My class is writing memoirs as school begins to head into the final stretch. It has made me do a lot of reflecting on my own life and stirred up quite a few memories. It seems, like Lucy Calkins would say, we tend to write about the same three topics all the time, without even knowing. When I look back through my notebook I tend to write stories about when I was a child, my grandparents and general things that happen to me that I find amusing. I often feel like writing more serious topics but for the most part I shy away from them.
So today, when I began my writing I was surprised that I started gravitating from a funny childhood story about getting punched in the face to something more serious. I found myself, without really knowing it, beginning to write a letter to my younger self. Here is some that I thought I would share…
I want you to know that I have been where you are and I often still feel the way you do now. When you are in the 8th grade you tell your mom that you are feeling “unhappy” in your life. She will say something that will stick with you for the rest of your life; however, you will be unsure what she means by it.
She says to you, “Tom, you make your own happiness.”
It’s not quite the answer you are looking for. It leaves you confused and kind of feeling like mom has given you some lame quote just to brush you off. And maybe she did at the time, but you will discover she is right.
You will spend the next twenty hears of your life waiting for something or someone to make you truly feel happy. You will start right where you are, trying to fit in and be “cool”, you will join sports teams, Boy Scouts, and attend church every week. But it is still not enough to make you happy. You will continue this trend on through high school…
... You get out of high school and give college a halfhearted attempt; you are more interested in a girl and partying. Married at 21 and with a baby on its way, never will you think that three years out of high school, would you be flunking out of college, getting married and having a baby. But…
The letter goes on from there but I am not sure that I want to share anymore of it. I do though want to share that my mom was right, whether she was being clique or not so many years ago, she was still right. You do have to make your own happiness.
Writing this made me reflect on so many aspects of my life. And it was interesting to look at it from this perspective. I thought about memories that seemed so far away and ones that were all too fresh, even after all of these years. I at this point have to ask myself, “What would have happened if I actually read this letter in 8th grade?” Would my life have been changed? Or taken a different course? Would my head have exploded? It’s an interesting series of questions to think about. Knowing me I probably still would have made all the same decisions; decisions that made me who I am today.
And if nothing else, as I always tell my class, this letter is full of small memories that I call “gems.” Gems that if not written down would disappear. And they are gems…at least to me.