A few weeks ago, I started and nearly finished a post about my tenth high school reunion and all of the memories of high school it catalyzed into reminiscence: its integration and diversity – and lack thereof; the first transgender person I ever knew personally; my own awkward niche that I wiggled around in uncomfortably; the socioeconomic differences between all of the cities and towns that our high school served (from Detroit, as a “school of choice,” to the wealthy suburb of Pleasant Ridge.) It was shaping up to be an excellent post. It really was. But you will have to take my word for it, because I closed wordpress somehow without saving it, all of the many many paragraphs disappeared, and I became too disheartened to write it all again.
Here, instead, is a much less cohesive post.
In high school (back to high school) I had a “livejournal,” which was basically just a blog, except that it was back when people didn’t use the word blog as frequently as they do now. I actually used this “livejournal” until June 17th, 2008, and it stills exists online, where things gain immortality. You can find it here, and you should feel damn honored that I have given you a link, because the things one writes between the ages of 16 and 20 can be very, very embarrassing.
I was thinking about this livejournal of mine recently. I used to write these entries that were enlivened, mad, spitting with passion. Because that’s how I was. I was righteous and angry about politics and politicians and sexism and air pollution and unequal elementary school education. I wrote posts that went like this one (the day after Bush won re-election):
I am so depressed. You have no idea.
In the next four years, here’s what we have to look forward to:
– reinstating the draft
– outlawing abortions
– completely getting rid of gay rights (and making it a part of the constitution)
– starting more wars
– increased oil dependency
– dirtier air, dirtier water, crappier environment overall
– rich people getting richer, poor people getting poorer
– everyone hating the U.S. even more
– more terrorist attacks because everyone hates the U.S. so much
– etc, etc, etc
At least Michigan went Kerry. At least I did all I could.
Also, livejournal had a place to fill in the “current music” you were listening to, and I put – and I quote – “my own sad little tears inside.”
There were 89 comments left on that histrionic post now, and many more have been long-deleted. I remember teachers were asking me about it the next day at school. It became a messy debate, like comment threads on the internet do so well, but instead of between strangers, the debate was between a couple dozen of my fellow high school students. We all knew each other. The debate spilled over into in-person discussions in the hallways at school. In other words, I started shit. (Everybody was starting shit. That election riled things up. At least for awhile.)
Later I wrote all kinds of impassioned posts about affirmative action (which, at the time, strongly worried me, because I was afraid it was being used a band-aid, a fix so that people could move on and forget about the real wounds, the ones that started in elementary school, in kindergarten, at birth. Actually I still think that, but I get why we need it now.) I wrote ridiculous, pretentious, instructive letters to people I’d never even met (usually with at least a little bit of accuracy mixed into the instruction, if I can say so myself.) (Here’s an example of what I mean.)
I used to just write things. I didn’t think long and hard about making sure I was correctly portraying the correct viewpoints of every stakeholder, or worry too much (just a little) about being offensive. I didn’t stress endlessly about making sure each post was about something that held a little relevance to my audience. I just wrote about what I was happy about, or mad about, or deeply emotional about in some other way. In short, I was very much an adolescent, and all of that sometimes made for really awful posts, but.
I left high school and went to college, and then to grad school, and I lived in a tiny rural ranching town and in New Zealand and in national parks, and some republicans became some of my best friends and turned out to be actually really smart and good people (gasp), and some of my friends had abortions which strengthened the pro-choice sentiment I’d always had without thinking much about, and I worked for the federal government and for tiny nonprofits, and I met people from all around the world and from many different walks of life, and there were people I knew and loved dearly who suddenly had bigger scarier problems than anything I’d ever thought about before, and basically – not all at once, but cumulatively – I started to see the world as the endlessly layered, shape-shifting, delightful and terrifying blur that it is.
And my writing got more measured, more toned down, more questioning. I became less sure of myself and I am still angry, but sometimes I don’t know what to be mad at more, and anyway nearly everyone or everything I’m mad at has two sides, and even if it’s just barely, I can see both of them.
Sometimes (lately) I miss the Liz Dengate that started shit. That stayed up late, with scratchy eyes, writing heart-felt treatises that she couldn’t wait to share with the world and get reactions with. That loved to dive headfirst into crazy arguments. That just thought, “To hell with it, I believe the world can be better than this, let’s go.”
I’m 28 now, but I still have no idea what the heck I’m doing (most of the time). (See what I’m doing? Adding a caveat to everything? Letting no sentence stand on its own, unchecked?) Perhaps in another ten years I’ll look back on this blog and chide myself for wasting the airspace, as it were. This is always the issue – not only to strain through my thoughts and decide how to share them with the world, which to share, and how much – but to plunge into the thoughts themselves and discern the valid outrage from the reactionary.
Come on. You. Reader. Fight with me. Come at me. I want your jabs, your ridicule, your questions. If you don’t want to do it here, or with me, start something with your friends. Let’s have a conversation – one with the volume turned all the way up.