Ancient Me

Everyone has days when their thoughts seem profound and unique. For a writer, that day is always yesterday.

Before blogs were invented, normal people either kept their profound thoughts to themselves, they thought some more about them, or wrote them down so they could go back and look at them later. They might have told someone else, but they most likely would not have broadcast them. After reflection, they might crumble up that note, evidence of their own silliness, and feel glad that they hadn’t spoken it aloud.

I’m sure many great thoughts were sent into the dustbin in this way. Many foolish notions also found there way there, though some did not. But history, which might have been cluttered with more inane discussions of things that don’t matter, is much neater as a result of this self-editing process.

Now we all have the means (and maybe even the social obligation) to broadcast our thoughts, profound and not-so. Enough people have blogged / tweeted / networked about the weblog / Twitter / Facebook phenomena; I won’t dig through that clutter again.

Let me just say one thing, though: if you haven’t uploaded a profile pic, you are either antisocial or really ugly. That is what fifteen year olds think, and I know because I asked twenty-nine of them. In this conversation, I suggested that privacy may be a concern for some people; they don’t want their face and their information all over the internet. All twenty-nine of them looked at me blankly. “Why not?” one finally asked. “Are they sex offenders?”

Like many writers, I have kept journals since I was young — way before Al Gore invented the internet, even before Steve Jobs invented the personal computer. These are not ‘hard’ copies; they are ancient manuscripts — there is no ‘undo’ or ‘undelete.’ What they say is what they say; if I throw them in the fireplace, they are gone, not hiding on my hard drive somewhere.

Some of those journals are in a box on the top shelf in my closet. When I filled those pages with my profound thoughts, I had every expectation of looking back at them, reflecting on my own wisdom. When I moved into my current house, I carefully labeled the box so it wouldn’t accidentally get thrown out or stored with stuff for the garage sale I’ve been meaning to have. The layer of dust on that box is undisturbed. My profound thoughts mold away in the darkness, waiting to be re-discovered.

Thinking about that box made me want to get it down and have a look. This is important research; those manuscripts might once and for all answer the question, was my younger self as inane and self-absorbed as I recall?

The first thing I notice is that my handwriting has not changed. Every line of those notebooks is filled with the same slightly lumpy letters I’ve used since seventh grade, when they finally stopped making us use cursive. If handwriting gives evidence of who a person is, I am still a seventh-grader with bad penmanship.

Looking in these pages is like finding the Dead Sea Scrolls, only instead of something important, I’m reading, “Got up late today. Couldn’t figure out what I want to do.” And, “Why am I so depressed?”

There are many entries that begin, “I feel it’s time to re-evaluate my life, set some goals. By this time next year, I want to be blah, blah, blah…”

And then there was this: “Reading old journals is sort of scary. The me I see there is not so different from the me I am today. Have I changed so little? All this time I thought I was growing up…”

My research is done. Think I’ll start a fire.

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