My aunt found my grandmother’s high school yearbook, which contained an essay written by my grandmother back in 1939.
I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to receive this essay in the mail.
This is the magic of writing. As Stephen King argues, writing is time travel. It allows you to speak to the future with perfect clarity. My grandmother passed away almost 20 years ago, yet thanks to an essay she wrote as a teenager, her words and ideas have found their way to me more than 80 years later.
Her spirit truly lives on.
I like to imagine my grandmother as a 15 year old girl, penning this essay at her kitchen table, unaware that nearly a century later, it would be read and loved by one of her future grandchildren.
I also love what she’s written here. I’m shocked to see how much we have in common.
My grandmother essentially makes two arguments in this essay.
It’s fun to know that you’re better than other people.
She writes, “I have been taught that fun is learning to do something, and doing it so well as to be proud of one’s self some day for doing that certain thing better than someone else.”
Also, “If I succeed in doing this better than someone else, I find myself proud of it and try to do still better afterwards.”
I had no idea that my grandmother was ruthless and relentless. I never would’ve guessed that she found joy in destroying the competition. Climbing to heights never before achieved. Maybe even kicking the competition back down the mountain in the process.
My grandmother took pleasure in knowing that she was the best or striving to be the best.
We have so much in common. She was probably a lot less loud and jerky than I am about it, but our philosophies are remarkably similar.
My grandmother also offers advice on becoming popular, and I think it’s brilliant. She writes:
“Find something that is interesting to you, and study it.” She argues that people who don’t attempt to excel in life will not be “pleasing to their friends.”
In other words, people are drawn to those who seek excellence. Popular people are passionate about things and strive to achieve greatness.
I think this is great advice. Brilliant advice.
It also turns out that my grandmother was a lover of reading and writing.
She liked to write. I had no idea.
My aunt is retiring from teaching next month and plans to spend more time researching our family history. I’m thrilled. I hope she finds more. I remember my grandmother as a sweet, old lady who laughed a lot, listened patiently to others, and loved my mother.
Discovering this other side of her has made me so happy and has me wondering what other mysteries are still waiting to be uncovered.