In 2015, I went through all my old journals. I read through years and years of sadness, despair, hurt and anger. And I ended up burning them all. The point wasn’t to try to erase the person chronicled in those pages, but to get rid of the negativity that seeped out of them. Since then I haven’t really looked at any of my old writings. Earlier this month that changed.
I dug out the fiction I had written when I was younger. I’ve been a writer all my life and I have hundreds of files of stories, books, articles, and snippets. A good chunk of them I typed up years ago in old word processing programs like Word Perfect. And since the late 90s I’ve transferred the files whenever I got a new computer. After the files have sat inert and unopened for decades I had an idea for how they could be used in a project, so I went spelunking.
It took an entire day to get into the files. Some of them date back to 1996 and earlier. Some file names were only eight characters long, a clue to how old they were. My current work setup is an Android tablet and using Google Docs, neither of which could open the files. I ended up having to dig out my laptop from three machines ago, rename extensions, open and copy and paste text, save to a microSD card to move onto my tablet. At the start of the process I seriously questioned if it would be worth all the trouble. Was I going to be wasting a day on a task that might not yield anything useful?
I am nothing if not stubborn, though.
And what I found among the many hundreds of pages of typos, overwrought prose, cliched openings, and tortured metaphors was a version of myself I hadn’t seen in decades.
These writings were all from when I was sixteen to eighteen. I remember being pretty miserable then, I had burned the journalised proof of that. But all my story snippets came from another part of me, one that had looked for a better life in stories. As I read I remembered what had inspired me, where the story was supposed to go, how I was feeling when I wrote. This was a side of me that was still sad and depressed but also a little bit hopeful.
Since the publication of Sew Witchy I have several times thought of my past self and how happy she would be to see our name in print. Reading the words penned by my teenaged hands was less cringeworthy and more inspiring. I could see the line from those early years to today. It was nice to have a memory of my past self that wasn’t victimized and downtrodden.
There is, I think, another line to be drawn here, one from the ashes of my journals to the resurgence of my old creative writings. Oftentimes transformation is so subtle, takes so long, that it gets overlooked. We want to snap our fingers, work our spells, and “poof” be someone newer, shinier, better. We forget the lesson of the cocoon, where change is painful and slow. Being able to look back at the words I wrote yesterday, last year, and decades ago, gives me a clearer understanding of just how much I have changed, and the core that has remained.
The last time I encountered my past self I felt sad for her. Today I feel love for her. She was young and naive and full of ideas. I hope to carry more of her enthusiasm into the future with me. Together we can create a place where the parts of me that are still hurt can find their own peace.
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