Cleaning out the attic
Yesterday, while cleaning out the attic, I found the first complete story I ever wrote.
It was an adventure story, Zimbabwe Bob. Zimbabwe Bob and his sidekick, Clucker, a chicken with an attitude, are superheros tasked with stopping a group of one-eyed aliens threatening to extract the world of all its coffee beans.
It was an 8th grade school project and the final draft was shipped to a printer where it was spined, the pages bound, and the cover printed on glossy cardstock.
It was 1994. I was 14.
I also found folders and notebooks and binders full of dusty pages I had once written in high school and college.
There were hand-written sentences on the back of biology homework. Love letters on napkins. And the creative writing project I did in college–an overwrought, angsty collection of short stories entitled After the Rain, that made me cringe like flipping through a photo album of awkward pictures of yourself sporting bad haircuts and silly clothes except my bad haircuts and silly clothes were run-sentences and pages of sophomoric word choice.
Maybe I’m being naive or falsely remembering youth, but I believe that when we were young we all wanted a passionate life.
A life where we pursued the passions we loved. The passions that excited us. Made us feel powerful. Made us proud.
A life we didn’t need a vacation from.
But we grew up and learned passions are easily flanked by criticism and responsibility.
We let passions smolder, let time pass, filled our life with superficialities and when when we ran tight on room or time, we boxed-up our talents and stored them in the attic with the rest of our childhood.
Hide-and-go seek is a child’s game but adults are well-versed and play all the time.
We hide ourselves, our passions, our past–hoping no one will ever find us. We bury our heads in work and busyness and grow bitter and resentful. And we spend our adult days faking happiness we so crave.
Why do we do this to ourselves?
Why do we value hiding over being found?
Yesterday afternoon, as I sat on the bedroom floor reading my old writing, I thought about how 6 years ago, right before I got sick, I convinced myself I was done with writing. I was going to retire from classroom teaching and part-time writing, and pursue adult work, with adult titles and grow up.
I’m glad I didn’t.
And I hope you don’t either.