So, lately, I’ve been thinking about the time I spent in high school and the years immediately following. About 40% of these nostalgic meanderings are due to Facebook and my recent reconnection with a lot of people from the class of 1995. And about 60% is down to the book I’m trying to write.
All of this time spent reminiscing makes me wonder how much of my remembered high school experience is accurate. I always represent myself as being sort of tortured and miserable, but recently when I found some old journals (aka Mead notebooks with doodles and lyrics scrawled on the covers plus one puffy journal with a sunshine on it purchased as a birthday gift in Boston and given to me by Colleen in April 94, see fig. 1) I found the lack of angst kind of surprising. Up until November of 1994 I was actually pretty, I don’t know, happy sounding. In November 94 though I had my first taste of proper heart break (although I referred to it as a heartbend in an effort to feel less weak and affected by the whole situation) which went on to effect some of my close friendships due to the way I handled it and was handled by others.
Also, I always hold onto this image of myself as having been deeply introspective, sort of shy and quiet. But again the journals do not support this. The journals support an orange to yellow alert level of quirk, a sense of humor and an excessive level of inappropriate crushes, but I was hardly the disaffected outcast I would have liked to have been.
So what does this mean? Did I imagine all that angst? Or did I just not write it all down in my quit time? Was I really a well-adjusted teen with delusions of disaffection and dreams of being more like Angela Chase (although really she was pretty well-adjusted now that I think of it)? what is the truth of my adolescence and am I the most reliable memoirist for it? True I wasn’t into drink or drugs at the time, but with 13+ years between now and then how much can my memory be trusted? More importantly, what does it mean for the current version of me and the stories I tell people of the provincial backwater (admitted exageration) where I grew up?
I accept that most of my stories are hyperbole and I admit this freely. The novel is, ultimately, fiction even if it is loosely based in reality so I suppose my reality matters less than the new improved version of it I’d like the public to buy into. But where does the real me fall into this? It feels narcissitic to go back to old friends and ask for their thoughts on the matter under the guise of ‘research’ but maybe that’s not such a shabby idea. I could probably benefit from some new filters provided by people who are less involved in my ego.
Either way, I like the process of mining through my (potentially inaccurate) memories and trolling them for anecdotes that I can tweeak and shift into new experiences. I like changing the outcomes of stupid things I might have done when i was 19 and giving my main character the opportunity to choose her own adventure. I like the process from the dual perspective of creator and participant. I like remembering. Even the shitty stuff, sometimes mostly the shitty stuff. It tends to have the best punch lines after all