Every year around the time of my birthday, I start feeling the need to take stock. Who am I and where am I going? I always want to make sure I'm living the exact life I want to be living, or damn close to it. So I start going back, looking at what was happening in my life a year ago, three years ago, ten years ago...I start paging through all those written journals I used to keep pretty regularly before I abandoned them for blogging. What did I think of my life that year? What has changed since then? This is especially true now that I'm in my thirties (*shiver* saying that even sounds so more grown up than I am).
Last year, I was in the afterglow of the Poetry Center thing, and trying to make a not-so-big deal out of turning thirty. A year before that applying to the MFA program and trying to hang that monstrous Art of the Library installation project and grumbling. Two years before that giving my first reading ever and freaking out about it. In 2001, congratulating myself on choosing to focus my life around writing and not trying to fit writing into life in another career like teaching or editing. When I turned 26, flipping out about how I was not at all living up to my potential, how I was poor and living with my parents in godforesaken Rockford of all places. There's a gap in my journals around my 25th birthday, from mid-march to early July, but I remember finishing up at Depaul, those terrible MA comp exams, moving from one apartment to another, job interviews. 24 was all about classes, and still not feeling very grown up, and still planning on an academic career. 23, finishing my undergrad degree, apartment hunting in the city for the summer, taking a seminar in Jane Austen and working on my mammoth Plath paper. 22 and I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and 21, lost in the journal stolen along with my backpack in Mississippi. (though I was stage managing a show, so I suspect that's where my focus was then). 20, I can't decipher from that chaotic first journal I kept without dates noted.
Before that, no real journals really, just a small blue locked diary given to me when I was fourteen and kept intermittently, and a fabric covered blank book I wrote in during that semester in North Carolina--which is admittedly mostly romantic traumas. I remember only a few other birthdays...
My first school-age birthday party was at this ice cream parlor where they served those clown sundaes, had cheap little favors like erasers and played, even then, what seemed to be inane party games (derisive and sarcastic even at age six I see). When I turned seven , we went to Chuck E. Cheeses. I got a blue satin jacket and those barettes with the flowing ribbons that were so cool back then. I was eight when I bought my first cassette tapes, Rick Springfield and Duran Duran. When I was ten, I had this huge slumber party, where we went roller skating and then came back and ate pizza and told ghost stories and stayed up all night watching horror movies and trying to levitate each other..
Every year , me and my cousin Lori would spend a day at the mall by ourselves (pretty damn cool when your're ten or eleven) spending birthday money, buying watermelon lipgloss and shopping at Spencers with our neon t-shrts and leggings and our hair pulled into a side pony tail. Occasionally we’d decide we’d have new names -- more exotic names-- like Danielle and Renee, and when our parents took is out to dinner later, usually at the Ponderosa, we’d sit separately from them and pretend to be all grown up.
My teenage years featured more slumber parties, smaller and no roller skating, though plenty more levitation attempts and daring each other to do the Bloody Mary thing. We’d consume enough mountain dew and M&Ms until we were bouncing off the walls . I’d get cool presents like posters of Corey Haim (or later, Christian Slater) and bangle bracelets and stuffed animals. We’d play board games, and get into snippy little arguments, and someone usually got mad and threatened to go home. Of course, this is all before we really discovered boys…though I think I had my first lustful thoughts in the second grade, kissing a boy on the cheek in the lunch line and getting in trouble.