Hindsight in 2020

So, as I mentioned the other day, I finally started working on the second draft of my book about my living and working in Japan. It’s been interesting revisiting a story that took place in the early 2000s. When I returned to America and first started writing about my experiences, it was a first-person narrative of a contemporary story. That was fine because, back then, it WAS contemporary.

However, the longer I worked on it — and, subsequently, didn’t work on it — the harder that was to pull off. That’s probably one of the reasons why all my attempts to revise the damn thing have failed. But, considering nearly 20 friggin’ years have passed since it originally took place, I’m now approaching it as a third-person period piece. The finished product will probably be back in the first person but, for now, it’s been really freeing. It’s so much easier to write about settings and events historically instead of constantly trying to justify things after the fact.

Grandpa Simpson.jpg

Even more freeing is that I’m no longer concerned with how my actions and motivations in the book make me look because it wasn’t ME doing those things, it was MATT. Sweet, simple, naive Matt.

One thing that really shocked me was my new perspective on the catalyst that set the whole story in motion: a bad break-up. I’d always remembered it and treated it as “I was in a picture-perfect relationship for 7 months and, out of the blue, the girl of my dreams dumped me. We’d never even argued once!” As time passed, I wrote it off as “she was young and didn’t realize what we had” and I’d felt that way since.

But revisiting the source material from the vantage point of a happily married adult and, as a result, having the confidence to dig a little bit deeper, I noticed a lot of things I hadn’t before. Subtexts and insecurities. Problems that arose from our age difference that I’d always overlooked in the past. Problems that arose from the engagement she’d ended to start dating me.

Plus, the other day, while trying to place when certain events had happened, I tracked down a copy of the school calendar from the college she was attending that year and noticed a pattern: I’d met her over Christmas break. She emailed me after the first day of class in the last semester of her Freshman year and we started dating that next week. Then she eventually broke up with me the week before exam week of the Summer A session. That’s when it hit me:

“Wait, was I… a rebound?

Was the whole relationship just a long-distance, 2-semester college romance that helped her transition from engaged-too-soon high schooler to a confident, single college student??

Was I… too old for her?

Was I… HOLDING HER BACK???”

As you can imagine, the realization threw me for quite a loop. So much so that it may have contributed to my failing to write anything yesterday. (Well, that… and our A/C choosing to crap out during a heat wave.) Thankfully, I hopped back on the horse this morning and made up for yesterday’s word goal.

It’s funny, I’ve always beat myself up for not finishing this book for so long but maybe, just maybe, I needed all that time to find the confidence and perspective to actually make the book into something good.

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