On Turning Twenty

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I have a little box in my room in which I contain artifacts of my past. There are stickers, an old journal, Barbie clothes, etc. Every once in a while, I pull out the box and examine the things inside. As I stand on the edge of my teenage years, I take the box out more and more often because I long to reside in my childhood again. It was such a simplistic and satisfying time: My imaginary cat, Carlos, and I could roam the streets together, and if I didn't want anyone to see him, I could just simply not mention him.

These days are over, though. And no matter how much I want them to return, I don't believe it's possible apart from sifting through old memories. That is why I was very moved when I read Collins' "On Turning Ten." This poem was beautifully written, and although I didn't understand EVERYTHING that was written, I don't think that poetry is meant to be completely torn apart (as you may well know from reading a few of my previous blog entries). I actually like how Collins put this action in "Introduction to Poetry." So many times, we "torture a confession" out of poems (74). This, however, is beside the point.

In "On Turning Ten," a narrator, presumably ten years old, is looking back on his quickly passing childhood. He says that "You tell me that it is too early to be looking back (76)." This young man seems very wise for his age... He seems to know that his innocence is lost.
I've realized, through studying the media in STW, that children are growing up increasingly more quickly. My eight-year-old cousin walked down the stairs yesterday in a belly shirt, eyeliner smeared down her face. How is one supposed to react to this? She asked me "Do I look pretty, Jessie?" What was I supposed to say? I couldn't tell her that she was growing up too fast. Now, I see what the young boy in "On Turning Ten" is talking about- ten is NOT too early to look back in today's day and age. He longs for  the "perfect simplicity of being one and the beautiful complexity introduced by two (76)."

I feel empathy for the poor boy who "used to believe there was nothing under my skin but light. If you cut me I would shine. But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, I skin my knees. I bleed (77)." Now, any adult would know that there is not light underneath his or her skin; we've had too many science classes to prove otherwise. But how do you tell this to a child?

11 Comments

Melissa Schwenk said:

I really like the way you brought the poem to light through your own outside connections with children and other observations. I didn't even think about how children now days are growing up a lot quicker than they were decades ago.

Kayla Lesko said:

I also have a little box of things from my childhood and I also have a folder with my earlier writings. I like to look at them to see how far I've come as a writer.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

I don't know what I'm waiting for, but I haven't really consciously made the effort to see how far my writing has progressed. I don't know exactly what I'm afraid of, but you have a good idea there.

Aja Hannah said:

I have two memory boxes!

Dave said:

I mostly just have a room in my parent's basement that is in complete disarray, full of all sorts of random things from my past....much of which really should be thrown out.

Anyway, I really liked how you caught the idea of kids growing up faster. I just assumed that the speaker in the poem was nothing like 10 year-old me because: A. He's extremely wise for his age and B. I'm extremely immature for mine (and always was). But I think that's a really good point, because besides the typically wanting to look and act like adults, it seems like the more simple and innocent things (like believing we're made of light) are grown out of quicker too. Reality has a much faster onset.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

I believe that there are two different types of "reality"- the type of reality that is seen by an adult and the type that is seen by a child. I want the reality of a child back!!

Jessie Krehlik said:

"On Turning Ten" had a similar effect on me. I didn't think of the kids around me, but I did think about how fast time is flying since we started college.

And as for your final comment about the little boy who thought there was light beneath his skin...isn't this just another example of how much of our imaginations disappears as we grow older. Children have such wide imaginations, until they start learning, and then it all goes haywire, because they can't seem to find a way to balance make-believe with reality. I really wish I still had the crazy imagination I had while I was growing up...

Brooke Kuehn said:

I believe there is a turning point in all children's lives where we realize life is not as simplistic and magical as it seems. For some, this point occurs early on in life and for others, who live a more sheltered life, it occurs later. I also think teenagers may feel so awkward because they miss being children, but at the same time, they do not want to be told what to do.(I elaborated more on this in my blog).. To this day, i still feel depressed at times when i look back on my childhood that i can never experience again, but i am also glad to be an adult with so much still ahead of me.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

I don't know why there is as much akwardness as there is, but I notice this, too. All in all, though, I think it all comes down to the level of innocence which one possesses. One may be 35 years old and live the simplistic life of a child. Basically, it's a matter of whether or not that 35 year old still sees "light under their skin."

Do you remember in Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek when she talked about "seeing colors?" I think that this is the principle that is described in the poem.

Carissa Altizer said:

My parents are photographers and as a result, I have always had a camera. I was always very aware that my kid days wouldn't last forever and that my pictures would be extremely precious to me one day. For as long as I can remember I have saved "important" writing samples, notes between friends, and scrapbooks filled with good and bad memories. Weeks before I left for college I started packing boxes of things from my childhood. Maybe I rushed it...maybe I should have kept my room the way it was for a little while longer. Maybe, or maybe not. My parents are already looking forward to a bigger living room and most of the difficult part of moving out is already done for me now. I guess I just have a few boxes left to pack and I'm ready to move onto the next step of my life.

JessicaOrlowski Author Profile Page said:

I know what you mean. I tend to get very attached to the things in my past. I've only recently started purging my room of all the artifacts from my childhood, and it is the most difficult thing in the world!

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JessicaOrlowski on On Turning Twenty: I know what you mean. I tend t
Carissa Altizer on On Turning Twenty: My parents are photographers a
JessicaOrlowski on On Turning Twenty: I don't know why there is as m
Brooke Kuehn on On Turning Twenty: I believe there is a turning p
Jessie Krehlik on On Turning Twenty: "On Turning Ten" had a similar
JessicaOrlowski on On Turning Twenty: I believe that there are two d
Dave on On Turning Twenty: I mostly just have a room in m
Aja Hannah on On Turning Twenty: I have two memory boxes!
JessicaOrlowski on On Turning Twenty: I don't know what I'm waiting
Kayla Lesko on On Turning Twenty: I also have a little box of th