I'm quite certain she got a kick out of me assuming what she wanted to hear was how I had figured everything out in nine months. I also don't know what I meant by "stay in the future."

And then I bring everything to a close nice and tidy like.

Mrs. Chapman, I truly hope you'll accept my apology. I'm so very sorry that you had to waste valuable time reading that drivel. Thank you for not taking a red pen and calling me a delusional, hormonal, crazy pants. It might have confused me. Although, maybe not. After all, I'd figured life out by then.

The moral of this story is not that we shouldn't write essays when we're 16. The moral of the story is that we shouldn't save the things we write when we're 16. *She says with a smirk as she sticks this awful essay back into her box for safe keeping.*


  1. oh, good heavens, lori this made me laugh so hard! thanks for sharing. i also have a box of stuff frome each school year that my mom packed away for me. haven't opened it yet and now i'm not sure i ever want to!

  2. As painfully lame as that was, I guarantee it's better than anything the rest of your class wrote. Or any 16-year-old at RHS for that matter. Especially me. Mine would have been far worse.

  3. Lori, you made me laugh and cry...once again! Your blog is such a gift as I can see the growth in you as both a writer and, much more importantly, a woman of God. What a privilege to have shared your life then and now. I love you lots and am so proud of you!! Mrs. Chapman

  4. I knew everything when I was 16, I'm glad I wasn't the only one :-)

    and, I love it when you mention Caedmon's Call because they are my favorite.

  5. If you think that was a hoot, just wait until you read the early mommy years blogging prose in a few more years.

  6. I nearly spit my coffe out, I was laughing so hard!

  7. Nothing compared to what I wrote and put in the Time Capsule. N.O.T.H.I.N.G. :)

    I did love the line about how you had no grasp on reality at the start of 11th grade.

  8. Lori, I want you to try and imagine the insanity I was churning out regularly for vocabulary essay assignments at Kings Christian High School. I wasn't much kinder to my female protagonists than I am now, nor a bit less macabre. Somebody actually got killed in a ritual cult sacrifice in one. We got extra credit for reading them out loud, so one guess as to who did that every single time. You remember my early and not so early college writings. I feel like I might win?