August is a great month on the post calvin because we get a set of new regular writers. Please welcome India!
After an array of rooms and roommates these past four years, I’ve been settling in to a room of my own, north of downtown Chicago. In turn, as I’ve been moving my life into this new room, I’ve been dismantling the one in the southwest suburbs of Chicago where I slept in from the age of ten until I left for college. My mother very firmly told me that she intended to paint over the dark red walls and turn it into a guest room, though she later admitted that I was the guest she had in mind.
I agreed that cleaning out my former bedroom seemed like a reasonable postgrad endeavor. I’ve tried to keep my new room spare, but my old room was a disorderly array of trinkets, school assignments, and the journals of varying degrees of cuteness that bookish girls often receive on their birthdays.
I’ve had to take down a decidedly more amateur collage and sort through all my old writing, a painfully embarrassing, bewildering, and oddly profound process all at once. It seems like I made a point of writing one pensive entry per cute journal and then scorned the rest of the blank pages. There are a few adolescent laments about acclimating to suburban life after growing up in Hyde Park. A letter I wrote in high school to a dear elementary school classmate the day I found out he had died is achingly sincere. An intriguing found poem I wrote for my high school creative writing class stymies me because I didn’t bother to make a note of my source text. More often than not, I’ve had to stop reading my own words and shove them in a cabinet for another day.
I reject my past writing attempts in favor of something more basic: my notebook of second grade spelling lists. I search for for motive and meaning in my eight-year old brain’s random groupings of words. There’s something poetic about the short entry on 9/16/02:
Or the one a few pages later that leaves it at
I’m no longer tripped up by the t’s in Mediterranean but I empathize with my crossed out attempts.
And I need Google to get myself through 11/4/02’s seemingly random list:
I recognize the alternating consonants and vowels of Honorificabilitudinitatibus but while the Wikipedia article is interesting, it doesn’t leave me feeling particularly worthy of winning any spelling or vocabulary bees. I wouldn’t know the meaning of thersitical—not to mention how to spell it—if it came at me in a profanity-laced tirade. I’m not quick enough on my feet to appreciate their respective Shakespearean and Homeric connotations. I double check on the meaning of sententious and pat myself on the back for basically knowing that definition, even as I know this is a bit of a stretch.
It’s a puzzling thing to revisit words I’ve learned and forgotten I ever knew, at least at that age. I know I wasn’t leaving any messages for my future self nearly so overt as my actual writing, but I can’t resist trying to find a common thread among these incongruent words.
India Daniels graduated in 2017 with majors in history and English literature. Her first year out of Calvin, she moved home to Chicago to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Turning the Page, a nonprofit promoting parent engagement and literacy in North Lawndale schools. She now assists Turning the Page’s used bookstores and coordinates a citizen-reporter program for City Bureau, a civic journalism lab on the South Side.