On February 24, I had the rare pleasure of listening to Neil Gaiman speak (the event was free, but required tickets and it “sold” out in under a minute). Fortunately, I have a Mark who loves me and managed to get us two tickets. You know it’s true love, because he gave me the first one.
I’d never heard Neil speak before, except on videos on the internet, and I was impressed at both how good a speaker/reader he is, and how funny he is. He read three short stories and three poems, all with a rhythm and fluidity that made me want to listen to nothing else forever (if only his stories weren’t so far onto the side of creepy, I would happily listen to him reading me bedtime stories every night). It’s a style that I aspire to at some point in the future, because it was very easy to listen to.
That being said, some of the best parts were not what he had prepared, but his reaction to audience questions. The one I enjoyed the most was about the second best question he’d ever been asked (the first being “did you ever burp so hard that it hurt?”) by a young child a few days previously. I don’t really remember his answer (it was over a month ago), because I was laughing so hard at the burping. A great deal of what he said had me nearly in stitches, and I wish that there was a recording so I could re-live the event.
Something else that he said resonated with me, though. He had stumbled across some poetry that he had written when he was sixteen, and told us how laughably bad it was. He didn’t share it, but he did say something that stuck with me. He said: “I love you, sixteen-year old Neil. I love you, and I forgive you.”
It came up today at a meeting of our critique group, in relation to something that I started writing around that age, and how much it has changed and grown since then. And I kind of chuckled and self-depracatingly told sixteen-year old Candice that I love her and forgive her.
And it felt good.
It helped that the critique group agreed with me (nearly everything we do as a teenager that we think is great turns out to be laughably terrible), but it made me want to put that phrase on a poster somewhere that I will see it all the time. Because I’m unusually hard on myself, especially regarding past mistakes, but without those mistakes, I wouldn’t be the person that I am today. And that’s worth remembering, because (most of the time), I like who I am and who I have become. So why should I be so hard on the person who I used to be? She’s me too, if a less experienced version of me.
And I love her.
I love you, past Candice. I love you, and I forgive you.