Monday, January 12, 2004

Monday musing

I was reading through an old diary entry yesterday. It was from ten years ago, when blogging wasn�t even a randy gleam in its maker�s eye. At the time, I was nearing the end of my third month in Izmir, Turkey: I�d just got two new flatmates, John and James: And I was still somewhat bewildered and lost, wondering what the hell I was doing in the place. As entries go, it was pretty mundane. I was rejoicing over the fact that I had found a place that sold porridge oats. �At last I can have a real breakfast,� I wrote. Until that point, all I�d been having was the chewy standard white bread sold all over the country. The idea of having a full Turkish breakfast � white cheese, eggs, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, tea and honey � hadn�t even entered my head. One sad attempt to make toast over a gas ring had been abandoned after the bread caught fire. I was, at that time, still trying to do everything the English Way, rather than stepping over into the pace and customs of Turkey, as I was able to later. So, there I was yesterday, my 35-year-old self reading about my 25-year-old self, and being sucked down a pathway of memory.
Someone has said that a diarist lives three times: Once when he lives it, twice when he writes it down, and third when the diary is read later. It was strange, reading this other me. Here was this person with largely the same opinions, beliefs and habits as myself, yet subtly different. For a start, this guy had more hair than me, and was thinner and (probably) better-looking. Then, I was still reaching out, groping towards whatever the future held for me. How would the 25-year-old Paul react if he had known, ten years hence, he would be back in his home town with a wife and son and still teaching English? As I read, I could see myself again, leaning over the page, dusty light coming through my bedroom window as I wrote on a desk made from a wardrobe door, and the tingling jingle of the AyGaz van echoed through the street outside. And now, here I am, remembering yesterday, an image of me sitting on my bedroom floor, reading a ten-year-old diary entry and imagining a younger self, a procession of imagination like Russian dolls nestling within each other. After all, what is the past but a construction of memory?

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