For the first time in a few months, I felt like unpacking a few more boxes and reclaiming the clutter room for our use. One of my boxes was pretty much stuffed with old papers- pay stubs, birthday cards, college homework. A lot of it is in the recycling now, which is good. But some of it…
Seeing a few of the items set off strong responses. Not panic attacks per se, but something close: rushing heartbeat, wide eyes, shallow breaths, a wave of emotion. It was hard to handle it, to keep my cool and finish my day, but I did. The papers are sorted, all of the scraps are off the floor, and it’s pretty much handled. Two of the hardest items came from college, but from different years.
The first was a note from my “little” in sorority, who got assigned to me right before my health issues forced me out of school and I was at the brink of suicide. I can’t remember if I was already in medication fog at that point or not, but I may well have been starting into it; I think I was diagnosed a year or so before that point- maybe? Either way, it was a dark time for me, and I never connected to that young woman. I don’t know her name; I barely know her face (she was blonde); and she never got what she wanted from our group. It’s too bad, but I can’t apologize. I have no idea where she is now. Hopefully she handled it alright.
The second item was a collection of stories written for one of my senior classes. They all have cricisms written in unfamiliar handwriting and I just remember how the classes were run badly. The author never got to speak at all, even if the classmates or professor had questions or were confused. We had to listen silently while people tore us apart or completely missed the point of a story or made off topic comments.
One of the stories I found… I wanted to write about a kid and his dog, so I wrote these short little questionnaires for 4th graders, and had a teacher I know ask her students to complete them. Just simple questions about dreams, hobbies, and things they would do if they wouldn’t get caught. Their answers were adorable, and I marinated myself in them: carrying them with me for days, reading them over and over, following the memory trails they triggered. It was wonderful.
I wrote my story based on their input, and on one of my breaks, I drove back home to read the first chapter to them. They enjoyed it, they said it sounded like a kid, and they all wanted me to finish it. It was great. I researched, wrote, and won over my target demographic. I loved it.
But the 22 year olds and the 50-something professor? They did not like it; did not believe it; did not care for any part of it. So I sat there in silence, listening to these really, really old people trying to convince me that they knew my target audience better than that audience knew themselves. It was horrid, you know. I remembered how excited the kids had been to be asked for help by an adult, and to see that adult use their help to make something. It just seemed wrong to have something so beautiful torn apart for something as meaningless as a grade.
I threw those stories in the recycling bin. As soon as I saw the comments, I remembered the pain. I can’t keep them. I can’t.
I never finished his story, either. After it was attacked in class, I didn’t have the heart for it any more.so in the end, I let them down too, because I never finished the project they had contributed to, even though I told them I wanted to. I can’t apologize to them either.