It was some time after I had written the papers that I pulled them out; memories of old favorite stories and poems from high school, and most of them sat on that shelf across the room from me, in a few textbooks together with my Latin binders.
I always loved writing and by all (my) accounts, was a good writer, and always enjoyed it. Like anything else, however, one progresses, and although the memories are fond, the subjects warm, the writing leaves plenty to be desired. That wouldn’t be the case in the eyes of a ninth-grader, though. He doesn’t know that you use “shall,” in the future only with the first person, and “will,” with second and third. He doesn’t know that a first person conditional statement is “I should like,” not I would like,” or that you never use the first or second person in a thesis or research paper. He will.
The first one was an alternative ending for an Ursula K. LeGuin story that we were to write. Fond? Not necessarily. Others, like “The Right to Rule,” or “The Cause and Effect of World War I,” were history papers and were pretty much unchangeable in the sense that the information itself wouldn’t change.
Literature (especially your own) has a way about it like old embarrassing family photos: in that day, you thought your Wayfarers and big hair (or senseless use of commas and words like ‘rather,’) were HOT. But now looking back, you see in 20/20: your mother was right. You find you have changed so much since having written that thesis or that story; your life is so different, but you remember the feelings, the emotions, the smells: everything that made that what it is, and when you wrote it, you put something in it you didn’t even know existed.
So much emotion, or feeling, or attitude, or persona, is captured in your own writing style, your voice, that you may not realize what it is, exactly, until you let it culture and age in your closet or computer or cabinet and pull it out years later, and then your own language, the subtleties throughout the work, speak to you in your very own language, and you suddenly remember things you didn’t even know you knew or had forgotten.
It is this time machine one encounters when he rereads his old favorites, only to find they had changed completely, just like when you go to your kindergarten class years later and realize the tables have shrunk. They don’t fit like they used to, and you would fix them, but you won’t be using them anyway. Besides, they look good just the way they are.