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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Early Passages

There is a fifteen-year-old living in my closet and head's up, it's not my daughter. There's a nineteen-year-old and a twenty-two-year-old in there too. I hadn’t thought of them in a while, skinny, pimpled and pig-tailed. Paula’s comment on Middle Passages last week comparing blogging to journaling reminded me of them, stacked on the shelf behind my hanging blouses, the subject matter experts residing inside the ten notebook diaries that I scribbled in for years. Curled on my yellow-checked bedspread under a matching half canopy, I filled those books with the notable details of my young-adult joys and angst, and I promise you the topics recorded on their pages will not be reported here. I do however, take them out occasionally to peruse, unfolding them like maps directing me back to who I was then—the person I believe I am returning to, in no small way as a result of writing this blog.

I haven’t meant for Middle Passages to be a journal although perhaps that is how it is perceived, but it serves as many things I am beginning to see. In February, of course it functioned as a release. There was no way I would have successfully navigated those first shell-shocked days of unemployment if I didn’t uncover the guideposts it offered. Today, as I plot a course though a tough job search environment, Middle Passages contains proof, evidence that I can hold to self-imposed deadlines and that I possess, I hope, a modicum of writing ability.

In addition to that though, I’m using it as a tool to exploit the snippets of life that, if not recorded, would fade to oblivion. One of my favorite writers (Seven Hundred Fifty Words) advised me once that good stories come from the small details that others overlook, and I’m trying to push myself in that regard. Fine writing uncovers the nuances, the unexpected actions that crop up, the twists to every day occurrences. With the general subject matter relating to my job loss and personal re-creation as a guide, those pieces are what I am trying to train myself to write, rather than recording the bla-by-bla of my days, which would; I’m sure, eliminate the few readers I have, P.D.Q.

For sure, those young ladies in the closet testify that I believe in personal writing. So much so that when we were required to keep a journal in Mrs. Rosenberg’s 11th grade Creative Writing course, aware that the teacher would be reading, I used discretion related to what I recorded in the red spiral notebook dedicated to the class. Rather than giving up my own diary for the two terms though, I wrote in both for the entire semester. During my senior year of college, our English seminar professor asked how many of us kept diaries and I was the only one who raised my hand. Professor Kaplan asked me “Why?” and I responded: “Because when I am ninety years old I’ll want to know who I was back then.”

To others, I suppose there is no difference between a journal and a diary, but here are my personal guidelines: Those ancient diaries hold the whirling thoughts and emotions that I needed to get out. This “journal”—A.K.A. Middle Passages--if that’s what it is, contains what I’d like you to read--a subtle but important difference that reminds me that when we repainted our bedroom a few years ago my diaries were liberated from their hiding place. My daughter, who innocently picked up one to read was shocked at my adamant denial. That ancient sixteen-year-old who wrote down everything is not ready for full disclosure; until my daughter is a lot older, the books in my closet are staying there.

This blog however, is part of the public domain. My daughter reads it, the rest of my family reads it, and strangers read it too. It is I guess, one way to generate an audience without winding my way through the challenging and complex aspects related to the publishing world, giving credence to Paula’s blogging comment: “It's a way to catch the writings of others we may otherwise not have available to read.”

I treasure those girls residing in my crowded closet. They were a means to grow my way through turbulent teenage and young adult years; they are sweet and na├»ve and I love visiting with them and remembering their lives. At this point though, I’m not worried about what I’ll think when I’m ninety. It simply seems that Middle Passages is an affective method to turn me into who I’m aiming to be right now.

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