Sorting my life from 1988-2004

my-life-from-1983-2004-unorganized-in-a-tote

This morning I pulled out my old plastic bin of journals from our shed in the backyard. I’m beginning the daunting task of sorting them with the intention to write about the epic trip we took across the country in the summer of 1988. That trip. It almost needs no other title. It was the trip from hell but for me as a very young and naive sixteen-year-old with no expectations and only a sense of adventure, I don’t look at that trip with bad memories at all. It was an adventure of a lifetime. It was a coming-of-age story. I took it all in with wide open fearful eyes and it formed me to be who I am today.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to ever really truly capture what it was for me. Unfortunately, my memories of the important details are hazy and only the spikes of drama really come into clear crisp view and those stories I can’t always tell because I need to protect my loved ones who are involved. I can’t share their stories for them and I probably don’t even remember them properly if I could. I just remember what I remember. My memory is not like a movie. It’s like a collection of pictures and feelings and glimpses. It’s a mess.

Later in my twenties I interviewed a poet once when I was working as a student writer for the Alumni Association Newsletter at Cal State Hayward. Quick tangent: What a funny job that was. It was work/study but I think it was pretty much a charity job—meaning I was desperately poor and the school figured out a way to help me. Anyway, I hated interviewing people (I was a painfully shy introvert) and I was the worst when I had no deadline. I’d sit at my old clunker of a computer (green letters on a black screen, typing in word perfect) and bang out an article maybe once a month. They pretty much paid me to sit on my butt, answer phones and occasionally file things.

Anyway I interviewed a retired professor who had published a book of poems. That’s mostly what I did, I wrote feature puff pieces on interesting alumni. He was from the Philippines and I remember he had a thick accent. He said to me, “When you write, you don’t have to start at the beginning and go to the end in order. Think of writing as if you were hanging up pieces of scenery on a clothes line. You describe something you remember and hang it up. Then move onto the next memory and hang that one up. Then when you have a bunch of memories you can move those pieces of paper around until it makes a story.”

What great advice that was. So that is what I’m going to do. I’m going to hang up pieces of this trip and not worry too much about the order they are in. I’ll sort that later. The important thing is writing.

2 Comments Sorting my life from 1988-2004

  1. Gingermog

    This is great advice ! I have been playing around with writing for the past three years or so. Going to classes. Attending torturous book groups, where you read out your latest chapter and get 20 odd people pitching in on it. I don’t recommend that.

    I love storytelling, its my passion I guess, visually as well as verbally. The oral craft of sharing, passing memories down to different generations. I drank everything in as a child listening to my elders. I feel I am full of stories woven within my very DNA. The magic of words printed on a page, drawing you into a land you’ve never been to peopled with friends you’ve yet to meet. Enchanting.

    But I doubt myself so much and have three children’s book projects I have yet to finish. Consistancy. I need to show up for myself more. This Winter I think I will write more short stories, give myself smaller projects. Milestones to achieve. I think purchasing a new keyboard would be a good idea too. This one sticks and I need to return and correct errors. A LOT!

    I’m looking forward to hearing all about your teenage road trip. Very brave of you to delve into that that of old stack of journals. I know my old teenage notebooks would make my toes curl. But why not, now is the perfect time!

    Reply
  2. Kindra

    Wow, what a lovely way of thinking of the writing process. When I read it I visualized hanging sheets to dry on a clothes line; each one with a lovely story. It would make a neat drawing/painting I think :-)

    Reply

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