Essay at Twenty-Four

Poster of Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary MovieI looked through old journals seeking memories I’d purged into words. After too much reflection, I decided to offer a glimpse of the history and creative process behind selected pieces of my work on Red Room and julesjacob.com

Wedged between “October’s Treasure” and “Dream House” in “Poems: Volume I, 1978 to September, 1986,” were two and a half pages of messy cursive writing. I flipped the first page, assuming it was a diary entry—they occasionally snuck into the journals—and noticed “(526) needs to be 1000” in tiny print in the corner. I read the pages I’d ignored for decades.

The diary entry was actually a long-forgotten, first draft of a poorly written essay. The list of markets I intended to submit to was admirable and delusional. I decided to publish the essay in this blog without any corrections; it was excruciating difficult to do. Some people might say I’m foolish. (I might say they lack confidence.)

The omissions in the essay are the reasons I didn’t finish it. Reading words you wrote nearly twenty-nine years ago quickly casts you to the past, but the beauty and agony of hindsight and honesty cement you to the present.

_______________________

When You Have Children Too Young

Something changed in me the summer I was 24. I don’t really know why it happened at this particular stage of my life. But, all of a sudden I began rebelling at the responsibilities I had. Perhaps it was because my husband, our daughters and I had taken two months off to go to Littleton, Colo. for the summer.  I was back in my hometown and most of my high-school friends were just getting married. I had been married for 5 1/2 years! It really made me wonder if I had gotten married and had children too soon.  (98)

My parents wanted me to wait and get married when I was a little older. But, of course I didn’t think they knew what they were talking about. When do we finally realize that most of the things our parents told us were true.

I was married at 19 and had my first daughter 14 months later.  It was a choice that I wanted at the time. I loved playing house, being pregnant. I thought it was wonderful and I felt like a young heroine in a novel.  Perhaps, martyr would have been a better word because when you begin to produce life (103) at such a young age – you have to sacrifice a part of yourself.

From 19 – 24 I really liked being responsible, mature and old for my age. I felt like I was 1 step ahead of all my friends. I was that much further ahead of them in life because I already had a husband and children. Those were the days I thought life was a race. What happened? I didn’t always want to be a rock of Gibraltar. I realized I really needed to be young and frivolous once in a while before it was too late. (98)

It is better to wait and start a family after you know yourself and have grown up. This doesn’t mean I want to drastically change my life. I love my husband and children. I can’t resent them for the decisions I made years ago. Instead I’ve begun to take time out for myself – to not feel guilt if I put myself first once in awhile and kick up my heels and rejoice at being only twenty-four. I can take my position in life a little less seriously. Just because I was a wife and mother first, doesn’t mean I can’t be my own person – it just takes a little longer. (110)

So, I’m glad for the change in me. It was better to realize what I was missing now instead of when I was 40 and couldn’t remember what it felt like to be young and unrestricted.

I feel a little guilty writing this because if my husband and children would read this they would probably feel bewildered and somewhat rejected.  It’s not that I don’t love them. I just feel it’s better to have children when you’re older.  If you know and love yourself first – it is easier to give 100% to your offspring. It’s not too late, tho- I will just spend the next few years growing up with my children.

_______________________

The summer I refer to was the Geographical Cure pursuit of the calm life I envisioned when I married the sweet boy I met in New Hampshire when we were thirteen and fourteen. I was forcing the dream—having a family and life like I had growing up in Littleton and New Hampshire. What better place to pursue a false dream than its settings?

The boy I loved, who swore he wouldn’t be like his abusive, alcoholic, womanizing father; became a controlling, fighting, abusive, womanizing alcoholic. The only changes he made in Colorado were his job, bars and drinking buddies. The drinking, passing out and rages over dinner being dried up (because he came home late from the bar) and not fit for a dog were the same. The irrational jealousy over other men looking at me or potentially looking at me didn’t change. The two months we “took off to Littleton, COLO for the summer” proved the word calm only existed in my vocabulary.

I joined Al-Anon shortly after returning from Colorado. My ex-husband attended AA and had long periods of sobriety. We had two good years and another child (intentionally) before he relapsed and began abusing alcohol and other drugs. He’d been violent towards other people during our marriage. Typical of abusers, the violence escalated and involved me the last year of our marriage.

In July of 1987, I made it back to Littleton, arriving at my brother’s house with three children and nine suitcases. Of the hundred things I’ve come to understand since I wrote this essay, I wish I’d known you grow up with your child no matter what age you are when they’re born. I wish I’d realized the value of good health and how fortunate we are to not only grow up with our children, but to grow old with them as well.

 

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Jules Jacob

julie ginkgoJulie "Jules" Jacob is a contemporary poet who often writes about dichotomous conditions and relationships among humans and the natural world. Her poems are recently featured or forthcoming in Plume Poetry, The Tishman Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Rust + Moth, Yes Poetry and elsewhere. She is the author of The Glass Sponge chapbook with select poems featured at the Colorado Gallery of the Arts and Le Moulin à Nef where she was a resident of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Poetry Workshop.

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