I usually take the train in to work – I have a long commute, and it’s generally the easier and cheaper option. Today the trains were all delayed, so I decided to drive in instead. And I decided to dig out my old collection of cds from high school and college to keep me company on the day’s commute.
As I put in the first cd and began singing along, I found I had a surprisingly powerful reaction to hearing that music again. It’s not that I hadn’t listened to it at all since I graduated, but with the advent of the ipod, much of my high school fare has been relegated to a few meager songs tucked inside a few epic playlists. But somehow, listening to the whole cd in its entirety – knowing which songs came next, even before they started playing – evoked an almost Proustian response in me. Suddenly, I was back in high school. And I really, really missed it.
I know, most people don’t look back on high school with that kind of longing to return. But I adored high school. I went to a school of the arts, intending at first to “major” in theatre, but ending up branching out into technical production, photography and, perhaps most importantly for my professional development, journalism. I was the editor of my school newspaper for 3 years, which, for an english and grammar geek like myself, was heaven. I enjoyed journalism because it emphasized the technical aspects of writing – crisp, clean prose, the need to be precise, to tell the whole story in the fewest possible number of words. They’re the same skills I find myself reaching for in my legal writing, where a judge isn’t going to sit through an 800 page exhortation of your client’s best arguments, no matter how splendid the writing.
My first love, though, and the one that was best nurtured by some profoundly wonderful teachers in high school, was plain old English class. I realize that this blog might not reflect it, because at some point during law school I was unwittingly and unwillingly forced to abandon my best and favorite kind of writing, but for many (many) years, I believed I would be a writer. I cannot adequately express the joy I took from reading, sitting down with a group of my peers, analyzing symbolism, theme, context, and responding in writing. And I was lucky to have teachers who encouraged our responses to be creative – again, arts school. (I recall having to hurriedly learn the standardized 5-paragraph “intro-thesis-development-development-conclusion” format of writing before our 10th grade state writing test, which I of course bombed, having lost all ability to compose answers devoid of feeling. I suppose I didn’t think to turn on my journalism brain for an english test…) I carried that joy around with me for years – the gentle solitude of finishing a book that changed the way you viewed yourself, the whirring of intelligent collaboration, the satisfaction of composing my own poems and stories, creating my own worlds, becoming a vessel to bring something bigger than myself to fruition.
My teachers were unfailingly encouraging, and it is this I think that I am most in need of these days. I miss writing. I miss that feeling of giving myself up to unexpected fits of creativity. I know that it is still there, somewhere – I don’t think those characters, those worlds, disappeared, but I’m not sure where they went. This is the saddest thing about being an attorney: there is always the hope of a new and different world, but never the creation of one. Is it possible that I had more power as a writer?
But I am so changed. I’m not sure I really had a quote-unquote community of writers in high school, but the environment was such that my mind was always pointed beyond the day-to-day. Writing, in a way, became my religion. It gave me something to believe, and something to bring me out of myself and my small life. I realize now – I have strayed from my church. I have lost something important. And I feel it very much in my life today, that loss; it is sometimes difficult to be happy, it is often difficult to find peace. My day is phone calls and emails and hearings and briefs and meetings and clients and voicemails. It is home for cleaning and errands and exhaustion and mindless hours in front of a television. But then, before, when I called myself a writer, I had joy. I held it in my self, and I wrote it down in ink. I remember it.
Infused in that memory is the innocence of childish belief, I’m sure. Few adults live free of the incessant clatter of our jobs, our obligations. But perhaps I have only been too long gone from the church to remember. Perhaps it’s time I return.
So this is what I thought about, as I drove home from work today, and the music played. I want to write.
I am such a sucker for nostalgia.