In Mrs. Spivak’s eighth-grade English class, our final project was to write a letter to our high school graduate selves. She’s not even going to read it? Easy enough. Scribble something down on paper, seal it in an envelope, and go back to playing Pokémon or whatever else it was 14-year-olds in 2005 (and adults in 2016) did. I opened the letter ahead of starting college and was left unfulfilled – quick sentences about friends, slapdash remarks about that day’s events, a status check on my virginity, and a rousing finale of “You’d better not be doing drugs.” It’s a peculiar position being disappointed in yourself in the third-person: Really you lazy f**k, you couldn’t write anything more? I decided to pen myself one with a bit more punch, highlighted by a more worried status check on my virginity and “You’d better not be doing too many drugs.” Rinse and repeat and here I am three iterations deeper into my soul.
It’s a weird feeling opening up to yourself. Putting your deepest insecurities down on paper and addressing it to someone is simultaneously frightening and invigorating; your mind is so trained to equate letter writing with social communication that it has trouble processing why in the world you’d write down what you’re writing down. Write the things you hate, write the things you love, and be prepared to look back a few years later mortified. The irony really kicks when you’re too embarrassed to write your own thoughts to yourself.
But that’s a long-term investment. In the interim, let’s start with seven sentences.
I’ll be the first to admit I have an awful memory. Short-term, extended, what we spoke about last Friday, the whole thing. Great memories disappear for no reason, and no matter how many times I tell myself I’ll write it all down, I don’t. The answer? Set lower standards/expectations/goals. But just this once.
Seven sentences per week, that’s all I’m proposing. Maybe they’re all written in one night, maybe they’re spread throughout the week. Maybe they’re all about the girl you fell in love with on the subway, maybe they’re all about the parfait you spilled on the random person next to you while falling in love with the girl on the subway (true story). Seven sentences so you can pick a week of your life that existed and mattered and look back on it. Seven sentences so your children’s children can connect with you in a way you might not have been able to with your own grandparents. So generations after you can revel in your heroic escapades dealing with dramatic friends/coworkers/farm animals and ending with pizza in the LES.
It’ll make writing your memoirs one day easier. Or just help the jury put you away quicker. Worth the gamble I’d say.