My email today contained one of those random nostalgic gifts our social media-connected world sometimes brings. My high school French teacher was going through poems she’d kept and found one of mine from grade 11, so she passed it back to me with some kind words.

I’m tempted to mock 16-year-old me, testing out the subjunctive and the meaning of life, but I feel protective of the earnest, awkward girl I once was, who grew into the slightly less earnest, possibly even more awkward woman I am now.

Le poème de Diane

Loosely:

Before I die, I want to do everything possible.
Before I die, I want to say everything I think.
Before I die, I want to laugh with all my heart.
Before I die, I want to cry with all my soul.
Before I die, I want to be someone I like, someone I’m proud of.
But I don’t have that courage, so I want to live in my own unique way, with my own way of doing, saying, laughing, crying, being.
I must be only me.

I often think of the differences between my younger self and my current self, acknowledging the hard-won transition from someone who couldn’t get off the bus if it meant asking the person beside me to move to someone who can, reluctantly but not disastrously, speak in front of an auditorium of strangers. The poem is a reminder that the girl is always inside me, now with a protective coating.

I remember writing an essay on Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron in high school English. We were to discuss how we would react in a society where the gifted were weighted down to be average — the intelligent wore earphones with noises to distract their thoughts, for example. So most of our International Baccalaureate class wrote essays about how they would defy the system, casting themselves as heroes. I wrote about staying quiet and appearing average so I would be able to live inside my head, as myself, in peace. It’s possible mine was the more realistic scenario, but most people at least believed they have the courage to be the hero, to be more than they daily appear.

Last month at work we participated in a Myers Briggs workshop and were given funny “prayers” for each type. Mine, INTP, says: “Lord help me be less independent, but let me do it my way.” I do still just want to be me.

People who know me well aren’t surprised that I’m 100% introvert on the Myers Briggs scale, though some who don’t are fooled by that protective coating.

Before I die, though, I would like to prove her wrong, to feel like the hero of my own story.

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