Collecting reviews from three decades has brought me face to face with several strangers who went by my name. Jane Austen was right when she wrote, “Seven years … are enough to change every pore of one’s skin, and every feeling of one’s mind.”
Thus, Claire Tomalin, the English author and reviewer, wrote on gathering together pieces of her work from the previous 30 years. I had a similar experience the other night when I had a phone conversation with someone from my high school after 35 years of silence. He talked about many strangers with curiously familiar names, several of them myself.
“If anyone was going to really make something of their life, it was going to be you,” he said. “I thought you’d be Australia’s first female Prime Minister.”* Of course, I recognised myself in how he remembered me; all the same, it shocked me to learn other people had seen me that way including a 15-year-old boy. He told me several things about who I’d been then, and also things about himself during this period that I’d never known. I hadn’t looked closely at him – he’d simply been one of the boys I liked to beat in exams – and all the while he’d been observing and having a whole other life.
Once again, I get I don’t know. I don’t know who others are and what they are dealing with. I don’t know my impact on others. I don’t know how my life counts.
* How relieved I am that that “distinction” recently went to some other poor sod!
Image: El Morocco Motel, Bakersfield, CA by Ed Freeman