I do not want to remember the awkwardness of my adolescence. I’ve worked hard to forget the embarrassments of my teenage years.
I’ve worked even harder to forget the things I should have been embarrassed about, but wasn’t.
In the Thornton Wilder play Our Town, the main character Emily decides to relive/watch just one day in her life, her 12th birthday. (At this point in the play, Emily has just died, and joined the other dearly departed.) It’s been a very long time since I read the play, but I remember this scene. The other “spirits” were trying to tell her to let go and move on, but Emily insists on looking back.
She quickly discovers how painful such reminiscing can be.
I’ve sometimes wondered what it would be like if I could go back and observe certain points in my own life. Even if I couldn’t influence anything… just to remind myself what it was really like… to compare my memories to the real thing…
But I have to learn from Emily’s mistake. There’s a reason time marches forwards. We need to put things behind us.
Those love notes I sent as “Your Semi-Secret Admirer” to a boy who, although he was kind, and a friend, didn’t return my affection? Ouch… I’d rather forget.
The clothes that were so tight that they showed off every bit of fat and flab? Did I really think that they “held me together” and made me look good?
I cringe. I shudder at these memories.
But I learned from those mistakes.
I’m not so graceless anymore.
That adolescent awkwardness has been replaced by… not quite confidence, but the knowledge that whatever life throws at me, I will handle, for better or for worse. If I screw up, I can deal with that and move on.
So why am I still afraid of memoir?
I don’t think it’s fear. I think it’s self-preservation. If I remember, then I’ll have to admit that I did screw up. I did embarrass myself. I should have felt embarrassed, while instead I smiled stupidly like nothing was wrong.
I’ve found my grace. It came with the confession that I am human, and fallible, and that once upon a time I was an awkward adolescent.
But she lives in the 80’s.
And I live in the now.
This was written in response to the Write on Edge Prompt: This week we’d like you to take her words literally. Think back to your own adolescence. With the perspective of time, try to find the beauty or grace in an awkward adolescent situation, even if there is only a sliver to find. Limit 400 words.
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