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dry and worthless monument to our love

I'm working on a poetry book at the moment. It's not especially fancy, and I'm not even necessarily proud of the poems. Most of the poems included in the collection were written during a time in my life where I felt like I was living how a young person should live-- rebelling against ambiguous causes with actions that had no direct correlation to the entity (or whatever) I claimed to be reacting against and were much more in service to personal pleasure/hedonism (which I suppose is revolutionary in itself?), going to parties, and, of course, forming short-lived relationships with people I pretended to "know" but really just conceptualized.

At the time that I wrote the poems, they felt very real and visceral and raw. But once that time in my life ended (it was quite brief-- I'll get into that later), they became more distant and diary-like. I hung onto them as a way of preserving something I deemed worth remembering. The first time I shared one of the poems with a friend I couldn't help thinking I'd made a terrible mistake. She was kind and gave me incredibly useful feedback-- but somehow sharing the poem felt like a betrayal of my past self's privacy. It was public now; it was observed now, and, like Schrodinger's cat, the outcome (the purpose/function of the poems) was somehow changed.

It wasn't mine anymore. The poems didn't have a single definite meaning that I assigned to them-- that was now in the eye of the beholder. But my friend's reaction to the poem also made me realize that I did want to publish them-- for what reason I'm still not sure --but now that they felt public anyway, I might as well make them public.

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I began to look at the poems through an editorial lens, and they lost even more of their original meaning-- and once again it felt sort of wrong. They were no longer raw, now they were aged and needed attention to look presentable. Saying "this works, that doesn't" to something that had been a pure and spontaneous work of emotion is almost disrespectful. But also necessary, I suppose. The few friends I had shared my poetry with related to it in some way. Even if it wasn't the intended purpose of the poems, I think I'm choosing to publish the collection for them.

Putting together the collection has also made me reevaluate that period in my life. I've definitely glamorized it. In retrospect I was able to look at that era and the relationships that I formed as something that I should have done more of. But the past me that wrote those poems was an emotional wreck. Those relationships, that lifestyle (if it could be called that) took a toll. I put up with it because I thought I was supposed to do these things and disregarded the damage it caused to my mental health.

I'm not extroverted. I don't like going to parties, or getting off my face, or even socializing in general (I'm fully aware this makes me sound like a reclusive hermit). I'm not casual-- I don't dress casually, or speak casually, so I'm not sure what made me think that casual relationships were a good idea.

It took me a long time to really accept these aspects of myself, and make decisions based off of them/what's best for me, because these things are in deliberate contrast to the version of youth that was described in books and TV shows and movies (and for good reason-- I wouldn't watch a teen movie about a girl who lies in bed and watches Netflix all day either) and to a lesser extent, by my friends.

There are still times when I think I'm living life wrong and not making use of my maybe-moderately-pleasant-in-a-certain-light looks, my lack of responsibility, my physical health, etc. When my slightly younger peers describe to me their escapades at homecoming dances and football games I'm hit with thoughts like, "I didn't take advantage of high school while I had it and now it's gone and I have no real, typical high school memories! What will I tell the kids I don't plant to have?" I have similar thoughts when my friends tell me about college parties and all the new experiences they're having. I feel this sort of sense of urgency like I have to go out this very instant and experience whatever it is I'm supposed to be experiencing, even though I know my expectations are impossible to meet because of who I am as a person.

I hold out that I could change in the future. Maybe when I encounter the right circumstances, the right group of friends these activities that felt forced and uncomfortable will be natural and organic like they are for the people I'm surrounded by. But I'm not going to get that by conforming to some vague standard about what my life has to be like at this age. I'm happy where I am now, and open to what the future holds.


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