It might be the encroaching presence of my thirtieth birthday looming over the distant horizon a year-and-change hence, but I’ve been finding myself strangely reminiscing over my teen years a bit more lately. And that comes in a few forms. Basking in warm memories, obviously. Laughing at the folly of my youth, even more obviously. But also the growing that was done in those years. Namely, the first time I had an experience that gave me context for the idea of “catharsis.”
I’ve never made any bones about how this, being my own tiny slice of the internet, is basically a glorified little public diary. Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad as heck to have you here and any involvement/feedback I get on here is received like a warm batch of cuddles; but it remains just that, a place for me to stream my consciousness a little, workshop some things, limber up some mental muscles at times, and post stories that I’m positive will never see the (Say it with me, now) Light of Day otherwise.
What it boils down to is that writing’s healthy, I find. It helps you expunge some of the plaque that builds up in your machinery, and offers a net to catch pesky wandering thoughts, granting the peace of mind that you have them now, no longer risking them to forgetfulness. It’s cathartic. And the first time I can remember discovering that for myself was when I was seventeen.
Brief back story: I went to religious private schools off and on growing up. Catholic one year, then most of my middle school years attending a little Lutheran school. That meant a lot of religious inundation, and a Judeo-Christian lens for most existential explanations growing up. That meant it felt, while freeing, a bit culture-shocky when I attended public high school and made friends who didn’t think that way. Also meant I was in for a bit of a metamorphosis as I encountered more and more new ideas that challenged the worldview established growing up.
The tipping point, funnily enough, was reading “A Dirty Job” by Christopher Moore. In summary, it’s about an average Joe that accidentally becomes responsible for ferrying souls, essentially, from one life to the next. It painted something reminiscent of a case for reincarnation, and had a very humanizing and personal (while hilarious) prism to it. But it stoked a bunch of questions I’d felt building the last couple of years.
Maybe…God…wasn’t. Wait, what? Maybe…this – this being life – isn’t structured as neatly as I thought. But if that hasn’t been right, then- but if not, then…what? Wait, what?
With the challenged worldview, I wasn’t given a thoroughly convincing new answer to replace the firm ones I’d known until then, only questions.
I didn’t call it this then, but it was a bit of a spiritual crisis. I felt a little cast adrift all of a sudden. And at seventeen, with proper adulthood and college around the corner, it came at a hell of a time. I had questions. A LOT of questions. Plus thoughts, theories, models trying to draw themselves in my brain, what felt like a forced but unsubstantiated new way to look at the world, and a lot else all competing for rank in my mind.
It. Drove. Me. Nuts.
For any other Avatar: The Last Airbender fans (which you should be, because it’s awesome), looking back on this is what gives me a greater appreciation for Zuko’s arc; specifically when he decides to help Aang rather than hunt him, and that identity/spiritual warring sends him into fever-stricken convulsions.
But while it’s tough, I think it’s an objectively beautiful part of the human experience.
Anyway, I felt insane for the better part of a week, at least. Stopped hanging out with friends, f**ked off my homework, the whole nine. Until one day, during my free fifth period, I went to the library and wrote it all down. I scratched out every thought that plagued me, every unanswerable question, every idea and model until my hand cramped. Then at the end of it, I set my pen down and instantly felt better, like someone had thrown a valve and the mental pressure just evaporated. I’d taken all the chaotic thoughts and questions, captured them, and sealed them in ink on paper.
And just, oh boy, I recommend it as a matter of good practice to anyone who finds or has found themselves feeling in similar straits.
Take care of yourself, you’s guys.