Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ten Years Earlier

For the past few weeks, I've spent a lot of time sorting through and organizing the accumulated clutter of the past twenty-seven years.  For whatever reason, I kept every single college notebook.  Heck, for the most part, I kept every single high school notebook.  My spring cleaning endeavors were long overdue.

A lot of junk has been chucked.  I condensed twelve boxes from my classroom into two, keeping only items that may yield some value in my new life as a non-teacher.  Personally, I think I deserve a tax credit for the hundreds of dollars of school supplies I donated.  I'm just throwing that out there....

Last weekend, I stumbled across the journal from my Senior English class.  I had kept it in my classroom, and every so often, would randomly open to an entry and read it to the kids.  They enjoyed it, especially since I was adamant about reading it as written.  Apparently, seventh graders are very happy pointing out their teacher's writing errors.

Coincidentally, J.M. Tohline's latest post discusses journaling.  I've always kept a journal of some sort, whether it be a course requirement for Senior English or personal rants stored in a computer folder.  I enjoy writing pieces that let me hear myself thinking.  I enjoy writing something that teaches me in the process.  I enjoy that that feeling I get when I finish a piece and realize that, over the course of writing it, I learned something between that first and last sentence.

Jordan's post ignited some desire to dig out my old journal, one of the few artifacts that made the cut and avoided a field trip to the nearest landmine.  This afternoon, I took a closer look at my thoughts during that time in my life.  It had been at least two years since I actually read an entry, and interestingly enough, I discovered one was written on March 15, 2001 - exactly ten years ago today. 

Reading over my thoughts - thoughts that scream they were written the last second before class - I decided my teacher must have really liked me to give this piece an A.  And although ten years may not have brought me as far as I once hoped, at least I have tangible evidence of some growth. 

So, just for kicks, I thought I'd share the words I handed in on March 15, 2001.  After all, I've done much worse to embarrass myself before.  I'm posting it the exact way it was written - mistakes and all.  Remember, I was seventeen when I wrote this.  And no, I have no idea what I was babbling about either.  Most likely, I just needed to get it done.

Prompt: If you could teach the entire world one skill, what would it be and why?  The skill may not be one of talent (i.e. singing, sports, dancing, etc.).  It must be a skill linked to our personality and/or character development.

     If I were given the ability to teach the world one beneficial skill, I would teach everyone to maintain a high level of self-confidence.  Over the past several years, I have reached the conclusion that self-confidence is a trait that does not exist within the lives of many individuals.  Since this is the case, my choice would be to teach everyone to believe in themselves and their abilities.
     Self-confidence appears to be an esoteric concept that is only understood by a minimum number of people, especially when considering the teenage population.  Lack of self-confidence causes people to become emotionally unstable.  This feeling often turns people in the wrong direction, as many look for alternative ways to compensate for this lacking characteristic.  Everyone wants to feel good about themselves, but sadly, too many people require assistance to achieve this mental state.
     Lack of self-confidence is often caused by feelings of inferiority.  Verdant people make rude and negative comments to boost their own egos.  Unfortunately, too many people choose to believe comments made by others rather than simply ignoring them.  They allow others to make them feel worthless because they feel worthless themselves.  It is so depressing that people are unable to believe in themselves.  Because they are feckless, they allow their lives to go down hill.
     Self-confidence is an area that I would definitely choose to teach everyone in the world.  I believe it would offer a positive impact on society and people would become better individuals making better decisions.  I have always believed that every person has a gift, and that gift correlates to their purpose on this earth.  Therefore, I would like to see everyone have the confidence to unlock their potential, discover their purpose, and go out and make things happen.  In order to do so, we must first believe in ourselves.

Interestingly enough, my piece focused on teaching the world a skill I have yet to master ten years later.  I can't remember much about what you see above, but I can tell you I'm sure I picked that skill for a specific reason.  And I'm sure, knowing me, it was some pathetic attempt to tell the teacher I thought I was a big dud.

Gees.  Ten years later, and I still feel like a dud most days.  I guess I better work on that, huh?  I'm on it!


  1. This is awesome. Absolutely awesome.

  2. That's pretty darn good for high school! And something prolly most of us still struggle with.

    I kept my old journals too. Hey, we're writers ... that's what we do. I have fun going back and learning about that girl from yesteryear. ;)

  3. I think it's safe to say this piece does the opposite of embarrass...excellent work!

  4. You wrote that in High School?? That's impressive, and in a journal no less.

  5. I dont know if Josh told you, but our friend Jack (a writer- not of books, but for Las Vegas magazine) sends us "ten years later" journal entries almost every day. He kept a journal on his computer in high school and sends us the daily entries. It is so cool to read into the mind of a high school kid and see how he interpreted what was going on then. It's amazing to think how little we have changed over the years when we often think we've grown so much. Self confidence is something that still proves to be elusive for most of us. Probably because we demand and expect so much from ourselves (and others), that we are bound to fall short. Interesting stuff to think about...

  6. I just came from Jordan's. Strange enough your thoughts mirror my own in quite a few ways.

    Writing a journal is also the first advice you recieve in any kind of therapy. The understanding is through writing you can voice what you're basically unable to articulate any other way.

    Loved the piece you wrote ten years ago. Infinite wisdom for a 17yr old. As for lack of self-confidence, I'm beginning to think it comes with the territory. I struggle it with myself. The one difference being I tend to blame it on something that has absolutely nothing to do with my writing ability - my deafness.

    Wishing you one word at a time, one page at a time, a river of words until we find ourselves between the tapestry of a life. (Hugs)Indigo

  7. Yeah, I'm having a Blergh day. That should have read, 'I struggle with it'...Apparently my fingers move faster than my mind. Indy

  8. No, that's an excellent piece!
    And if I dug anything out from my high school days it would dissolve into dust...

  9. Paul - excellent job, man. Very well written, and still holds true today. It's amazing that you wrote it 10 years ago!!


  10. JM: Thank you. And thanks for the sending me to this discovery.

    PK: Thanks as well. It is fun to go back and look at how we change from time and experience. I can't think of a better tool to help us do this than a journal.

    Jamie: Too kind, as always. I'm glad not everyone cringed through this the way I did.

    Paul: Coming from a former English teacher, I'm humbled by your compliment. Journals were always my favorite writing exercise because I had full control of the direction my thoughts would take. As a result, I put a lot of time and effort into something didn't matter much in terms of overall grading.

    Melissa: I was not aware, but I think that is one heck of a cool idea. Good for him to think of doing something like that. I'm thinking I need to see other old writing pieces I can dig up from the storage room. You may be seeing more from my HS years. And I love your thoughts. Sometimes, we are still the same person disguised by an older age.

    Branli: Thanks for stopping in. Always a pleasure, good sir.

    Indigo: I agree; journals are highly therapeutic and a critical piece to any healing process. And thank you for the kind words. Despite the fact I didn't articulate everything the way it sounded in my seventeen year-old head, I'm kind pleasantly surprised to see some of the thoughts I had at a relatively young age. Of course, I was in the honors class....Ha!

    Alex: Ha! I doubt that. Thesse types of artifacts have a high life expectancy. You might surprise yourself.

    Bis: DUDE! Are you really here? I'm so honored and happy I don't even have anything else to say. Thanks for stopping in, buddy. Really. Wow.

  11. Paul, I desire to teach the same and believe if we have self confidence we all can make good things happen. However, I feel like I haven't arrived. In the meantime I will be working on myself, because I know I have a purpose in life and I refuse to just take up space in this world.

    BTW... what do you mean by "non-teacher"?

  12. This is so weird. Only yesterday I was talking on FB with someone about our Creative Writing class & I admitted to still having my notebook from it. I was going to dig it out and see if there was anything useful I could use as a post. I'm SO glad I didn't. How weird would that have been had we both had the same posts on the same day!

    So, this is fantastic. I definitely can't post mine now because it would pale in comparison to this writing. You may not feel as though you have mastered this quality, but knowing the disadvantages of not having it keeps you ahead of the game. Well done, Paul!

  13. I love this, especially how you can look back at 17-year old Paul and feel so connected with him today, not just with the quality of his writing but also the ideas contained in his words.

    I wonder if a 17-year-old Luke would have been so eloquent and profound? You throw this out here like it was something you "needed to get done", but methinks this was a pretty personal answer you gave this assignment. Kids can be so deep sometimes ..!

    It makes me wish I had kept a journal, and though I tried a number of times I never had discipline. In a way I channel this need to dictate my thoughts into my writing, which I guess is why a lot of what I write comes out of my own personal experiences.

    Do you still keep a journal? Or has your novel writing taken over this activity?

    I must say, before I go, that I loved this line most of all:

    "I enjoy that that feeling I get when I finish a piece and realize that, over the course of writing it, I learned something between that first and last sentence."

    It's one of the reasons I love what we do.

  14. Luke: I haven't kept a handwritten journal in years, and I will say I miss it. However, I consider my blog something similar, as I do look for ways to incorporate other thoughts that enter my mind and not keep it entirely fixated on the written process. I also, at times, e-mail myself thoughts or type personal reflections that I save in a folder on my computer. Still, it is different from the true journal experience. And, as you suggested, novel writing dominates most of my writing time. I also struggle to find sufficient reading time - and when I do read, I can't concentrate on the story in front of me. My head is too cluttered.

    On a side note - I loved how you phrased your last line: "It's one of the reasons I love what we do." Your use of the word 'we' gave me a chill; I think it stemmed from a genuine feeling of inclusion, and I got pretty excited about that.


Feeling kind? Leave me some love.
(Sorry to bring back the word verification. Just couldn't take the spam anymore.)