This I Believe

Jamila - Healdsburg, California
Entered on March 18, 2007
Age Group: Under 18
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This I believe Essay

I remember sitting by the window in a hot and stuffy streetcar some time during my fourteenth summer. Watching the familiar streets and people being gently rushed into and out of my view, I assembled words in my head, constructed sentences and tore them down again to build new ones out of the perpetual rubble. ‘She sat by the window on the right side of the streetcar, watching the world rumble by.’

Sometimes I had arguments with my friends or a falling out with my parents. Then I would write angry letters in my head, which, as my temper cooled, turned into letters of apology. I would reformulate them into beautyful, deep dialogues that were later discarded in favor of what we really said. I still think letters, although I try to let the adressee receive at least some of the wordyearss now.

When I was 15, I read “Sophie’s World” by Jostein Gaarder. Sophie and her mysterious philosophy teacher realize that they are caught in the story that Sophie’s father is writing in Afghanistan for her fifteenth birthday. After that, I started asking the people I knew and some that I didn’t; if their life was a book, would they want to read it? Somehow, not very many people seemed all that interested in imagining the ink on the pages of their life.

I believe that life is story shaped. I know that this is in all probability not true, that for many people life is to real, immediate and sometimes painful to ever be as fantastic and whimsical as a story. But even as I think about the hard reality of life, it coils into sentences, the beginnings of paragraphs and chapters. ‘For as long as he could remember, he had been invisible. His teachers paid no attention to him, the people he called friends were the boy who sat behind him in history and sometimes talked to him and the girl in English who had once borrowed one of his pencils and the one time his parents he could remember his parents actually talking to him was when he accidentally got an unexcused absence which was later cleared up.’ What a painful life, but what a wonderful beginning to a story!

You can call it wishful thinking, but I like to imagine that there is a hidden plot slowly unfolding behind the distracting details of every day life. That during the occassional dull and uneventful times, I am just stuck in the line ‘And the weeks dragged by in dull eventlessness,, until…’ And it is always the little word ‘until’ that holds me in suspense. If life is storyshaped, all the sad and angry moments are as precious as the happy ones, for who would want to hear 80 years of boring bliss?

The number of stories is infinite and though I may not even be mentioned by name in most of them, I am the single most important person in this one. And when it is nearly over and I recount it, it will be completely up to me how elaborately or dismissively it will be told, what genre it will be and yes, I will definitely get the hardcover version.