Thursday, August 4, 2016

Newly Polished

One of the reasons that I know I'm never going to grow up is that I never invalidate my younger self. I never look back and think, "Wow, why was I so upset over that?" "What was I so worried about?" "I can't believe I reacted that way!" "I was so silly back then!" Never. I see a lot of adults bonding over the silly mistakes they made when they were younger, and I can't bond with them because I don't look back and think that anything was silly. I've seen other bloggers say that they can't believe what they wrote five years ago and they hope no one ever reads it, and I don't feel that way about any of my writing. I mean, I feel that way about some of my much younger writing, but it's more about the writing style and quality, rather than thinking that the point I was trying to make was a silly one.

There are some things I feel bad about. When I was in high school, for instance, I was one of those happy-all-the-time people who went around acting as if happiness was your own choice and that high school was objectively awesome and that my classmates who were much less privileged than I was needed to just choose to enjoy high school for the awesome experience that it was. This was bad, and I feel like a jerk for acting that way. (I did this because I came from a very strict K-8 school, and public high school was a dream come true for me. I'd never found anyplace else that I belonged like I did in high school). And if that weren't bad enough, I was working on this personal essay called "The Truth about High School," which was going to be all about how much fun high school was and how all the bad things people said about high school were just rumors to scare you. Now, there would have been nothing wrong if I had just wanted to write a story about my own high school experience, but in this essay, I was basically speaking about my personal high school experience as an objective truth, and I was hoping to get this essay published. Looking back now, I'm very grateful that I never finished the essay and never showed it to any friends. That unfinished essay is one of the few things that is in that pile of things I wrote when I was younger that I would never want anyone to see.

The essay was wrong because it treated my own experience as universal, invalidated the feelings of people who didn't have the good high school experience that I did, and it put the blame on people for their own unhappiness in high school, regardless of what was going on in their lives. I would never say that any of those things are okay now. But here's the thing: none of that stuff was the intention of my essay. My intention was not even to make everyone be happy all the time. See, when I was at my K-8 school, our teachers always tried to scare us about what life would be like in the future. Since it was a Catholic school, our teachers often referred to public schools as scary places where we wouldn't survive, which is not only offensive to everyone in public schools, but it was hurtful to those of us who belong in public schools. I seriously considered continuing Catholic school for high school because of the way everyone talked about public schools, which would have sucked. But beyond that, everyone had this attitude that you had to suck it up and deal now because everything was just going to get worse later on. (Note: If someone is telling you that they're not okay and you tell them that things will only get worse later on, you are flat-out encouraging them to kill themself. Remember that.) And my desire to tell the whole world how awesome high school was was my desire to fight against the notion that things only get worse! The purpose of my essay was to raise a generation of kids who wouldn't be scared of the future, who would know that things could get better, and who could never get "scared straight" into behaving because in high school you have way more freedom to do what you want than the younger grades anyway. (At least I did, going from Catholic school to public school. I don't know if that's true for everyone). "The Truth about High School" felt like a secret that adults were trying to keep from kids, as a way of getting them to behave, and I was going to reveal the secret. That's what it was about. I know the essay itself would have been super invalidating, and I don't agree with that at all, but if you peel away the execution of the idea down to the core purpose, it's still something that I agree with. It's still something that I'm fighting for. I'm just using a different approach.

Remember this poem? The part about A+B=C was the same core point I was trying to discuss in "The Truth about High School." It's a little weird that the core of an essay on life being awesome can be the same core of a suicide poem, but it is the same core. Just a different approach.

When I think about how I felt in high school, I'm in a similar situation now. College was a nightmare and I was told that things would never get better, and now things are better. But I understand that things aren't better for everyone. I understand that the best way to address the problem that people told me things would never get better is not to write an essay to reveal the secret that having a job is actually way better than being in school and nowhere near as bad as everyone made it out to be when we were in school. Because a lot of jobs are that bad, a lot of people aren't in a good situation at my age, and everyone doesn't necessarily have a better life out of school than they did when they were in school. So what did I do about it? I wrote a section about this issue in my validate book, addressing the issue directly. I didn't say, "Everything gets better in high school/post college" or anything like that. I explained why it's not okay to tell people that everything is going to get worse. And at the end of the book, I did reveal a "secret" about the "real world" - that you are part of the real world and you can help make it the kind of real world that you want to be in.

My point here is that even though I disagree with "The Truth about High School," because of the invalidation, I know where I was going with it. I understand what I was trying to do, and I still agree with that intention. I still fully support that intention. I may look back and think that I can't believe what I was doing with the essay, but I don't make fun of the point. I'm still addressing that point, and I will probably always be addressing that point in various ways, in various writing pieces throughout my life.

The validation book began as a list. I went through my entire blog starting with June 2010 (four years' worth of stuff at the time, as I started in August 2014) and listed all of the concepts I wanted to address. Some sections were copied and pasted from my blog, and smoothed out later on. So, even though I'll be closer to thirty when my books get published, most of the stuff in it was written when I was in my early twenties. I say that because people look back and think, "I was so young and stupid in my early twenties and what was I thinking?" but I don't feel that way at all. I practically wrote this whole book in my early twenties. The polish is new, but the core has been there for a long time.

As I was going through my old blog posts, I skipped over The Unencrypted Truth because it's been so long that I didn't want to bring up those memories again and end up feeling bad. I thought the risk of feeling too bad to continue writing was greater than whatever I might gain from reading it. Sometime just before I sent out the first draft to everyone, I decided that I had to skim through The Unencrypted Truth to see if there was some really important issue that I would later regret leaving out of the book. So I skimmed it. And you know what I found? Everything had been addressed. I did not reference this essay at all while writing my book, and yet everything in the essay got addressed in the book. And I recently reread my apartment community guidelines and found that those are also all addressed. And that dreaded essay, "The Truth about High School," the essay that I first outlined when I was fourteen and now look back and say, "What was I thinking?" The point of that essay also made into the book. And I'm willing to bet that if I could somehow go back and remember every issue I talked about when I was younger, everything that I wanted to do something about, I think about 90% of everything would be addressed in the book.

I will never grow up because I will never invalidate my younger self, and when you buy my book, you are supporting me never growing up. Because all of the concepts, in truth, are things that mattered when I was younger, things I've kicked and screamed about my whole life. The core has always been there. It's only the polish that's new.

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