Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Most Precious Thing I've Lost

I spent the last semester of my college career researching and writing a paper on Thoreau's forward thinking approach in a predominately nostalgic school of thought. It was so original I couldn't find anyone to support my theory, but I had a strong enough argument that my professor encouraged me to keep going with it. It might have been the fact that he adored my writing style and conversational prowess, or it could have been that I had really hit something.

I worked frantically on it. I worked harder on that one paper than all the other papers I had written combined. I was newly married (as in keeping my maiden name as my only name). I loved bouncing ideas off of my husband, but missed my English (teaching) Major and Hinckley Scholar roommates. In retrospect I never really bounced ideas off of my roommates, but I always had the option. I read Thoreau. I read Emerson. I read the not famous transcendentalists. I found passages to support by forward and backward argument.

I wrote. I wrote, and wrote. I wrote and edited and wrote. I had classmates read and critique, then I rewrote, and edited, and wrote. I wrote so long that on the day it was due I printed it off and ran up to campus in the dark alone to meet the deadline. (And not because I had procrastinated.)

I was proud of that beast. But once I handed it in I didn't look at it again. I got an A in the class, but didn't ever get the paper back. It wasn't until I needed a writing sample for a job that I went to look for it. I read through draft after draft but none of the versions I had had that last 5 pages where the magic really happened. IT WAS NOT THERE. It was not on my computer. It was not on Justin's computer. It was not on any of my zip disks. It was not on any of my floppy disks.

It was painful. I frantically read through all of my files that were last modified in that time period. I wept to Justin that I had lost 4 months of my life. I asked him to read through my things and choose a different writing sample because I couldn't read any of them without thinking about my real ability that was only hinted at in the papers I wasn't fully vested in. I tried to contact the teacher to see if he loved me enough to randomly keep my paper (he hadn't, but was happy to hear from me, he did tell me he liked it.)

I spent the last couple years repressing the memory of loosing that paper. Until today when I realized Justin's scriptures left in the taxi are long gone, and although it will pain Justin to know this, I don't think I have a copy of the poem I wrote him to accept his proposal. I had drafts in a notebook, but in my throwing-things-away-to-fit-into-a-New-York-apartment I am 89% sure that I threw that notebook away assuming that the hand calligraphied version I gave to Justin would stay with us.

This tells me maybe I like writing more than I am allowing myself to remember right now, and maybe I should try doing it again. Oh, and, that maybe I should back things up.


sallysue said...

I just unpacked my back-up drive. Thank you for the friendly reminder to actually use it.

I am truly sorry for what you have lost.

emilysuze said...

You are an amazing writer! I've always admired your style and have often had writer's envy. I think you'd do wonderfully as a free lance writer.

And I found myself in your same position recently. I wrote an amazing paper on Frankenstein and can't find it anywhere in any of my old college things. It is heartbreaking when something that you have poured so much of your self and time and effort goes missing.

charrette said...

There is genuine grief associated with a lost bit of writing! I thought a file of poetry I've saved over the years was lost...the kids told me they found it in the garage over the weekend and I was elated.

But my 7th grade journal, and my first novel? Gone forever.

There must be a great HardDrive in the Sky that is saving these things for us when we cross to the other side...