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MAR
25

Adolescence and Memory

As a writer of memoirs, I mention a lof of people in the course of my writing. As a no-name author, I've been able to do this with very few of these people even knowing they are mentioned. I have a very small readership, see. And while nothing I write is vindictive and most of the interactions I mention in my books are positive (I remember my dad saying after my first book came out that he wished he were mentioned more), I do have a relatively constant worry that people I have mentioned will discover they are mentioned and be upset with me for mentioning them. 

Recently a girl I went to high school with contacted me to say she was reading my first book and loving it. I reveled in the compliment, but only for a moment, because this girl is mentioned in that book. She's mentioned most notably for hurting my tender adolescent feelings in a rather humiliating way as we began our sophomore year. I waited rather tortuously for her to get to that part in the book and scold me for outing her cruel slight, but the scolding never came. Instead I got a long and heartfelt apology from this girl for putting herself and her budding popularity ahead of loyalty and friendship. 

Of course, then I felt bad for making her feel bad about this silly thing that happened twenty years ago. I'd included it because the whole point of my first book was to make it a study of the things we learn from our school years that have nothing to do with textbooks. And being an adolescent girl is a study in itself. Her slight only affected me so much because I was fifteen, acutely aware of my own lack of popularity, and vastly influenced by the overamplication of any shred of it I gained or lost. So here was this girl, my friend, apologizing for this thing that had meant so much to me then, but now hardly seemed worth mentioning. I mean, what's the protocol for that?

I told her it was ok, because it was, and that it had been a long time ago, because it had. I'd made it through high school just fine, and my life had unfolded quite nicely despite her decades-old diss. So the only thing that really mattered now was that we were back in touch, bonded not at all by circumstance--our lives could not be more different--but by the shared memories of where we were raised, the people we had known during this time, and the uncharted paths by which we each navigated our adolescent selves, hoping for acceptance. 

The simple answer here is I really should be writing fiction. And believe me, if I could, I would. 

 

 

 

 

 

NOV
25

Thanks

I've been traveling this week, and it's the first time in probably years that I didn't bring a computer with me. I knew I wasn't going to have time for writing, plus I wanted my focus to be on my family, as they were the entire reason for the trip anyway. I'd be lying if I said I didn't at times feel crazy for being completely disconnected from the land of www, but spending so much quality time with  my family had me really reflecting on how grateful I truly am for the blessings in my life.

Last week a pretty harsh review of Schooled popped up that complained about the lack of opposition, trials, or legitimate "memoir" subject matter in the book. I won't go into how this person sort of missed the universality boat like I did in my popularity spiel inspired by another review (although I certainly could), because my reaction to this latest review has actually been one of gratitude. Not for the review itself, because reading it really sucked, but for the chance it has given me to be grateful for such a trial-free upbringing.

Let's be clear, this is not to say that there have not been trials. But compared to so many in this world, I've been fortunate. My parents are still married, and they treated us and each other with love and respect. We never had a lot, but we always had more than enough for what we needed. I was raised in a religion that gave (and continues to give) me hope and comfort in an increasingly corrupt world. I can see and hear and walk, and I've been able to receive a quality education that has prepared me well for the workforce. I could go on and on. I suppose if I had battled a drug addiction or escaped an abusive situation or been homeless or imprisoned  for a time that I might be selling more books. But personally, I'd rather be me, here, now, in my abundantly blessed yet somewhat less than noteworthy life.

OCT
03

Popularity Rehash

I had a dream about high school last night, that I was back in it. The reason, no doubt, is a review of Schooled that popped up this week, one that was quite critical of my story. I'm a big girl and can handle it just fine, and really the part of her review that I should focus on is the part that said she thoroughly enjoyed my writing and would buy any book I wrote (hard to imagine asking more from a reader), and I must further state here that I am so grateful for book reviewers in general; that they are willing to read the copies I send out and post their thoughtful and honest reactions. As an author, I truly appreciate the feedback.

The writer of this review said it was hard to hear me complain about being unpopular when it seemed like I had it all. And I've been thinking about this, because she isn't the first person to throw me a "You weren't popular? It sounds like you were" kind of comment. While I might argue that valedictorian and leads in the school musicals do nothing whatsoever to make a person popular, I do see her point. I had so many advantages and opportunities in those years that I suppose I shouldn't have complained about anything, ever. But as I tried to point out in the "On Popularity" section of the book, there is a difference between being successful and being popular. Advantages and opportunities aside, I was lonely. I remember begging the front office staff to let me have my own locker in high school because I had no one to share with. So the point of the book is not to pass myself off as a tragic figure (because I never was one), but rather to examine how even in the midst of academic success, all the average girl really cares about while in school is fitting in, having friends, and being perceived as worthy of the hallways' elite.

Bottom line: I get this reviewer's beef, I do. It could be easy to read my book and end up feeling frustrated that I still had the nerve to complain about anything, given my academic success and the admittedly charmed life I led. And had I not been inflicted with a warped adolescent brain back then, I might have been able to see that at the time and just appreciated this success instead of wish for the one thing I didn't have, which was acceptance by the popular kids. Because in the end popularity makes no difference. Although if that's the case, I wonder why I had my own locker even in my dream last night. Maybe it's a sign. Maybe I haven't come very far after all. Maybe I still crave that acceptance. Maybe I always will.

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