May. 4, 2022•
8 min read
You open up your Google Drive, find a file from a year ago, open it up in a new tab, and watch in horror as the words, your words, pepper the screen. That word doesn’t have the impact you intended. That’s not flow; that’s a log jam. Oof. Definitely thought that was profound but it’s super cliché.
Revisiting old work as a creative can be—confrontational. It’s a free tour of your cheesiest hits. Like your very own “Barbie Girl” complete with equal doses of nostalgia and shame. Yet, time allows a much more level-headed perspective and it’s easy to see both the flaws and the brilliance. There’s a lot to learn from the writing of days past.
I frequently revisit dated work to keep my writing fresh and clean—client projects from a year ago, poems I wrote last summer. But what happens when you revisit your own Iliad, the ancient work you created decades ago?
What follows is an essay I wrote in 9th grade, yes, 20 years ago, that I’m sharing with all of you. Because sharing is caring, and 14-year-old me would love your company. Because if we’re not going big, we’re going home, where it’s safe under these blankets, with the blinds closed, where we don’t have to face earlier versions of ourselves.
I will be providing commentary and analysis of my work as we go, for your enjoyment and at the cost of my dignity. I’ve transcribed my work exactly as I submitted it to my teacher, grammatical errors and all. Without further ado, here’s “The Joy of Having a Pseudopodium: How to Regress Into An Amoebic State in Six Easy Steps.”
Buckle up friends, it’s about to get weird.
There’s a lot to digest here. Let me start by saying I am not an artist today, and I was not an artist back then. At the same time, I give myself a lot of credit for the rising action I created around the poor helpless algae running away from the vaguely psychotic amoeba giving moon emoji vibes.
I often write like I talk, meandering through my thoughts out loud as I process in real-time. What results is my introductions often make perfect sense to me but come across like I just welcomed you into my brain hole mid-thought. It’s indirect. A touch confusing. And takes a sentence or two to get to the point. Here’s your proof this started early and has persisted for decades. At least I’m consistent.
I think the dialogue is most of the way there but does come across a touch awkward. I cannot vouch for whether that was intentional or not, so let’s just say it was a stylistic choice. We’re missing some commas here but I didn’t have time for commas; I was too busy making thinly-veiled social commentary in 9th grade English class.
Great question. Probably because they’re a single-celled microbe and you can’t see them with the naked eye. It’s hard to conceptualize existence for a eukaryote, and then, how do you imagine yourself as one? I mean, are they even conscious or do they just float around eating and pooping without a butthole and going hard on the self-love? … Oh … I think that’s the point.
Amoebas are Other. Amoebas are the kid picked last for kickball. Amoebas are a stand-in for every outcast that ever felt alone. As you’ll see in subsequent sections of my essay, I present amoebas as both self-other and as an allegory for the in-crowd’s emotional ineptitude. It’s deep as shit.
Unfortunately, I did a bit of digging and amoebas recognize their own kind and engage in cooperative hunting which implies some level of consciousness. Even though this undermines the whole underlying theme of this essay—amoebas represent an emotionless, meaningless existence—I think we can all agree that we get what I was trying to say. I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt. I was 14 and let’s not hold Caitlin 1.0 to adult standards.
Jokes! We’ve got jokes!
Okay! Love me a listicle.
Topical. Still relevant. I was ahead of my time. If Caitlin 1.0 could see us all today with our hand-wringing and selfish pursuit of our needs above the needs of others, she would probably hold up this essay and say, “See! I TOLD YOU.” And she would be right.
Not going to lie, I love this sentence. Though I might change it to, “… if you ask it of yourself.”
Jesus Christ. How did I have a grasp of concepts like self-esteem and ego at 14-years-old?
Get ready, folks. Here comes a mantra far better than any watered-down bullocks you’ll read on the ‘gram.
Look at that beautiful sourcing. I also really appreciate that I had so much to say about asexual reproduction that I commented on my own graphic. It’s a touch extra. And honestly, the more I read this, the more this comes across as an excuse to talk about sex without talking about sex. Teenagers, am I right?
Whoa, buddy. This reads like some satanic panic shit. A little Karen in the making. To those of you who hold metal music near and dear to your hearts, I’m sorry. But I still won’t listen to your music.
So, I don’t remember ever actually reading the lyrics to metal music, which doesn’t mean I didn’t do it; memory is imperfect. But I find it hard to believe all metal lyrics have an undertone of anger. Maybe it’s like the opposite of “Pumped Up Kicks;” it sounds angry but is really about how soft bunnies are and DAMMIT how cute their noses are when they TWITCHHHHHHHHHHH!
Therefore, the argument could use some tweaking. Perhaps a focus on how the 24-hour news cycle can negatively impact your emotional health.
Strength of the argument aside, I see what’s going on here. The metal music is a mere vessel for my burgeoning discomfort with the emotion of anger. In my early 30s I finally stopped suppressing my anger, so SUCCESS. Again, no dice on the metal music though.
Anecdotally, I experienced the opposite when I went on a horror movie bender a few years ago. It’s like suffering was amplified. In any case, I never claimed this creative writing exercise was based on legit studies. In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, this essay is a prime example of how I utilized creativity to cope with existing in the world as a deep processor. So if instead you read this as an essay about me and what I felt in high school, it makes a lot more sense.
I mean, come on, this is brilliant pacing. In many ways, this essay is far better than some of the pieces I’ve written as an adult. I bow down.
Let me translate this for all of you. Caitlin 1.0 felt so much and so deeply, and she knew her peers experienced life differently. She felt caught between wanting to be able to be herself but believing that to fit in with her peers she would have to feel less. So this is part “you’re all sheep”—classic projection—and part, “I wish I could just be an amoeba so I could fit in.” Yeah, there’s a lot there.
“Supposed.” Salty, she is.
Caitlin 1.0 was making a statement about how we all spend so much time with media and devices that we could be spending in more meaningful pursuits, and same page, girl, same page.
You know, with the exception of The Great British Bake Off, I’m still fairly opposed to reality TV. I make no apologies. Pure garbage much of the time though garbage plays a role in our lives. Like on those days when a fog sets into your brain and you have nothing left to give, okay! Reality TV (Selling Sunset, anyone?) is a salve for our modern woes.
YES. Convey that disorientation. I can’t think, therefore I am NO MORE.
Where do I sign up? The people of 2022 actually find a life of eating and rest pretty appealing. Again, the argument doesn’t stand the test of time.
Yep. Fourteen was about the time the pressure to look a certain way reached critical mass. I know the cool kids today do great things like letting their body positivity all hang out on social media but this was the best I could do at their age; share my inner turmoil in a personal essay for 9th grade English class, where it literally did nothing but give me a hit of temporary relief before I had to go worry about whether I was too fat or not for the 5,000th time.
Bold. Refreshing. Reassuring.
So, I have always hated Fettuccine Alfredo (not sure why that was capitalized but just humoring myself) so this must be some kind of statement. Like my adolescent brain was offended by creamy noodles and all they represented. Best guess? Everybody else liked them, and I didn’t so I felt left out. They became symbolic of social isolation.
You know, I’m trying to be gentle with Caitlin 1.0 because she wasn’t a professional writer but at this point in the essay I am itching to do line edits. The flipping between numerals and written numbers is making my eye twitch. At the same time, super impressed with her vocabulary. She would be thrilled to receive my Grammarly updates that I have a better vocabulary than 99% of users. Not bragging or anything (yes I am).
Would you like a foam roller for that stretch? The idea that sleeping, which is restorative, diminishes bodily functions until you’re no longer human requires more imagination than I think I can offer Caitlin 1.0 right now.
How sweet! Providing options for insomniacs, the frontrunners to oppose this framework, I guess? As if that was a super pressing concern in the halls of my high school.
Shit. That got dark.
Well hot damn. It’s that easy!
Yep, that amoeba is definitely winking at you. There is so much sexual innuendo on this page, and honestly it’s a great representation of how I learned to flirt (and how I still flirt to this day).
Awkwardly, and with references to asexual reproduction.
But let’s give credit where credit is due; I’m incredibly proud of myself for letting that creativity run wild back then. In many ways, it’s the voice I always had that I needed to be back in touch with to become a professional writer. So, thank you, Caitlin 1.0. You started the dream. I’m just living it now.
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About the author
Propagator of succulents, hobbyist baker, healthcare by day, pug wrangler always.