Setting the monster free

I wasn’t expecting the past to find me today. But alas, as I was scrolling through the documents on my dad’s computer to find a file I had just uploaded, something caught my eye. Shown in the preview of a folder titled “Laura” was a photo I thought no longer existed: a photo of me with my coach.

After the whole ordeal that happened with my coach, I attempted to destroy all evidence of him. With the exception of a journal I deleted all files on my computer that contained anything dealing with my coach. Pictures on facebook were promptly taken off. Printed photos were ripped up and tossed into the trash. Running notes he had given me were burned (literally). I threw a necklace he had given to each of us girls after his trip to Florida into Lake Erie.  I was angry, and I wanted all items dealing with his memory destroyed.

Despite successfully destroying most of the items, I was still haunted by what happened. There was no trashcan in my head that I could store my memories into, no button to press “delete.” As time went on I thought less and less of it. But it was always there, in the back of my head, an ugly little monster reminding me of happy memories gone sour. And I wasn’t sure how to get rid of it.

But then this project popped up. And when the theme “mentor” was decided on, I knew this was the story I was going to tell. I didn’t know why, and because of that I struggled with it the entire way. I could not figure out why I was telling the story, what the point was behind it. I was afraid that my desire to tell it was only proof that I wasn’t over it, that, as several of my friends put it, I was still dwelling on it. Every time I sat down to write I would only type up a few sentences, ask myself why I was writing this, and then walk away.

Finally over spring break I decided I would write. What I did instead was dump. Staying up until 4 a.m. almost every night I dumped every memory I could remember onto the screen. By the end of the week I had 29 pages of every event that happened in a span of 2 years.

Of course, dumping is not the same as telling a story, and it didn’t take long for Brad to remind me of that. I remember the afternoon I received a tweet from him telling me not to panic. Sure enough in my inbox was his edits to my story, as usual, covered in red. In that e-mail he said, “I think you are lost in the narrative.” And he was right.

We met at Starbucks to talk about it. He told me what he thought the story was about. “Schoolgirl fantasy meets adulthood reality,” he said. Suddenly it clicked. It was such a simple concept and yet it had been eluding me this whole time. That one sentence finally made me realize what my story was all about, and more importantly, why I was telling it.

Writing Ugly Little Monster was not easy. I had to reach into the past and think not only about what he was like, but what I was like. Confessing that I was that girl who thought she could end up with her coach was embarrassing to me. But being able to tell it was proof to me that it was in the past. And, more importantly, it was freeing.

Which is why I surprised to find that when I came across the photo, I did not have the knee-jerk reaction to drag it to the trashcan. Instead I looked at it, and for the first time felt nothing. No feelings of anger or bitterness. No feelings of sadness or missing what I once had. Instead I recognized it for what it was: a moment capturing the happiness between a coach and athlete, both oblivious to the destruction their friendship/relationship would soon face. A moment that is dead.

So I decided to keep it. Because that photo serves as a reminder to the process I went through in telling this story. Telling my story was releasing my past, so that I could move on. And while I hope others can take something away from my story, I told it for myself. In telling my story, I set my ugly little monster free.