When I was in 6th grade, my teacher had us write our autobiography. I was in a new school, having just moved to Massachusetts. I thought my autobiography was quite unique from all the other 6th graders in the class, because I was already experiencing hardships they had yet to discover—tragic hardships like moving to a new school in a new state, and having to make all new friends (oh, my!). I worked hard on that autobiography and I felt it was worthy of some kind of literary award, but the best I got was that it was displayed on the class bulletin board along with everyone else’s. After only four months at that school we moved again and the last I ever saw of my 6th grade autobiography was hanging by a thumbtack on a construction-paper-covered bulletin board.
Because I never got my autobiography back from my teacher (who, I was convinced, kept it because it was so good) I decided to write it over again. At first I tried to remember what I had written in the one I had done for school, but as time went on, I added a lot more to it—private stuff that I didn’t have to worry about my teacher reading or anyone else passing the sixth grade bulletin-board for that matter.
I added to my autobiography for years and when I stopped working on it, I started keeping a journal instead. My journal was told in story-like fashion complete with word-for-word dialogs that took place during my day. I wouldn’t write in a journalistic format like, My teacher yelled at me today when I was doodling at my desk instead of paying attention to her stupid lecture. I would write it like a story:
“Pay attention!” my teacher snapped at me as I sat doodling at my desk.
“Fine, whatever...,” I replied.
I didn’t realize it back then, but reading my old journals now--the ones I kept AFTER the burning diary incident (see "Before There Were Blogs" post below)--I notice I wasn’t just writing down my thoughts, I was writing my life story as it unfolded.
I guess not getting my autobiography back from my teacher was a good thing, because it got me writing things I might never have written about. Many of those events I wrote about would have been lost to frequent memory purges over time. Nevertheless, I still wish I had the original, first-edition copy of my autobiography. If by some chance my sixth grade teacher reads this, I'd appreciate it if you would mail me back the autobiography I wrote for your class. Maybe it was that good, you really did decide to keep it all these years.