The Quote for Today is by one of my favorite authors: Lucy Grealy, from her memoirAutobiography of a Face.If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. Anyway, the quote:
I used to think truth was eternal, that once I knew, once I saw, it would be with me forever, a constant by which everything else could be measured. I know now that this isn’t so, that most truths are inherently unretainable, that we have to work hard all our lives to remember the most basic things.
The first time I read this, when I was an almost eighteen year old in Self-portrait class, it struck a chord with me. It was so simple, yet so real. I felt that it spoke to me. Now, as a twenty-seven year old, I can say for sure that it more than speaks to me.
I’ve been working on one of my memoir ideas this week while I haven’t been tweeting, facebooking, and reading blogs. The thing that I started writing about (which I haven’t actively been writing about the last two days) was my reading during my year out of school. I wrote out a list of books that I wanted to get from the library on a legal pad using Bookpage.com reviews to identify what I might want to read. I also wrote down titles of books in a black and white, cow print book with a bright blue flower snap. I decided it might be interesting to look up the books and read each synopsis in the hopes of trying to figure out why I wanted to read it. I spent at least an hour trying to figure out why in the world I would ever want to read two thirds of the list.
I’m not completely without my theories as to why I would choose these books (which are best shared in my memoir), but as I puzzled it all out in my mind, I was struck by one simple, basic truth: I am not the same girl I was nearly six years ago.
The same things don’t necessarily interest me. I don’t take up the same amount of space. Trying to compare myself now to then in some areas is like comparing apples to oranges. More importantly, I’m allowed that. I’m allowed to grow and change, for my tastes to evolve, for things I thought were inherently me to be cast off. It’s OK for me to be different than I was, than I thought I would be.
There’s a second part to this quote.
Society is no help. It tells us again and again that we can most be ourselves by acting and looking like someone else…it suddenly occurred to me that it is no mistake when sometimes in films and literature the dead know they are dead only after being offered that most irrefutable proof: they can no longer see themselves in the mirror.
This doesn’t just apply to dead people, but to people that society has deadened; the walking dead. I wrote in my first stop that sometimes it feels like my brain is full of measuring tape, that things can’t be termed good or bad unless measured against what someone else is able to do. I didn’t know what I looked like any more apart from other people. When I was younger, it was my joy to exceed other peoples’ expectations of me, but as I grew older I began to measure myself by others’ expectations and find myself wanting. This paradigm shift, not of whose expectations would be the measuring stick, but of where I fall and how I feel about it is the gravemarker of my self awareness; it marks when I died. For a long time I didn’t know I was dead. Looking into the mirror of self-reflection, clear of all the clouding of other people’s accomplishments/setbacks, I can finally see that I was just going through the motions, just a zombie in so many ways.
It is, indeed, hard work to remember the most basic truths. I am who I am and I can’t be anyone else without first ceasing to be me. I’m not who I used to be or could be or would be if; I’m just me. I happen to like me. I think “me” is worth getting to know. So, I’m putting a bookmark right here, on the 27th day of my 27th year, so that I can look back and remember this simple truth.
What “most basic thing” do you have to work hard to remember?
- How to Write Your Memoir (kat-collins.com)
- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir, A Book By The Bloggess (laughingsquid.com)
- Why Memoir Matters (oup.com)