Growing up was awkward for me. I was not popular, I did not play any sports, and my family was poor. That’s pretty much the trifecta when you’re young and trying to survive in the clique nation. By the time I was in high school, I sported a mowhawk and carried labels like Satanist and fag, which are by far, two of my favorites. I’m serious. You know you’re living a life of conviction when other people can’t stand to let it go unnoticed.
Stage diving and skateboarding aside, I wrote furiously during those angsty years. Piles of short stories, song lyrics, and poetry reveal a thirsty little person who believed in volume style story telling. The sheer ambition knocks out the 35 year old in me. Most of it is terrible. The short stories are the worst. Many of them are horror stories that fixate on grisly endings in which a teenager always ends up murdered. I find this greatly amusing and for that single reason, I can never throw them away.
In one particular story, Black Evil of the Mind, I use the pen name, Nina, and it’s 18 pages of dot matrix printer paper telling a tale of a high school cult called the Dark Warlock Warriors. I’m pretty sure this damning evidence is why I remained a virgin until age 20.
The song lyrics/poetry aren’t much better with words like sardonic, bizarre, and suicide thrown around like candy. And when I’m done lamenting the state of teenage hell, I lambast the Exxon-Valdez oil spill:
Why is there oil in my ocean?
from the song lyrics of “Kindergarten For the Filthy World”
That’s right. It’s my ocean. The same song makes an obscure reference to the gypsy moth problem. For two seconds, I spent a little time outside my own sphere to show that I care. That’s generous for a 12 year old.
I’m not sad that the bulk of this work will never see publication, rather I am encouraged that I did it without invitation, a paycheck, or any expectation whatsoever. Where there is lack of substance, there is attention to form and style. By contrast, my college writing years were torture. I really wanted my work to matter but it was still terrible. The only difference was I was actively trying and failing.
The 35 year old me doesn’t write songs and rarely, short stories. Poetry is my medium and I don’t pretend that it owes me anything. Luckily, my life provides a never-ending array of embarrassing missteps to use as material. And when I’m not writing about personal disappointment, I write poems about broccoli farts, kiwi mold, and Gumby.
It’s a far cry from skulls and red wax candles, but I think 12 year old me will understand.