I Think I Peaked At Age Thirteen

In the 7th grade, my English teacher, Miss Brosdal — a gorgeous blonde toothpick who was filled with so much enthusiasm and energy that I aspired to be just like her when I grew up — asked everyone in my class to write a poem as the culminating project of our poetry unit. I was ecstatic; I was inspired. I wanted to write an insightful poem. I wanted to impress Miss Brosdal, I wanted to impress the boy in the class on whom I had a crush from that year up until my junior year of high school, and I wanted to impress myself. I knew that I wanted to be a writer, and I saw every assignment as an opportunity to prove to myself that I could do it.

I wrote a poem about New York City called “With Each Window.” It was a compilation of vignettes, scenes playing out through windows of buildings in the city. It was about that woman who walks into her office thinking about the fact that she still doesn’t have a boyfriend to go home to, has a headache from not sleeping the night before, takes three Advil, and then sits down at her desk with her head in her hands wondering if the work day will ever end. It was about that man who walks into his office, looks at his bookshelf, wonders why he hasn’t read half the books that are on it, makes a phone call, and then looks troubled. It was about the way that we see people and judge them based on their actions when we don’t know their backstories. It was about the way that sometimes we’re left to wonder what their backstories are, and the fact that we’ll never really know. It was about the fact that the city is a magnificent painting of mankind in general. It was about my love for New York City and for thinking and writing and reading. It was about everything; it was everything to me.

But sometimes, I worry that that poem was the peak of my writing career. Miss Brosdal was so impressed with it that she asked me to read it aloud to the class. I was too shy, so I asked her to read it for me. I remember feeling so completely embarrassed, but proud and insightful and intelligent at the same time. I felt like I had actually come to some sort of understanding about the world, and it was amazing.

I don’t think that we’re ever as uninhibited and unafraid as we are when we’re children. When I was thirteen, I was not unafraid, and I was not uninhibited, but I knew less about the world than I do now. I’ve since written a total of over 40 articles for three newspapers, a piece for a literary blog, countless essays and journal entries, and several poems and songs, but nothing seems to top that poem in my mind.

I have been trying to figure out why that is, and I can’t quite come to a sensible conclusion.  Fitzgerald writes in The Beautiful and Damned that sometimes too much knowledge poisons talent. He writes that, sometimes, thinking too much and knowing too much diminishes one’s ability to write well, because good writing is focused and pointed. I think that he may have been onto something. When I was thirteen, I didn’t know as much as I do now– I didn’t think quite as much as I do now– and I could see these fantastic scenes of men and women in their offices going about their days; I had complete visions of what they were doing and thinking and feeling, even down to the uncertainty of it all. Now, there’s more to write about, so it feels like I have to try harder to drown out all of the background noise and focus on the topic at hand.

When I was thirteen, I believed that there was actually a chance that my crush would send me a rose on Valentine’s Day; I believed that I’d have a prom date and that prom night would be perfect and fairytale-like; I believed that people would treat me as well as I treated them. It’s not that I don’t believe in anything anymore; of course I do.  But now I know better than to believe in fantasy, and maybe that’s the problem. TC mark

image – Rhett Maxwell

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  • http://www.facebook.com/grc15r Gregory Costa

    What can I say?  Most girls do.

    • Guesty

      Chris Hansen wants to talk to you.  

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

        ^ nice bro

      • http://fastfoodies.org Briana

        just…take a seat, willya?

  • ryan chang

    i usually follow the advice of moz: ‘do your best and don’t worry’

    • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

      Yeah, that’s made him SO HAPPY.

  • http://twitter.com/melvinismad Melvin Alvarez

    That IS the problem.

    Remember what Aaron Carter told you, “Keep believing baby, ’cause everything happens for a reason.”

  • Leisel

    Can we read the poem? 
    Great article. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arielle-Dollinger/689671028 Arielle Dollinger

      Haha okay, here is the poem — keep in mind I was 12 so it’s clearly not the most profound thing in the world.With Each Window, by Arielle DollingerWith each window comes a different office.With each office comes a different person.
      With each person comes a different story.
      With each story comes a different plot.
      With each plot comes a different twist.
      With each twist comes a different message.
      With each message comes a different lesson.
       
      With each window comes a different office.
      With one office comes a man bustling about, seemingly looking for something.
      We hear him mumbling under his breath, to no one but himself.
      We see him pick up a stack of papers, and then replace them again, disappointed.
      We watch as he sits down in his luxurious black armchair, and opens a bottle of Aspirin.
      The phone rings, and he doesn’t pick up.
      We may never know who it was, and why they called.
       
      With each window comes a different office.
      With one office comes a woman, just sitting at her desk, smiling.
      A letter sits motionlessly on her desk, right in front of her point of focus.
      We notice that she is reading it.
      An even larger grin appears on her face.
      The letter is the cause of her smile.
      We may never know who the letter was from, and what it said.

      With each window comes a different office.
      With one office comes a man mounting a ladder leading up to a high bookshelf.
      As he approaches the tippy top, he pulls down a large, heavy book.
      He looks as if he will not be able to take the book down with him due to its size.
      We see him arrive safely down to the floor.
      He brings the mysterious book to his desk, and flips through its mystical pages.
      We may never know why he chose that book, and what book it was.

      With each window comes a different office.
      With one office comes a woman, pacing her office floor.
      As she paces, she slowly sips a bottle of Aquafina water, eyes closed.
      We hear her low murmur but cannot make out any words.
      Finally, she sits down at her desk, and begins to fill out some kind of form.
      She has a puzzled look on her face when she comes to the last question.
      We may never know who she was, and what the form was for.
       
      New York City is filled with magical people and things.
      No one person can discover them all by themselves.
      With each building comes numerous shining windows, their light reflected by the sun.
      With each window comes a different office.
      With each office coems a different person.
      With each person comes a different story.
      With each story comes something new and exciting.

      • guest

        You wrote/write like I do. In better words than I could have said by the Smashing Pumpkins song, The Beginning is the End is the Beginning or The End is the Beginning is the End. 

  • asjdkflasdkl

    Wonderful piece. It definitely resonates with me
    And the same goes for art – I used to be able paint and draw so uninhibitedly, and I dared to try new crazy things. Now I feel weighed down by all that I’ve learned and all that I’ve observed in what I’ve classified in my mind as other people’s “good” art

    I’m so scared of losing my creativity

  • asjdkflasdkl

    Wonderful piece. It definitely resonates with me
    And the same goes for art – I used to be able paint and draw so uninhibitedly, and I dared to try new crazy things. Now I feel weighed down by all that I’ve learned and all that I’ve observed in what I’ve classified in my mind as other people’s “good” art

    I’m so scared of losing my creativity

  • http://pickyourfuture.wordpress.com/ RebekahMeinecke

    “When I was thirteen, I believed that there was actually a chance that my
    crush would send me a rose on Valentine’s Day; I believed that I’d have
    a prom date and that prom night would be perfect and fairytale-like; I
    believed that people would treat me as well as I treated them”

    Beautiful and I 100% agree. You still get some of those moments in life later on but somehow they’re never quite as perfect as we imagined them. I don’t think reality will ever be as beautiful as our fantasies.

  • Jen

    I get this.

  • Caleb Reidy

    i love you

  • http://twitter.com/cream_dreamz Stephanie Jones

    You’re not very self-deprecating, are you?

    • lo

      why should she be?

  • http://twitter.com/cream_dreamz Stephanie Jones

    You’re not very self-deprecating, are you?

  • http://www.twovisionaries.com Jough Piccininni, Jr.

    WOW. This piece has so much depth, and feels natural in relation to the way I think, and my views on the way I think. It’s brilliant.

    My interpretation and what I find intriguing about this piece is how its context about a formal piece comes full circle in its relation to the latter – you end the piece with uncertainty and a dash of mystery. However, it’s paradoxical of your poem. I feel the uncertainty results from not a loss of fantasy, but an increased awareness of it. That’s still my interpretation. 

    One of my biggest struggles is over-thinking. With relation to this piece, I find irony in the idea that without fantasizing, it’s harder to stay focused and to the point. This piece makes me think. A lot. We should never stop fantasizing. And should someday stop analyzing.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arielle-Dollinger/689671028 Arielle Dollinger

      Thanks so much! :)

  • Ann

    I used to think I peaked in 2nd grade. But you realize that there isn’t just a single peak, that there is a series of peaks. You’ll find yourself in the next one sooner or later. 

  • Kaya

    Wow, this is a wonderful article and I’m thrilled to have come across it;  I too peaked at age 13.  For me there was just so much angst, confusion, and discovery to put on paper. I would go through several notebooks at a time, filling each page with poems and intense thoughts. My creativity was at the highest point it has ever been from 12-15. I remember waking up with the urge to paint and for it to feel so natural. I haven’t picked up a paintbrush in years…

    And yes, I know much more now then I did when I was 13. I guess I’ve become discouraged by the real talent I see in so many others now, whereas at 13 I felt like I had so much more to offer. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arielle-Dollinger/689671028 Arielle Dollinger

      thank you :) and i don’t think the talent of others should be discouraging, it should be inspiring (as difficult as it is sometimes to see it that way).

  • Guest

    there is certainly something to be mourned

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