Reading over my old journals makes me feel like I'm in an echoing hallway, or hearing ghosts, or attending my own funeral.
I went digging through some of my old journals, hoping to find my blank sketchbook so that I could start sketching out centerpiece ideas for the wedding. Instead, I found my deep purple sketchbook, marked only with "2003, spring --". That dash tells me a lot, and flipping to the last filled page, I saw an entry from the first day of my second semester, freshman year.
I sort of blanked out for a while. I hadn't been prepared for college, and though I tried I couldn't make everything fit, neat and tidy and capable, until I took time off and came back a different person. The unmarked pages in the back of that old journal are proof that, for a time, my life was too scattered, diffuse and stifling and wild, to even commit to my most sacred therapist, the midnight purple notebook.
The pages before that, however, were filled with so much teenage longing, dramatic sadness, and acid vitriol, that reading them took me back to a place and time where I was only myself in the private and dark corners of ink and the smell of binding. Some of the things I wrote were beautiful, and fragile now because they had aged and been worn away - Italian lace, love letters, photographs of the dead. And the drawings! I can't seem to put my pencil to paper in such uncontrolled and passionate dreaming, anymore. I drew objects of desire, churches, men with wings, hardwood floors, feet and fingers, all with a sense of urgency and an almost god-touched unawareness. I drew as if I were sleeping and wrought, twisting, with nightmares.
Remembering who I was, reading greedily and red-faced, felt as if I were speaking to myself through a pane of mercury glass.
I think that most of us can look back on times when we were young and hopeful and made mistakes. I probably can't say too much on that subject, seeing as I'm twenty-five and have a lot to learn and many upcoming opportunities to err. But still, Alice-that-was and Alice-that-is are two vastly different people, though she still wakes up sometimes, yawns, smiles, and curls her little finger. Come back, remember, don't leave me behind.
I think about things I see every day - wrinkle cream, adds for plastic surgery, women at the gym, health food and miracle diets. So many people are trying to be young again, or to stay young, or maybe just to stave off growing up. There are a lot of things to be missed about youth (perfect proportions and untold energy among them) and I certainly miss some of those feelings, like having a crush that makes your chest burn, or seeing an old movie and coming to a sudden understanding, or having moments when you think you're getting older but you couldn't be more young. Being wrong about nearly everything but feeling so righteous. It's a glorious feeling to not only have everything laid out before you but to live entirely in the moment. And maybe that's what we're all trying to regain.
But Alice-that-was, as valuable as her experiences have been, is just as shriveled and foul as a rotten peach, sweet, sticky, and dripping with nectar. Not because she was a bad person, but because I'm not that person anymore. Once picked, the fruit from the tree will spoil.
Can we long for the coveted aspects of being a teenager? Of course.
Can we ever be a teenager again? Of course not.
Would we choose to be?
On days when I'm restless and stir crazy and tight with something I can't name, the voice of the past calls to me. She rolls around and presses against my bones. She laughs at me, rattles her cage, waiting for a moment of escape. And on those days, I am tempted by her bright red hair and insouciance.
The purple notebook sits next to me. I pick it up. I feel grateful for its reminders of who I was and who I happily am. I tear out the drawings and the poetry. The rest ends up in the trash. I turn away.
And then I dig it out, put the pieces back together, and hide it back in the drawer.
I may not be little Alice anymore, but she will always be a part of me.