Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Visit From My Former Self

A few days ago, I received the following text from one of my oldest friends:  "Just found a stack of letters from you as far back as 1987.  Mostly letters from Madrid."  My friend lives only a few miles from where I work, so I stopped by her house and picked them up on my way home yesterday.  Just seeing those 20-peseta stamps, emblazoned with King Juan Carlos's handsome profile, brought back my Spanish adventure in striking detail.  I flashed on the ornate post office at Cibeles Square, where I would go to buy stamps and airmail envelopes.

I was a prolific letter writer back in those days.  I was trying hard to create a writer persona for myself, which included sitting in Madrid cafes, scribbling  journal entries, poems, short stories, or letters to my friends back in the States, among other, late-night activities.  (Anyone who's ever visited that city knows there is no lack of those.)

If you've ever had the experience of reading letters you wrote 25 years earlier, you know it's an odd sensation.  It's kind of like turning a corner and looking your young self in the face.  In the words, you recognize bits of your identity, but it smacks of pretension, making you remember the discomfort of youth, when you tried so hard to convince those around you that you were comfortable in your own skin, all the while sure they would see through your flimsy disguise.   

My writing in the letters is embarrassingly overdone at times.  One, written in November of 1989, starts with, "Closing out the eighties, you and I've known each other more or less this whole sad and best-forgotten decade.  If you could collect all the proverbial water that's passed under that ole bridge you'd have one hell of a reservoir..."

I have no choice but to forgive myself; ultimately, I couldn't have written any other words but those.  That was who I was, and perhaps I'm kidding myself to suggest that I've changed much at all since then.  I still write the occasional letter, but mostly it's emails and text messages, along with Facebook status updates and tweets.

Which is not the same.  There's an intense intimacy in letters that you don't find in those other forms of more modern communication.  My mother was a letter writer.  I got it from her.

The most jarring admission I can make to myself about these found letters is that they are a chronicle of unfulfilled dreams and desires.  I had the audacity at age 25 to imagine myself as a famous actor ("They will name diets after me!"), and brag about having met a literary agent who loved my writing and encouraged me to write a novel, a task I have not yet accomplished, nearly 25 years later.

Once again, forgiveness is due.  A young man is supposed to dream big dreams.  If I hadn't been imagining big things for my future, something would have been amiss.  And besides, I've got another confession to make:

At age 49 I still dream of writing great novels and being a movie star.

And you know what else?  It just might happen, because I ain't dead yet.....

1 comment:

  1. The photo is awesome. Don't stop believin', Dan. You also turned out to be one heckuva good educator. I said one time (and others agreed with me), "If Dan Fuchs ever became a principal, I'd want to go work for him." You're like the rock star/actor/writer of education. I'm going to go name a diet after you.

    -- Stacy