I was cleaning out my room recently and I found an old notepad. It was a leftover relic from a summer internship when I was a sophomore in college. I enjoyed looking it over; it’s fun to read old stuff I’ve written. It felt like a time capsule, a window into the person I was at twenty. I wasn’t trying to write down any deep reflections or great existential statements. I just wrote down the stuff that was relevant for that day.
Most of it was story notes for the TV station; stuff quickly scribbled during an interview. Naturally there were also several doodling pages, full of characters and starships from a story I was writing, likely sketched during a slow afternoon at the office.
I always get a kick out of looking at old drafts of stories I’ve written. There’s a lot of good stuff, but the always evolve and mature, to the point that they’re almost unrecognizable from the stuff I worked on back then. Fortunately I didn’t have too many “Wow I wrote that?!” sort of moments, but it’s clear that my story telling style and my interests have changed. It’s like looking at a journal from High School, reliving the heartaches and the trials that seemed so life altering to the 16-year-old version of you.
I was talking to a friend about how the stories I write have evolved as I’ve aged. My idealistic scifi/fantasy stories grew a little darker, especially when I hit college and started watching more Tarantino movies. My writer’s voice got a little snarkier as I watched more and more stuff from Joss Whedon.
Around the time of my internship I was writing a story about man known only as “The Drifter”, based on the old west stereotype of “The Man with No Name” made famous by Clint Eastwood. The Drifter led a solitary life, driving across America in his truck, finding work, bringing down any bud guys who were unfortunate enough to cross his path, but never settling down.
This whole character, the hardcore, independent self-made man, was something of an idol for me at the time. I look at the Drifter and see the pain that I lived with, keeping people at arm’s length, forcing myself to never rely on anyone. I always fantasized about becoming something of a drifter, running away from my life and starting over in some lonely corner of America where no one knew my name or my story.
Pouring over that old notebook, reflecting on the kid I was at twenty, I flipped another page and found a page on which I’d written “My life never has made perfect sense.” I don’t remember what inspired this quip, nor if it came from a state of sadness, silliness or just whimsy. But it stood out to me because it’s the sort of thing I’d say today, contemplating what the life of Andrew is supposed to look like.
I’ve changed a lot since then. I try to be a little more optimistic about life. I know that I can’t life like the Drifter; I need the people around me and I’ve learned to trust the people around me. But I still take time to ask deep questions about what exactly the heck I’m supposed to be doing in this crazy life.
What do you see when you look at your old stuff? It doesn’t have to be notebooks. What about old clothes or pictures? How have you grown? How are you still the same? Do you like the changes you’ve made (or lack thereof)? Or do you wish you could get back what you lost?