Friday, August 20, 2010

High School Papers

I was looking over some old essays from high school today, and I was actually kind of surprised by how my writing wasn't as bad as I imagined it would be. I came across the old files and braced myself for a barrage of childish vocabulary/grammar and poorly constructed ideas. To my surprise (and relief), it wasn't as bad as I imagined. At the very least, I was comfortable enough with it to say, yeah, that was my stuff from when I was 16.

It strikes me as interesting that when we think back on the people we used to be, we sometimes view them as entirely different people from our current selves. Growth and change, yes, are an inevitable part of the human experience, but maybe we forget that, however drastically we think we might have changed, we always come back to home base--who we are, and maybe (if you believe in it), who we were born to be. Maybe we don't appreciate that enough? Or maybe that's just me.

So I imagined myself as I am now meeting myself from seven or eight years ago and hanging out. He's having a sprite, I'm having coffee, black. He's talking about wanting to do something truly original with his life, and I'm telling him he needs to get his head in the game if he wants to have medical insurance after college. He's telling me that when he meets the right girl, any problems will be easy to fix because they'll love each other enough to make it work. I sip my coffee and ask him if he even knows what problems he's talking about. And then I ask him what he would look for in a woman, and he goes off to describe someone who doesn't exist. I shake my head, thinking that someone should warn him before he goes off and tries to pin that description on the first girl he falls in love with.

How many girlfriends have you had? He asks. So I give him a number. Huh. he says, unsure of what to make of the information. Then he's curious as to how I got so much bigger, because he's been trying to gain weight, but it seems impossible for him right now, no matter how much he eats. He shrugs when we get to the topic of school, because it's all still just silly and meaningless to him. He doesn't believe me when I tell him Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming won't bring Houston anywhere near a championship. Finally his phone rings; it's his mother calling him home for dinner. He hesitates because he still wants to hang out, but I tell him to go home--his mother's a damn good cook. Before he leaves, he asks one more favor--he pulls out some folded up papers from his pocket and hands them over. I skim the first couple paragraphs and raise an eyebrow. It's not bad. You've got potential, kid, I say. He smiles and stands up, making ready to leave, and then scans me briefly, taking in all of the differences. The extra two inches, the extra 30 pounds, the white hairs and coffee-stained teeth. He tells me he likes to write, likes to daydream in the back of class, but above all, he cares about people. There are some he wants to protect, some he wants to help, and some he just wants to understand. One day, he tells me, he'll do it all. Does that change too? He asks.

And I think, despite the frustrations, the disappointments, and all the times I've just been flat out pissed off, my answer would've been, no, it doesn't change. So I suppose if I actually could talk to myself from seven years ago, I wouldn't really have that much to tell him. Except maybe not to miss the Spring 2007 drop deadline at UT.

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