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”


2 thoughts on “Paper tents

  1. I’m not a writer, so I won’t pretend like I understand how a writer feels when she loses her manuscripts, but I doubt an adept writer like you would lose your identity as a writer, even from losing your old writing. Crises like these are hard, but never impossible to get through, and if writing is your passion, your own drive and hard work will make it nothing short of a rock-solid pillar of support for your life 🙂 I’m sure you can scribble all over the pillar as well, if you wanted to 🙂

    • Well, I know you’re a liar in at least two respects: 1. Non-writers don’t use language like “manuscripts” and “pillars.” 2. If you bothered to read my post and give me legitimate consolation you are probably more than “just” a friend. Thank you so much.

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