I don’t know why this topic came to me yesterday but for some reason I started thinking about a poem I had to write as an assignment once. We were reading Whitman, of course, and our teacher (the wonderful Mrs. Boyer – now Williams) wanted us to write our own Song of Ourself.
Considering how much trouble I have coming up with titles, I think it is curious that the only thing I truly remember about the poem is the title “Out of Tune Beats 17.” Yes, I was 17 at the time. This just have been my junior year. My junior year English class in American Lit was really a turning point for me and maybe more so than I realized. And, not just because I wrote a 17 section poem, one section for each year of my life, but because I felt like I was conversing with words in a way I had not done so before in any other English class.
Junior year English started with the likes of Anne Bradstreet and moved us through our Dickinson, Whitman, Transcendentalists etc etc but we also read “The Crucible”, “Huckleberry Finn” and “Catcher in the Rye” to name a few. I also felt the need to read Ayn Rand on my own. Why? Challenge perhaps?
I connected with characters in all of these diverse works of fiction, poetry, non-fiction and stage/screen. I don’t think I realized how much then I also wanted to tell my story and the story of other people but I found I loved the connection you can make with people through their words and your own.
This was also the year of the impossibly hard exam that somehow, after hours of study, I ended up being the one with the best grade. I was floored given the caliber of my classmates. I was a good student (how geeky is it that I know and remember I was 7th in my class of 272) but I wasn’t the best student. I even answered the few grammar questions correctly, which is something I STILL wish I had been able to obtain more education in.
In long or short, my Junior year, especially as it revolved around English literature, was a year when I started to settle into the introspective writer that I have become. I recall my junior year with a lot of fondness. I looked pretty cute at my prom, I was on the debate/speech team and I was still involved with Girl Scouts. It was probably the last of my teen years when I was so centered because my senior year was tough, as was my first year of college.
Thank goodness my 20′s came around and rescued me!
What else do I have in common with my 17 year old self? No job yet. Ha!