‘I’d like to become an intellectual’: From the Writings of Younger Me

Below is a journal entry written when I was 18 years old and in my first year of college at Michigan Technological University. I’d been keeping a journal for a few months before this, but on this day I typed my journal on the laptop computer I’d just received (which, for the record and to make this seem an eon ago, was an IBM-brand with 2 megabytes of memory and a 120-megabyte hard drive, a computer that cost nearly $2,000). I was a computer science major then, and I was living away from home–eight hours north of home–for the first time. 

When I think now of how I felt then, I remember being lonely and overwhelmed, but I remind myself that there were good times, too. I’ve at times thought that I could write a memoir or a bildungsroman about those experiences, but whatever I’d write would be more artificial than the for-myself texts I wrote at that time. Reading this today, I’m struck by how much this does sound like my writing voice, albeit a less-experienced version of me. (I edited the journal entry below only minimally, to make reading smoother and to explain contexts.) However, I’m distant enough from these events that I feel like I’m reading someone else’s journal.

But this is what I wrote about my life at age 18 when I was age 18. I didn’t have the wisdom of looking back from an advanced age, but then, none of us have that wisdom as we are living our lives. These journal writings, then, are nonfiction that may have the flavor of a character monologue about them, the character being a me who is now distant from me. I have always (I think!) attempted to be honest in my journals, and as I publish these writings from my current perspective, I present them for readers to take at face value. I do not mean to endorse or criticize what these texts contain; I see these texts as valuable in their honesty of revealing a particular mindset from a particular time.

October 23, 1992

I got this awesome computer today and flunked my calc [quiz?] I was so excited. Pretty good day, but flawed. The bell of my tuba [the sousaphone I played in my university’s pep band] was bent when it fell off the bleachers [where we stood and played]. Some people got extensions on their program due dates–which bothered me a little, since I worked all last week on my program, but I guess it’s no big deal–I’ll have a chance to work on my program some more, too. This weekend is to be spent on homework. I’ll be glad when I go home – not so much because I get to visit the metropolis of Rochelle, but because I won’t have to do homework. Like I told mom the other day, I always have homework, or am feeling the constant threat of homework. Maybe I worry too much–I should probably relax more. Ran into Cute Trombone Girl tonight when a few of us [pep band members] went on a trip [stopping and playing] around the stadium. I thought about apologizing again, just to talk to her, but that seemed kinda lame, and it was (or would be). I’m not real worried though–I just try to put women out of my mind. It’s easier that way. First hockey game of the year tonight. I got tired of standing w/ tuba, but i’d better get used to it. I called home and talked to [my two-years-younger brother] Nace–still a slacker. I’m getting to be more of a slacker in calc. I almost want to get a ‘D’ so I can repeat it. A ‘C’ would be alright, too, but I’m going to drop down to regular calc 151 [from the honors calculus class I was in] anyway. Mom called back, but there was not a lot of time, and the hockey game was imminent. Not a lot of news, either. Homework is all I do, it seems. I do slack off sometimes, like today, when I played with my new computer and read [a magazine] instead of studying. I was just fried, however, from my whole week of constant homework. Next week won’t be much better. I think I’d like to become an intellectual. College sure has made me think more, about humans and life in general. I know I’d like to write fiction. Right now, authors seem demi-gods to me. I’d like to try writing anyway. I’d like my contribution to society to be something of art or literature, as opposed to the contributions of technology which surround us today. Well, I’d better go to sleep so I can get up tomorrow and do more homework.

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