On Words and Meaningful Things…

My trips home for the holidays usually end with my parents sending me home with personal belongings that have been taking up room in their house since I moved out five years ago. This past Thanksgiving and Christmas were no different when I brought home my beloved scrapbook that my mother made of the first 18 years of my life, and my senior yearbook.

I had my sights set on the yearbook since this past summer when I needed to recruit as many former field hockey players from my high school’s 2006 varsity team to attend a ceremony at last year’s homecoming game. Considering there were over 20 of us, and I certainly didn’t want to leave anyone out, this was a tall order. My senior yearbook would have been the perfect resource, but alas, it was at my parents’ house.

For some reason, even after I figured out all the players on the team from that year, I couldn’t wait to skim through the yearbook again, revisiting old memories through photos and trying to decipher all the inside jokes in my friends written messages. I finally got the chance to do it over Thanksgiving, and I couldn’t help but laugh at my 18-year-old self and everyone else in my class.

It wasn’t over my clothing choices, which were questionable at best throughout most of high school, or any stupid faces we made in our photos, or anything else like that. It was because of our senior quotes.

Let’s just focus on mine: “Life is notes underneath our fingers. We just have to figure out which ones make music.” – Jamie Foxx

For starters, I’m not even sure I got the quote right when I submitted it to the yearbook staff. I had hastily written the quote down when my Mass Media teacher had us watch Jamie Foxx’s episode of Inside the Actor’s Studio, and I thought I had finally found an original quote that truly embodied my thoughts on the future. The Pisces in me has long been an idealist, and I had been raised to believe that I could achieve anything for which I worked hard. This was it. My quote. I was not going to have to resort to “In This Diary” by The Ataris (and thank god for that, because being an adult is exponentially more fun than growing up and I didn’t peak in high school).

I was so proud of this quote even beyond high school, and as I re-read it at my parents’ house, I couldn’t help but laugh at myself and my ambitions. I wonder if others feel the same way about their quotes. Do they look back and think, “who the hell did I think I was?” Or perhaps they were one of the students that didn’t take it seriously, and wish they had? Did we truly think that we would look back on high school and think it was the “best days of our lives?”

Once I stopped laughing at myself, I actually began to look a little deeper at the situation. As someone who loves to write, I carefully choose my own words to convey my thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and more. As recently as last month, I have turned to others’ words and artistry to convey something for me when my own words failed. This isn’t all that easy – others’ words can be just as easily misinterpreted as our own. Perhaps another writer was willing to bare their soul more than we were, and in choosing their words over our own we are allowing them to show our vulnerability. It can be just as nerve-wracking to express ourselves in this manner, particularly when it’s plastered next to our picture, forever memorialized in a yearbook.

When I look back at our senior quotes through this lens, I don’t laugh at our naivety. I admire our ability, and even our courage, to use someone else’s words when ours were not enough (all of us except that one kid that quoted himself. I’m still laughing at him).

While I don’t think a senior quote is meant to set the tone for your future or be any sort of prediction for it, I’m starting to feel proud of mine again. In regards to my own life, the notes I initially chose didn’t create the song I’m currently living, but that’s okay. I still found a way to make music and I’m happy with where my life has taken me. The beauty of our world is that we’re able to try out different notes for different outcomes, until something feels right. It’s not always easy or fun, and it might not always make ends meet, but if it’s worth doing we should find a way to make work.

Even if I chose not to completely overanalyze this moment in my past, I now feel a little bad at laughing at my little ambitious past self. She thought she knew everything and that all she had to do to guarantee a job after college graduation was work two unpaid internships at the same time. It’s good to revisit that person through this quote to balance out how jaded adult life can make us feel. Over time I have learned to balance my idealist thoughts with the real-ness of the actual world around me, and I’m happy to have 18 year-old Brianne, with her Jamie Foxx quote, heavy side-parted bangs, and head-to-toe Delia’s looks to remind me to stay positive when the world gets a little too real.

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