Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Congealment of My Memories

There are some memories rattling around in my brain today. Three memories, actually. They come from my childhood. For the most part, I would say I have fewer childhood memories than I ought. It's nothing against my childhood, really. I think I replaced some memories from my past with episodes of Gilmore Girls by accident. From what I understand about the human mind (and my computer's hard drive), I only have so much room up there, and with seven Gilmore seasons, I had to delete some stuff. It could have happened to anyone.

There are some memories I have been able to salvage, but they are fairly random. It's kind of like when you tape over something from 1995, but every now and then you get glitches of old McDonald's commercials (Have you had your break today?). Yep. That's my brain.

Anyway, these memories which I am about to disclose never took on any real meaning for me before today. This entry is truly an examination of the mundane, the Slice of Life, if you will. Don't worry though. While these memories are as arbitrary as the ingredients in Jell-O (animal bones. Look it up), I believe they will congeal nicely.

Memory #1:
Let me preface this memory by saying that I have always enjoyed writing. I used to pride myself on this blister-turned-callous on my right middle finger which I received from overuse of No. 2 pencils (mechanical pencils turned my world around). I had notebook upon notebook of stories which I would read to all of my friends (this is a good time to mention that it's a miracle that I had friends). Writing was my thing and whether or not I was good at it is irrelevant. I did it. A lot.

In middle school, my English teacher introduced me to something called "The Narrative Arc".  See the diagram below.
I remember distinctly that we were issued an assignment where we had to fill out the above diagram with a proposed story. I was definitely down on the idea. In all of my years of writing (and at this point, I believed I was a seasoned veteran), I had never once planned my stories. I would start them with no concept of how they would end, and as far as I was concerned, that's how all great stories were written.

That's not how any great stories are written, by the way. Even so, I could not figure out how to do it. I'm sure I turned something in. I'm sure it was garbage.

After that, I stopped writing stories. True story.

This is not to blame my middle school English teacher. She was the best. No hate here.

Memory #2:
I was reading Lois Lowry's The Giver for school.

Maybe you've read this book. It's common in middle school curriculum from what I understand.

The story is set in a society where jobs are assigned to each person based on an assessment of their personal skills. To me, the idea of being assigned an occupation actually sounded pretty great. Already, at an early age, I was aware that I had no real idea of what I wanted to do with my life (and that I might never have any idea). To have someone evaluate my abilities and provide me with a calling seemed like an easy way out. It took all of the guesswork out of employment. Sure, I might be assigned the position of proctologist, but if those were my skills, those were my skills. To me, this seemed ideal.

Now, keep in mind that as a child and as a grown-up child, I had/have a tendency to read only halfway through books. This posed a problem when discussing The Giver with my mother. 

I told her all about the great realizations The Giver had brought me. I told her societies should be structured in this way and that if one exists, I would like to live in it. She promptly told me that this sounded like communism and that I was scaring her slightly.

It turns out that when I read further, I was able to see all of the faults of this society including (spoiler alert) the suppression of emotion, the intolerance of art, and the extermination of the elderly. Apparently, The Giver is a critique on man's attempt at a utopian society through such systems as communism and socialism.

My bad.

Memory #3:
I was reading a story. I don't even remember what the story was called. It was a children's book and I believe the main character was a penguin. On the other hand, he may have been a duck or a badger or something. I'm not going to swear on any animal at this point.

This character had been having a bad day. A really bad day. And I know what you're thinking, and no, I am not talking about "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day". Remember. This guy was an animal.

Anyway, this animal guy was having himself a rotten day because of snow. It started snowing and probably his car got stuck, maybe his shoes got wet...who knows? I don't really remember what his problem was with snow but he had a big one (problem, that is).

After his horrible day, he headed home and decided to draw himself a bath to warm up. The author made sure to mention that the character did not use bubble bath because it reminded him of snow.

This is when I remember thinking...whoa...this guy is really feeling low. For some reason, it really bothered me that he didn't put bubble bath in the water simply because it was faintly reminiscent of snow. Didn't he know bubble bath was awesome? You get to make a beard and pretend you're Abraham Lincoln. Why would he deprive himself of that? Also, how could something as innocuous as snow bring him into this low place? A grown man penguin (or duck or badger) sinking into a bubbless tub...because of snow...that's grim.

The Congealment of My Memories:
Once again, up until recently, these memories were bland tidbits that just seemed to stick a little too long in the recesses of my mind. Today they feel a little more important than that.

I have never been good at looking ahead. My best bet has always been improvisation to the point where I couldn't even structure a story without a nervous breakdown. When asked to plot out the future of my characters, I was almost insulted.

The irony in all of this is that in my mind, I am always attempting to look ahead. Unfortunately, all I see is haze and glimmers of possibilities. I am a worrier unlike any other. This is a result of my inability to foresee and my desperate longing to do so.

And that is why it would be so simple if someone would come to my doorstep and tell me my assignment for the next forty years. I know that this would make for an unjust society, but in my case, it seems like such a great deal. I grow weary of guessing what it takes to be successful because it makes me foolishly assume that once I have whatever it takes, I will be okay.

That is why, for the first time ever, I know why that animal didn't use bubble bath. I know why harmless snow brought him to ruin. What I didn't understand as a child is why someone would deprive themselves of something fun for the sake of decompressing. The reason is that even wonderful things seem to terrorize on days like that. Life is complicated enough without adding bubbles to it.

I might be becoming an adult.

Probably not though.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely blew me out of the water! And, yes, I was sitting at the computer laughing at some points. But all in all I think it is deeper than that.


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