I just finished reading David Sedaris’ Theft By Finding. Bizarre. Rude and Crude. Yet, I had to keep reading. Jokes he retold were offensive.
But it’s not like the words David wrote were his. He simply recorded what said to him and around him. It’s kind of creepy to think that he tended to follow people as they conversed to get material. Though sometimes he had so much detail, I wondered how much he made up or exaggerated to tell a whole story, though sometimes he just threw in bits and pieces. Sometimes he’d write about politics. He noted celebrity deaths.
Growing up gay in the 70s was hard. David relayed the verbal and sometimes physical assaults he experienced. I’d be surprised if I wrote my experiences down.
I mostly kept reading because his diaries are so similar. Sometimes similar location and time. I mentioned in an earlier blog that he was in Ithaca the same year I was a floundering sophomore. And floundering I did.
In fact, I’m looking at a journal entry of mine from May 5, 1979. Onion skin typing paper. My fingers walked a lot of miles on my new electric typewriter. High school graduation present. Family tradition. Barbara and Pamela didn’t benefit from technology. Deborah, I do believe, had a manual return, but was electric. Mine used cartridges that you had to pop out; I got really good at getting the ink out, the correcting cartridge in, and the ink back out. A pit stop for writers.
My journal is like a time machine. I can read a sentence or paragraph and I travel back into time. The angst I experienced then comes right back.
By the time I got to Ithaca College being an athlete was my entire identity. I wasn’t much of a student. I wasn’t much of a friend, unless you were my dog or parakeet. When I think of high school, I do not remember doing anything other than playing soccer, hockey, or coaching little league.
Now that I look back, I see myself as a lost molecule. When moved into the dorm, I started bouncing from person to person. School hadn’t started, so I had nothing to focus my energy on.
I had to socialize and had to hang up my athlete persona on a hook at the door. I had nothing on underneath it except for the self-conscious persona.
The greatest benefit of being four hundred miles away from Weston, Massachusetts is that no one knew me. There were perhaps two high school classmates at Ithaca College, but we didn’t run in the same circles. I realized that there were no expectations of who I was supposed to be. Maybe, just maybe, I could drop the not-so-great-student characteristic.
I did eventually get rid of that mind-set, but not until I moved three thousand miles away. At IC I was too busy bouncing around, trying out new personalities, experimenting, trying and failing.
In this particular journal of 5-5-79, I had failed badly. My grades were horrible, probably from not going to class and not doing the work. I was on academic probation from the semester before. I was in a cast after tearing my Anterior Cruciate Ligament playing lacrosse; I didn’t know my knee was toast as the tear wasn’t diagnosed for at least a year. I was going through withdrawals from endorphins. Take a moving molecule and make it be still and it will die immediately. I don’t know if this is true. I just took a guess.
The only benefit the cast gave me was an extension on some of the activities I was to perform for my physical education classes. I didn’t mind not having to do a routine in Stunts and Bumbling. I did manage to get a B in Social Round Dance. I didn’t inherit any of my grandmother’s dance genes.
The best part about keeping a journal and holding onto it for so long is being able to look back at the confusion and pain and acknowledge that I came out on the other side. It’s like waiting for a storm to pass and knowing that there will be others.
Now I just have to figure out how to take my words and be like David Sedaris.