Writing Center


Tricia Barker | Writing Center Tutor

I was sitting in my English class just a few days ago. We were talking about adaptations of our favorite books, our favorite movies, and the like.  I’ll admit I was only half paying attention. To be fair it was nine in the morning, and I had run out of time to make coffee before I left. So maybe I was dozing off or maybe I wasn’t, but at some point, a picture caught my attention.

As my professor changed slides, I looked up to see an old piece of parchment. It was worn and faded, and the words were hard to make out. Though it was Latin or Greek or something else way over my head, I still couldn’t even see clear figures to mark out letters. It looked like a mess. It looked important. It was a palimpsest.

For those who don’t know (Tricia pre-class Monday), a palimpsest is some type of writing material where the original writing has been erased for later writing but of which traces of that lost original remain.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking of it since.

Aren’t we all just palimpsests? Aren’t we all just constantly reinventing new versions of ourselves? Don’t we always have traces of our past selves still with us?

For me, I know it’s true. I’ll rewatch Scooby-Doo because it was the only show my brother and I could agree to watch on long road trips when we were little. I’ll wear my hair with a clip for big events because my grandma always liked it best that way, and when I’m missing home I’ll try to make vegetable soup with my dad’s recipe. I’ll think of my mom whenever a certain Duran Duran song plays, and I’ll look for my first boyfriend’s favorite constellation whenever I see the stars at night. I guess I’m a palimpsest myself.

It’s impossible to separate it all. You can leave home, go to college, start writing a new self on the page. Yet, that original writing still has traces showing through. All those who loved you, who love you still, it’s all there.

I encourage all of you to think about your own lives, too-- to think of how you can take all those traces of the past and yesterday, and feel for where they lead you. They brought you here. They brought you today.

That’s pretty special.

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