Sunday, January 27, 2013

Box of Letters

My mom has been going through all the boxes in her basement in preparation for moving in a little over a year.  In one of the boxes recently, she found this box of old letters of mine, from my first year of college.  It was interesting how I saved all these letters together, in this small box, because that level of organization has never been something I was particularly good at.  It's interesting in general thinking about having this large amount of written correspondence, something I assume modern college students wouldn't have.  The letters had a lot of statements like, "I would call you but it costs too much" which seems positively archaic now, considering that all phone companies have free long distance.  Not to mention Skype.  Also some talk of missing me on the phone, maybe I didn't have an answering machine.  I remember not wanting to call my parents very often, and I would have to send them my schedule because they would always call when I had class, and then my mom would freak out if she couldn't reach me by phone (and often threaten to call the campus police).  And those were the days when I actually liked talking on the phone, but I didn't really want to talk to my parents all that much.

It was also interesting in that all these letters were to me, not from me.  I remember a lot of things from that first year of college, though I do remember some of it through a dark haze of depression in the winter, but then a lot of the letters were from other friends who were also at college, and then a lot of letters from my mom and dad.  There were a lot of things about what transpired in LA when I was up north, one message about the curfew after the LA riots in 1992.  Some talk of a neighbor moving in to the house next door, and my mom's hopes for someone quiet (which turned out to be the case).  Also stuff about my cat missing me.  He even sent me a few post cards (though strangely, his handwriting looked a lot like my mom's).  And an essay I wrote about how I hated the dining hall food which ended up in my dad's work newspaper.  A lot of my dad's messages were about my cousin who was born in 1991.  She's in college now.

Reading all these letters brought me back a little to the person I was, though I know I'm not really her anymore.  I don't think I'm a different person exactly, but my outlook and attitude is different, and I know so much more than she did.  Though I also know her, and I know that she wouldn't have listened to me and would think I'm full of crap when I gave her advice.  She never listened to anyone about anything.  Part of why she went to college over 300 miles away from home was to get away from everyone, to make her own life.  They loved and missed me, their letters say, but I didn't really miss them as much as all that.  I felt, I always have felt, that I needed to get away from that advice and pressure and guidance and sometimes smothering ideas of who I was being told to be, so I could be my own person.  It's interesting now knowing all the choices I made, some of them were pretty stupid, but I do see the bigger picture of it all.

I have always said something along the lines of how I never make the same mistake twice, and while that has some truth in it, I think that it's more complicated than that.  I do think that I didn't value myself enough, and I didn't have a thick enough skin, or great boundaries.  I was often passive-aggressive with people (particularly roommates) and I didn't speak up enough for myself and others.  I was judgmental more often than not, something that I try to work on to this day.  I was flawed.  But I was also loved.  As many things that happened to me that first year, some of which felt like doors being slammed in my face, I did have all those friends and family writing me and thinking about me.

I do know how small I saw the world, how limited.  I had a small circle of friends, and when those friends turned on me, I went elsewhere and dated this guy who was a jackass, but I felt like he was mine in a way and would support me emotionally (though he didn't really, but that's another issue).  One of my dad's letters talked about ways to make more friends by joining affinity groups (and if you knew my dad, the thought of him advising me to make more friends was kind of hilarious), but I didn't ever take his advice, and I had this all or nothing way of thinking that these were my friends, and if they weren't being my friends, then there was something wrong with me.  And now when I look back, and realize just how limited that view point was, I wonder how I'm limiting myself today.

And I'll just add that, I was depressed.  And I didn't really understand or know what that meant, and I might have even said those words, I was depressed, but I didn't know or see how to get help with it until about ten years later.  And even if my life now has ups and downs, I realize that I'm not my depression, and that I have opportunities and choices all around me.


Jim McKee said...

You wrote:
"Reading all these letters brought me back a little to the person I was, though I know I'm not really her anymore."

I can't completely agree. Back then, you were like an unformed hunk of clay. Today, you are a sculpture, formed by the roads you've walked, the decisions you've made, and the interactions you've had... but still made of that same clay.

Fluffycat said...

Yeah I am sure that is true, just feels like there is so much distance that it could have well been a different person.