Making Good Use of Bad Memories

In the café one morning, another writer and I talked about things that happened to us as teenagers. Things we did. Things we did even when we knew we shouldn’t. Things we almost did and will look back on forever after, with such an intense feeling of relief that plans fell through, or that someone unexpected turned out to be behind the wheel of the strange car.

(This was actually taken the day I escaped out into the real world… well, sort of. The day my family left me in Ohio so I could start college. A day I'd been looking forward to for YEARS.)

It’s all so vivid to me, even now, two decades later—that sense of self I had, so easily sloughed away when someone I thought was cool said we should do something dangerous. And the bad stuff too: I think seventh grade inches just ahead of ninth grade as the most painful year of my life.

This other writer and I cringed as we talked about our former selves… maybe because they’re not so former. They’re in us even now, taking control of our typing fingers. I could see her at 14 just as easily as I could see myself. I know I’m still there, in a way—tearing those pages from my diary, making promises about my escape in the distant future, telling myself to stop liking that boy. It’s why I write what I write. Not just why I love doing it… why I need to do it.

If junior high and high school had been easy, those teenage years home living with my parents—if those were the “best years of my life”?—I doubt I’d have any interest in writing YA today.

So, thank you, painful and awkward and angst-filled years from high school and junior high, thank you SO MUCH.

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