This past weekend, my family cleaned out the basement. This meant I spent approximately 24 hours of my weekend going through boxes. As could be expected, I found some interesting stuff: my old yearbooks (signed by someone people I can’t place in my memory, by other people I’m [sadly] no longer friends with, and still other people I’m [gladly] no longer friends with), my 6th grade diary (so unbelievably embarrassing), all my old soccer cuttings (I was in the paper a lot, or at least that’s what it seems now).
As I said, most of it was interesting. There were, however, moments that were much more sad. A graduation card from a friend that I’m pretty sure I drove away through early college selfishness, a yearbook signature from someone who I didn’t even realize was a friend until she’d moved away—and a host of pictures that meant nothing to me at the time but that, nine years later, I’m able to see from a different perspective. You see, at the time, I didn’t think I meant a whole lot to anyone. I didn’t think anyone noticed me. But someone had, it turned out. In every group picture that we’re both in, this person is next to me. Leaning in. It’s so obvious now. But it’s also too late. By years. You see, we don’t even speak anymore.
And this was the point when the fiction writer in me realized that, as a writer, I have the ability to recast my past. Yes, things happened a certain way. I know that. I’m not trying to pretend they didn’t. But I have a new understanding of that past now, so in a way, I’ve recreated it. It’s like looking at the same scene from two different vantage points—the same things happen, but it all appears slightly different to the different observers.
This came up again earlier today, when I was being pushed around by someone online. This person had said some things to which I took offense. Most upsetting, he’d seemed to take credit for something in my life that had absolutely zero to do with him. Not wanting to be silenced (I’ve had enough of that over the years), I responded. But then I wondered, how can I let this go? How can I not end up shaking from anger and fear while hundreds of miles away? He won’t let me have the last word—he’s always right, you see. But then I realized, I can recreate this situation. I can refuse to acknowledge (or even notice) any response. Yes, he probably will respond, but in my reality, I finally had the last say, because that’s all I’ll allow.
I don’t exactly know where I’m going with all of this, just that these revelations have seemed—to me—to be directly related to my growing skill of a writer. I’ve noticed that I see the world differently these days, and not in a way that can be explained by the mere fact that I’m growing older, experiencing more. But I’m beginning to see that this is my life, and, to a certain extent, I can write it how I want it.by