Sunday, February 17, 2013

There Is No Undo Button On Awkward Moments (February Theme - Sarah Dooley)

When I was about four years old, I snuck out of Sunday School and crawled onto my mother's lap on her church pew, and when I sat up a while later, the pastor looked at me disapprovingly because I wasn't supposed to be there.

At eight, I accidentally spilled a family secret in front of someone who wasn't supposed to know. Even as I spoke, I could hear myself saying those forbidden words, but by then, I was committed to the sentence, and I couldn't figure out how to stop or redirect in time to save myself. My sisters stared at me in irritated disappointment.

When I was eleven, I got angry at the confusing wording of a question on my science test, and I used the space provided to tell my teacher exactly what was wrong with his test -- and his class -- and school in general. When he handed the test back, he was laughing, not unkindly, but laughing nonetheless.

While editing my high school newspaper, I accidentally changed one letter in a baseball player's last name on the sports page - turning the word from his last name into the name of my horse, who was apparently always on my mind.

In college, while trying to impress my crush, I managed to drop my coffee on myself and then fall down the stairs.

All of this is by way of saying -- I do not forgive myself easily when I feel that I've behaved foolishly. There are moments that retain their cringe value for years after.

Ordinarily, those moments turn into a sort of Lord Voldemort of unpleasant memories -- they must never be named or spoken of again.

But in October, I met my agent and editor for the first time.

The entire experience was wonderful.

It was also terrible. I am a very shy, anxious person. I don't do well in crowds, or in cities, or with strangers, or in fancy restaurants. Good heavens, here I was, supposed to manage all four at once! Suffice it to say, I was not at my most eloquent.

Ordinarily, that event would go on my list of Things To Pretend Never Happened. But I don't want to forget meeting these wonderful people I get to work with! I want to be able to remember the conversation we had, and I want that memory to be cringe-free.

So the only option left to me is to accept that I am me -- a fidgety four-year-old, an indignant eleven-year-old, a distracted teenager, a klutzy college kid, a woman who doesn't know restaurant etiquette -- and that I am who my agent and editor wanted to meet, not some more graceful yet less sincere version of myself.

I am also the me who writes books, and I can't help but think that the reason I am able to write from the perspective of an awkward pre-teen is because I so vividly remember how that feels. If that's the case -- if my characters come from an awkwardness that I can't seem to outgrow -- then I definitely don't want a do-over, and I don't want to forget. I want to remember, and write it down. Like everything else in life.

In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, that whole dropping my coffee and falling down the stairs thing? That has got to go in a story!

1 comment:

  1. I have so many cringeworthy moments of my own...often, though, our imperfections are exactly what endear us to others! Lovely post...

    ReplyDelete