With the exception of how many guitars and speakers are in my home, I’d like to think I have a minimalist attitude towards possessions in life. In fact, I find myself looking for ways to purge our home of excess on a nearly weekly basis. Clutter isn’t my thing. Stuff doesn’t seem to be important… usually. Though as much as stuff doesn’t hold a huge value in life, I will admit I can be sentimental. I keep art my boys have created, old letters from friends and some other random trinkets from times gone by.
I was looking through a box of things today and came across some of my old school papers. I didn’t save too much of my work, and I’m not sure why I felt compelled to save any of it, but I did. The main thing I actually held onto was my past writing projects, beginning with early middle school essays. Maybe writing was something I connected with even then. Or maybe it was because I could never forget the arduous task that it was, having to handwrite every single paper. As I started going through more of these papers, reminiscing on writing them, it was easy to see
where the insanity began that I loved writing from early on.
As I thumbed through more and more pages of my work, I started finding my final drafts mixed in with all of the rough drafts. The final drafts are where my best work was able to shine. No more hastily penciled in words. These drafts, these final fantastic masterpieces, these pages that I’m going to continue to overly-describe to drive up the word count in my post… they were not hand-written, but typed. On a typewriter. Not to be confused with a word processing program on a computer. I didn’t get to use any fancy, customized fonts. Just pure, plain typeface, with rare errors hidden under obvious coat of White Out. (And I’m not flaunting my ability in saying my errors were rare, I’m saying that in those days I typed cautiously knowing that, if I didn’t I’d be retyping whole pages at a time.)
The bulk of my papers are from the fall semester of 1996. That was when I began taking classes at Rogue Community College in Grants Pass, Oregon. It’s a beautiful tree-filled campus, welcoming many random people of all ages and personas. It was a great place to hang out and achieve a higher level of education at the ripe ol’ age of 13 (“Almost 14!” would’ve been my answer had someone asked me of my age. After all, my birthday is in October. Start planning accordingly!). The class I was most excited to sign up for was Writing 121. I was ready for a new writing challenge, and accepted my assignments with little trepidation. One assignment the cranky and well-aged professor had assigned was for us to write an argumentative essay. Heck, yes! I was excited. I mean, not to sound prideful but I’m gifted in arguing. I decided to tackle a hot topic in the moment, and I’m still not sure why I picked it. I should’ve written about chocolate ice cream being superior to vanilla. But no, I chose to write about California trying to pass Proposition 215, which was regarding the legalization of medical marijuana. Yeah, I went there. It’s still seems odd I’d pick that topic, being that I was 14. In the end, I received a good grade and a note from the teacher on my final “Earned the hard way!” So true.
All of today’s perusing of my past literary works had me really reflecting on his comment. I know I had picked a topic that was a bit over my head, which I’m sure is what he was referring to. But hindsight is 20/20, and at this point in life I see his comment differently. “Earned the hard way”? Yes! Did I have internet on a computer in my home? Nope. I had to read newspapers and go to a public library to use the internet. The version of the internet that included using modems that actually had to dial-up to connect. The version of the internet that meant I had to endure listening to that horrid noise. Spell check? I didn’t have that either. I had this thing, it was a huge book called a ‘dictionary.’ And if I found myself using the same word too often and wanted to mix things up but couldn’t come up with a better word? I had another large volume of words called a ‘thesaurus.’ And actually producing a final draft? That was the task of all tasks. Try typing more than 20 words flawlessly, without using the backspace key or relying on spell check! White Out was my friend, but I didn’t want to abuse our friendship, so I had to type carefully.
“Earned the hard way.”
I’m not going to harp on our current generation because they have so much available to them technologically, though they do. Every generation has had its challenges. Some more recent generations faced extreme racism, economic depressions and some even dealt with mass amounts of polyester. Mine dealt with mullets, leg warmers and learning how to create the world’s tallest bangs, so I’m gonna skip over that. Though part of me wishes I’d had the resources we have today in times past, I’m glad I had to work with what sparse technological advances the mid 90’s offered. Some day I’ll get to be that grandmother telling her grandkids the same stories they’ve heard a thousand times about growing up without predictive text, Google or easy to find coffee shops with wi-fi! And who know’s what else will have changed by then!
So, count your blessings for every wrong keystroke you get to remedy on-screen, pre-printing! Enjoy using dictionary.com! Be glad to not have White Out stuck under your nails! Thank God there’s this thing called “copy & paste!” I know I will. Whereas students today use iPads and laptops, I survived using typewriters and No. 2 pencils in college. I earned getting to use today’s technology the hard way. And did I forget to mention I also had to walk six miles each way through the snow to get there?
So, what have you earned the hard way?