I read something truly terrifying in the paper the other week. There, tucked away in the penultimate paragraph of a passionless defence of the title Miss, was this offhanded remark: “We learn the vast majority of our vocabulary before the age of 18 (you add a few odds and sods after that, but they don’t become part of you and your working daily toolkit, permanently and easily accessible without a moment’s conscious thought).” I would describe the feeling I got when I read that as total abject doom. I am 19 years old, which, if the newspaper columnist is correct, means that my brain’s best word-learning days are behind us.
I went outside to get some air, and the descriptors that float through my head are the same ones I’ve used for ages: blooming, fresh, fragrant, fertile, damp, blossom, bursting. I am frustrated by this deficit of expression. I describe things, but not in the sort of detail that conveys anything like my reality, the way the world exists for me. None of my words feel right. It’s all been said before.
I feel this all the time, like there is a huge gaping hole in my comprehension. There are things that exist in my mind that I cannot convey. It’s like a form of amnesia—I think something, some word or phrase, should be there, but I look for it and can’t find it. Sometimes, while I am preoccupied with trying to find a way to fill in these gaps, the present runs away from me uncontrollably fast.
This year of school, for instance, has passed in the blink of an eye. It will all be over in a month—school, exams, the place, the people. And I regret that, I regret that it will all be over so soon. Then what will I do? What will I do when I don’t have work to avoid, when I don’t have a place to go five days a week? I got so used to the friends I made and the routine that I created. There will be none of the structure that I’ve found so helpful.
This ending is sort of anticlimactic. I am not preparing for my final exams with any urgency right now, even though they are quickly approaching. But I am not “laid-back” either—the very notion unnerves me. I am mostly on edge about my inability to do what I feel a deep desire to do, which is to create something original, to put this weird existence into words that will properly describe it to myself and others. For now, I can only call it “weird.” ♦