Throughout most of my early years I lived my life like it was scripted. What I mean is that when I was younger I wrote a script in my head narrating every moment that I passed through. In a sense I was trying to write the story of my life as it was unfolding, perhaps hoping that this act would somehow grant me the control to make it what I wanted it to be.
I realize now that so much of my life, particularly my teenage years was focused on control – evaluating who was trying to control me and for what purpose, what I had control over, and what I could have control over.
This obsession with control wasn’t simply documented in the autobiography in my head. There were physical manifestations of the story that I wanted so badly to tell. I discovered that there were two things that I could use to illustrate my story with little interference: my body and my room. I could control what went into my body, creating drama by assaulting it, and I could control my room, the setting for which all things could take place.
When I was young, my bedroom was the most fitting backdrop for my fantasies. My bedroom was the primary space that I existed in and came to represent who I thought I was and what I thought I wanted. I filled it with the things that were important to me as I began to understand myself. I only visited the stage I shared with other unscripted characters on occasion; collecting images and feelings to infuse with my fantasy.
Up until that point, my room and my head were filled with what my parents believed should be important to me – the things that were important to them. I replaced the generic representations of their values, the gender appropriate color schemes and wall décor with objects that reflected my interests and desires.
My teenage room became a modern version of the sixties drug den complete with tapestries and blankets draped over windows, bookshelves, and dressers. Band posters and notes from friends covered the walls and any other exposed surface. Basically, anything solid and inflexible was hidden and altered by a carefully crafted collage – an ever-changing backdrop that’s fluidity seemed to break down the prison that permanence seemed to present. Anything was possible if the walls and the real, unchangeable things that they contained, were disguised.
It was chaos of my creation that seemed to offer escape from the grasp of my parents. I sometimes wonder if this room with its offerings to a god they didn't understand was an act of war against my parents as much as it was an attempt at peace for myself. I made my room a place that they didn't want to enter because it was a pathway to the unknown – something that I was intrigued by and that they were terrified of.
Within that room I escaped from reality and deepened that distance from all things real by reading. All books became reference books – educating me on how to live without fear and how to dodge the control of just about anything – Big Brother, small towns, oppressive love, etc. These books introduced me to characters that were able to do beautiful things once they were able to break free. They filled me with a vocabulary with which to write my own story.
I am much older now. Twenty years have passed since I was at the height of literary fame in my mind. My plot has shifted from what once seemed like it would be a best seller to more of a self-help book. I stopped writing my story in my head years ago, perhaps because it stopped feeling like anything worth reading. Who would want to read about a divorcee cleaning houses to pay the bills? What’s beautiful about watching TV after work and eating spaghetti for the third time in a week? That story is all too familiar and offers no escape. It only serves to remind the audience that life is hard and goes by far too quickly.
Time has passed so quickly that not only do I have children of my own, a son and a daughter, but they are settling deeply into their own stories. Where I was once a central character in my own story, I was, for a while a key player in theirs as well. Not so much anymore. My son will turn sixteen this summer and I wonder if he is busy up in that head of his writing his own script – plotting his escape the way that I was.
I, on the other hand, find myself preoccupied more with what their stories will say than what’s left to write of mine. But there are times, when I am alone in the bedroom of my apartment when I still think of myself. I still attempt to dismantle the walls, hanging art instead of band posters and notes – still looking for something beautiful to escape into. However, instead of listening to the words in my head that struggle to dictate what is and will come, I put on a record and dissolve into the soundtrack of what used to be – rereading my memoir. I revisit a time when I believed more about the world and myself, hoping that I can bring a piece of that character and her plot into the present.