Alexandra Duncan

Science Fiction. Fantasy. Feminism.

LAUGH OR CRY

A madness possessed me the other night, and I dug out my diaries from middle school and early high school.  Most of it is what you would expect -- terrible poems, does-he-like-me angst, rambling essays on tyrannical substitute teachers, entries about how my mom is SO UNFAIR, and if she thinks I'm too sick to go to the movies with my friends, why am I not sick enough to stay home from this horrible, boring church dinner?  There's also a lot about Jesus and Star Wars in there, sometimes intermingled in a profoundly funny and confusing theological slurry.  But my favorite part, the part that had me laughing so hard I cried, was my very earnest and intense proclamation that HUMAN BEINGS SHOULD NOT WIELD MAGICAL POWERS.  This is what I wrote when I was fourteen years old:
3-26-98
Power is not for a human to hold, for in our hands it brings about destruction and sorrow.  I was thinking that perhaps it's true what they say, that magic is a neutral force and whether it is good or bad depends on the person, BUT, and here is my point, humans are not perfect.  We all have hate and bad intentions or feelings inside ourselves, so that would be the quality of the magic.  Humans cannot control their frustration and anger, so in theirs hands magic could unintentionally be used for evil.  That's why PEOPLE  should not have the power to do magic. They, we, don't know what it will bring about.
O_o

I read this aloud to Jeremy, and after he finished laughing and regained control of his motor functions, he upped the geek ante and asked the inevitable question:

J: What about wizards?
A: I don't know.
J: I mean, like, if they're Tolkien wizards, they're not really human.  So, can they have magic?
A: Well, maybe. They can handle it better.  Except. . . maybe not.  I mean, look at how Saruman turned out.
J: Yeah, that didn't go so well.
A: No, it didn't.
J: And what about Radagast the Brown?  What did he ever do for anybody?  Jack sh*t.
A: (Insane laughter)

If my fourteen-year-old self had been in the car with us, she would have been disgusted.  Here she is, trying to make this really profound point -- she's had an EPIPHANY, you guys -- and these callous adults are cackling and cursing and generally lowering the level of discourse.

Frankly, I don't know if I would want to hang out with my fourteen-year-old self.  I don't know if I could deal with the amount of drama she would bring to the table.  But then I look at my life at the time I wrote that diary entry in 1998, and I understand her intensity a little more.  In addition to Star Wars, Jesus, crushes, and terrible poems, my diaries are full of disturbing things I'd nearly forgotten -- my friend's ongoing struggle with anorexia and self-mutilation, my own experiences with divorce and psychological abuse laid out in painful detail, intense religious guilt, and a truly harrowing account of a classmate holding a pair of scissors to my neck.

And I know my own experiences aren't the worst ones out there.  Kids and teenagers go through some genuinely difficult things that most adults would rather not acknowledge as part of their children's world.  I know I don't want to think about my younger brother and sisters being forced to deal with these sorts of profoundly troubling life issues.  I guess what I want to say to fourteen-year-old me and all the brooding, troubled kids and teens out there is, I'm not laughing at you.  I don't want to belittle your pain or write it off as "teenage melodrama."  But you get to a point as an adult where you have to choose: laugh or cry.  If you want to stay sane, you have to laugh, and maybe curse and make obscure jokes about minor Tolkien characters.

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