I have an odd habit of picking up my old journals and revisiting really painful pieces of my past—painful both as I experienced them and as I relive them in the present. I actually find my younger self to be mostly hilarious, but since most people encourage me to let go of my past, I’ve been quelling these compulsions by putting my journals into a bin that I promised myself I would shred.
I have a clear memory from my childhood of my mother shredding her own diaries. She was probably about my age, maybe a little older, when she did this. When I asked her why she would do such a thing, she said, “I don’t want anyone reading them after I die.” I think she must have watched The Bridges of Madison County that week.
This week, when I pulled out the bin to finally complete said shredding, I found myself unable to get rid of the journals. I mean, these are my words, as I experienced them, in their rawest form. Memories that I had deeply buried came back to me, some hilarious, some nonsensical, and it was like reconnecting with an old friend.
It probably doesn’t help that I was also reunited with my former iTunes library (trapped on an old non-updated computer), and my old photo albums (trapped in our attic in a bin waiting to be digitized) sometime last weekend. It has spun me into a (non-polar) vortex of nostalgia, and truthfully, I’ve been dying to share my memories, and also what I may have “learned” in the luxury of time and maturity. But as I learned in college from my roommate’s mom, life is living and learning…but mostly living.
My music library is basically a collection of placeholders that transport me to other moments in time. Here’s a little story that popped into my head with the resurfacing of a song this morning on my train ride:
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…
Spring 2000, Systems Optimization, and my first foray into classes at Sloan. One of my classmates was a really nice guy, friend of friends. One evening, classwork got particularly friendly (hey, it was college), and then not surprisingly, the rest of the semester was a bit awkward. He sent me an mp3 of him covering a late-90s pop ballad – beautiful, but also awkward. Whether it was perceived awkwardness, or awkwardness in reality, I don’t know if I’ll ever know, but back then I responded with my typical reaction, which was to run away and hide hide hide.
At some point in the semester, he sent me an email, saying that I should listen to Beautiful by Joydrop, it’s a good song, I’d like it. I brushed it off, put the mp3 into the iTunes, er, WinAmp library and listened to it eventually, thinking very little of it. Until one day, a few years later, when I finally “heard” the lyrics.
I feel contrite every time I hear this song in the rotation…because he was probably telling me that I was a total asshole. Telling me that I thought I was too good to treat people well. And I missed it, for years. My journal tells me that at that time I had no pretense about being beautiful, and thought I wasn’t good enough for anyone, and that I was preoccupied by other things and other people in my life to truly realize anything about anything ever having to do with him.
Or, maybe this is all overthought, and he just sent me a cool song.
Funny thing is, when I finally understood these lyrics, I was in the middle of being brushed off by someone else after a few intense dates, and was really tempted to send the song to him in a fit of melodramatic rage—karma is a bitch.
I tried to make amends once, around 2005. I ended up having to bail on dinner plans, last minute, due to a long-running, over-indulgent post-work outing. Probably confirmed that I am truly an asshole, and I haven’t seen him since.
I keep the song in the library, as well as the mp3 of the cover, to remind me to never have my head that far up my own ass, just in case.