Paper tents

It’s too early to judge quite yet, but it seems this outer layer of my identity crumbles away when the material is eliminated.

My old writings are gone to dust, therefore I was never a writer. Never mind if I know in my heart that I may have once been, because there’s no longer proof. The chaos of second semester junior year and the bulk of senior year never happened because the evidence is in shreds and/or decaying in some distant landfill. All my doubts, dears, sins, dreams, revelations, secrets, angst, ponderings returning to dust and never to be revisited.

I lost my USB drive shortly after graduation somehow. All the college app essays that in the end didn’t do me much good, all the AP lit essays I churned out at the last minute are also gone.

Now if the folders stuffed with all the letters dating back to sophomore year are truly disposed of, the in-between, more intimate, most important parts of my high school experience may have never happened. I will be lost and stranded. This is the price I pay. This is what happens when I build a paper tent for a shelter, something I knew then and know now cannot protect me forever.

In the end I don’t have many material possessions. In a reckless act of desperation I collected all the belongings I would want to take with me if I should ever want to really leave.

Everything I want to keep fits in a standard manila envelope:

  1. High school diploma
  2. Two small photo albums, artifacts of  my childhood
  3. Journal I kept throughout high school during the summers
  4. Spare bills I have laying around the room
  5. Blank small journal
  6. Glasses
  7. Current journal
  8. Favorite pen

Nothing else.

It’s hard to judge times in your life. Truth is hard. I am now. I can’t depend on the material to remind me that I was or have been or might still be.

Trees are still growing, the sky is still blue, birds are chirping, neighbors are well into beginning another day, all are unconcerned about my back-and-forth analysis of my vague sense of loss.

This morning my brother told me, “You’ve centered your life around something unstable.”

He’s right, but I know I’m going to keep writing because I don’t know what else to do.

The title of this post is in reference to one of my favorite pieces of writing by Margaret Atwood “The Tent”


Dear photograph,

This is your future 17 3/4 self writing. You’re not going to believe how important writing is going to be to you, so don’t give Mom a hard time when she tells you to practice with your O’s. While you’re at it, tell Mom you love her. That will be the most important thing you’ll regret not doing enough later on. Tell her, and tell her often.

Life is going to be bumpy, but you’ll do just fine.

Precisely 15 years after the shutter goes off, you’re going to be cutting calc AB (and eventually get away with it) to have breakfast with amazing people. You’re going to pour too much batter in the waffle maker and people are going to make fun of the way you eat bacon. That’s okay. 15 years after the shutter goes off you’re going to be baring your soul to your AP English class plus a handful of others. It will last a grueling 27 minutes, and it will be emotionally exhausting. You’re going to receive an 88% on that project. Later in the day you’re going to be looking at city lights. It’ll be a good day.

Life will be madness. Nothing will turn out lik you’ll expect, but hold on to your grand plans anyway. I can’t fathom what kinds of things a 2 1/2 year olf worries about, but don’t take life too seriously. You;ll have plenty of time to do that later.

In the even that a freak time warp occurs, feel free to take my advice or scoff at it as you like.

Don’t mix the orange juice with the hot chocolate. It won’t work.

Torment Shawn as much as you desire. He deserves it and it’s work the time-outs.

Don’t mind the mean girls. You’re not going to remember them later and they certainly won’t remember you.

While running or racing, never ever look back.

Don’t waste time on a crush when you know you love someone else. Also, don’t tell anyone who your crush is. It’ll get messy.

Do not leave the purple notebook outside.

And always, always remember that you are never alone. There’s no reason to be afraid because there are so many people who love you. That includes me.

Love, yourself,