It can be stressful returning to your hometown as an adult. Your old friends aren’t around, family is a lot to handle, and of course, you have to decide whether or not your passing observations have any literary merit. The more time you spend at home, the closer you get to posting about your new goal of filling 250 pages with the past 20 years of your life. But before you pull the trigger, take this quiz to find out if that’s actually a good idea.
There’s a picture of you and your sister as kids in your living room. It’s from one of those mall photo shoots. Your sister is smiling, but you’re looking off distantly. How many stories are crystallized within this photograph?
- Twelve, each of which has the potential to be fully realized in its own genre-blending vignette.
- One. You were looking at the photographer’s hokey striped vest instead of the camera. That’s kind of funny though if you think about it.
You decide to go for a walk. The boys playing lacrosse at the park look so much younger than they used to. Is this a rich metaphor or just an unremarkable thing that happens with the passage of time?
- Metaphor. Who knows how much has changed since I was a girl…
- Unremarkable! I will 100% forget about it once I am back in Gowanus.
Deeper in the park, you pass a wooded path where you once held a bong for some cute stoners. They didn’t even offer you a hit and you got like a million fire ant bites. Should you go re-experience that sensation to really make it pop on the page?
- Yes. My prose is nothing if not visceral. I’m going in.
- No. It’s sort of a funny story but not like, Angela’s Ashes.
Wow! It’s popular kid, Conrad, from high school and he looks terrible. He tells you he was in grad school for literature, but he dropped out because it was “too intense.” You’re kind of shocked that Conrad gave up on his dreams so easily, even with the privilege to do literally anything with his life. Using this interaction as a jumping-off point, should you write an essay about the consequences of coasting on white male mediocrity?
- Actually yeah, you should. THIS one is an essay.
- Sometimes a story about white male mediocrity is still just a mediocre story.
Mostly 1’s: You have lived a life, but remember, you are still just back home for one weekend. Sure, there’s some good stuff here and maybe you should unpack it in therapy, but is this really gonna feel important later?
Mostly 2’s: Okay, you are really just home for the weekend. This stuff isn’t a story by any stretch of the imagination. Your brain is simply grasping at straws to make this experience less boring and pointless. Don’t drag the rest of us into how boring it is as well.