Sunday, November 22, 2009
Anne McAllister : : Remember High School?
Remember your high school days?
Well, I don't suppose -- unless you're under the age of 14 -- that you can really forget it.
For some it might have been the best of times. And for others it might have been the worst. It was neither to me. There are great gaps in my memories of it.
Since I moved away and never went back to live in the area once I left, except for a few brief weeks during the summer after my freshman and sophomore years of college, I have had little occasion to even think about it.
But I've just been friended on Facebook by someone from my high school.
And then another. And then a third -- and I'm suddenly seeing pictures from when I was fifteen and reliving things I didn't even remember that I remembered!
Weird. Very weird.
What I realized -- when I realized that I remembered at all -- is that while I don't have stored up in the brain cells a lot of detailed specifics about the particular events that went on (was I in a coma, I wonder?), apparently I internalized every conceivable emotion that it is possible for a teenager to feel.
And I've been drawing on them now for years in my books!
What I mean is that those were the years when I really began to understand about relationships and emotions and the connections between the two. And because those experiences were so powerful emotionally then, I unconsciously go back to them often when I'm writing. I remember so well how I felt in those days.
I just had an email from a writer friend asking me about where I'd gone to research the sailing bits I used in an upcoming book because, God knows, I am not a sailor. I am a hanger-over-the-side sort of person, even though I wish I had better sea legs. But I seem to write about characters who sail a lot.
And I pointed her in the direction of several possibilities because I try my best to be accurate. And I do my research and I learned about sailing from books and from people I know who sail a lot.
As a writer I can always learn about things and activities I don't know first-hand -- like racing sailing and being a lawyer or a chaos-theory teaching physicist.
But it's impossible to learn emotions out of a book. And no one can tell you how to convey feelings. The emotions my characters feel have to come naturally.
I have to have felt them myself. They rise out of some personal well of deep joy and profound anguish. They derive from of the elation that comes from believing everything is going to be perfect and the despair of knowing you're an idiot and everyone knows it even better than you do.
They come from first love, heartbreak, laughing until you can't catch your breath, and the deep quiet joy of knowing you've done the right thing even though no one else knows it. All those emotions?
They come from high school.
The most profound well of emotional knowledge that I -- and pretty much everyone else -- have ever been given is high school.
That's where we were when we began to experience many of the emotions that get us through the day and keep us up at night.
Those years frequently contain the moments against which we measure other life experiences and how we feel about them.
We may not even know it. I certainly didn't consciously even think about it until these past few days. Then I remembered -- and I felt them all again. Emotional overload.
So, to all my new/0ld Facebook friends -- in my 'real life' -- thank you for providing me with such a deep and enduring well.
Thank you for inviting me to be your friend again -- or for the first time. And please say yes if I ask to be your friend because I don't want to have to learn about being crushed first hand all over again. High school? Been there, done that. Once was plenty. But I'm grateful for it.
How was high school for you? The best? The worst? Anything memorable? AnyONE memorable? And are you friends on Facebook with them now? C'mon, tell . . .