[Written January 24, edited February 27]
I recently experienced what many would consider to be the most symbolic end of childhood: my parents sold our house, which the five of us moved in to in early 1994. It was not a surprise, except that the looking, buying, selling and moving all happened while I was living abroad, so I never got to say a "proper goodbye". Less than three weeks after my parents moved to another part of St Albans, my boyfriend proposed and we began looking for a house of our own, albeit in another country. After a decent amount of drama and stress we found a suitable place for us to start married life, in a historic district in Spartanburg, South Carolina. I'm sitting in that house right now, but I won't be moving in until after I graduate in May.
Hey look, I got into UEA! I got into Chapel Hill! I got into Ole Miss! Let's throw out any and all rejection letters.
It's amazing to me how much time I spent living in my own head. All the writing is proof of that. It is partly cultural, partly individual. My fiance had such a different experience of high school. He played baseball, he dated, he studied hard to get in to the University of North Carolina. He thought a lot about what people thought of him, but by his own admission didn't do much looking inwards. I was kind of a lone wolf in a lot of ways. I had a lot of friends, I had a lot of crushes, I spent time doing drama and ice skating and running wild (we are so lucky to have public transportation and to get to experience London) but I was thinking thinking overthinking all the time. I had friends and family say, you know I love you, but you have to stop thinking so much. There was a lot of mental torture that came with being introverted, but the gift was my writing, and I'm so happy for that. The tradeoff for being happier and healthier these days is that it's hard to be 100% immersed in my stories, the way that I witnessed my summer camp teens being. It's interesting trying to find a balance between my real life and the lives in my head. Either way, I think we should all remain at least a little bit childish as we age.
Speaking of writing, there were plenty of fictional pieces lying around. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I have 4 folders that are chock-full of stories. I found old stories/novel ideas and poetry, but my favorite was finding little scraps that I would later develop. I'd written a couple of paragraphs about a girl called Hayley who was apparently dating an older lawyer. I've no idea when I wrote that, but she eventually showed up in "We Can't Go On Like This", a story I wrote for Randall Kenan in Chapel Hill. I found a timeline of events for a summer love triangle between three graduates that years later morphed into "Gooseberry Pie", which I wrote last semester for Megan Abbott. It's funny to me that I physically stash the ideas somewhere and often forget I've done it, yet they float about in the back of my mind until I'm ready to organize them. I wonder if my husband-to-be will be driven mad by the unintelligible notes on the lives of made-up people.
I have two things to finish off with. Anna's family have moved house recently too - coincidentally to the same road as my parents! Our families just can't separate - so she's been engaged in a similar reckoning with the past. I found it hilarious that she came across two stories from when we were young teens, one by me and one by her; she is sure that she was just copying me. Hey, I've always liked to inspire others to write! I am sure that we made different choices in remembering and forgetting, just as we can recall different childhood memories (a hysterical activity regardless). So tell me: what do you choose to keep and throw away, both mentally and physically?
Lastly, I wanted to share a scrap of a story that I started in Chapel Hill. I must have been homesick because I set it in St Albans, which I'd resisted writing about before. It's about a rumor I heard many years ago, but I never found out whether or not it was true. I remembered it without deliberately trying to. I brought the scrap back to America with me, and for better or for worse I was going to type it up here - but now I have no idea where it is. It's probably hiding amidst Southern Studies notes. I wonder what will become of it? Maybe it will live in a drawer forever, or eventually be thrown out, or maybe it will inspire a fully-fledged story or novel.