My mom really wishes she knew the color of my carpet. My room at home is so cluttered that I used to be afraid of ending up on a “Hoarders” episode, so I’ve begun tackling the herculean task of cleaning it. Just like every time I try cleaning, however, I eventually end up sitting on the ground besides my “TRASH” and “RECYCLE” bags, flipping through an old sketchbook I found in a drawer.
Unsurprisingly, this year has been no different. Over break, I spent hours flipping through used notebooks and old yearbooks. My mind still wanders to one specific undated sketchbook. Judging by every drawing’s rampant same face syndrome — an art flaw where every character has the same facial features — it was probably from 2010. I kept flipping it open again, looking at one drawing of a girl with blue bangs covering one eye and set the notebook down in my “keep” pile.
I’ve found a lot of mementos like this while cleaning my room — all four of my high school yearbooks, photos from my martial arts black belt training and a notebook with a full-length fan fiction written inside. They all come from pivotal moments in my life, yet I found most of them hidden between my bed and dresser or behind stacks of books. So as I shuffled through my desk drawer full of loose papers and photos and replayed old memories in my head, I started recreating 12-year-old Sakura in my mind.
I was never the horse or cat girl; I was the giant robot girl. 12-year-old Sakura was a Transformers enthusiast who would wake up at 8 a.m. every Saturday morning to watch the new episode of “Transformers: Animated.” As if that weren’t enough, I’d then immediately jump online to watch all of the episodes of the original Transformers cartoon. I also adored superheroes, and would draw them almost as much as the giant robots, hoping that I’d grow up to be that cool and composed.
My favorite jacket was one that looked like Captain America’s outfit because it made me feel like one of the heroes I wanted to be. I did everything I could to emulate the superheroes that I looked up to. Superheroes, humans and giant robots alike, were always portrayed as organized, focused, suave and successful. That’s all I strove to be when I was 12 years old.
I thought that getting better at my many hobbies would make me more like a superhero. What I really wanted to improve on were my writing and drawing skills. A lot of my friends used to draw too, so I would constantly compare our work and hypercriticize myself. Many of my friends were better at drawing than I was, so I refocused my artistic energy on writing in the hopes of becoming the group’s author. After all, a hero always has to have a place in their group.
By the time I had turned 14, I’d started hiding old notebooks in drawers around my room, just in case someone came in and found them, as though the notebooks were some sort of scarlet letter, something to be ashamed of. I used to think heroes didn’t have an “awkward” phase, that they were immediately just as put together as they seemed.
I want to do this girl proud and be the hero I wanted to grow into. What would 12-year-old me say, if she were looking through 20-year-old me’s room? 12-year-old me would have been so pleased that I’m majoring in English. She would be ecstatic that I get to write constantly for my classes and the Daily Cal. I know she’d even be excited about the fan art I drew last night, despite my current belief that it could be better. Young Sakura would be even be impressed that I can spell the word “constantly” without looking it up. She would probably consider me put together.
I’ve heard many jokes about tossing out old sketchbooks and deleting old FanFiction.net stories, and even throwing away “embarrassing” photographs. But those moments are what made me who I am today. If I didn’t write Mary Sue characters or draw the same face over and over again, I wouldn’t have figured out how to add variety, use adverbs or even how to draw hands.
I love being able to improve on the characters I designed in middle school. I love being able to cringe while I read a story I wrote two years ago, knowing I’ve grown so much since then. I’ll treasure every old photo, at Halloween parties and swim meets, face covered in acne and teeth bound in braces, and I know I’ll always smile through the grimace. I even have the Captain America jacket, sitting in my closet — and it still fits.
Looking back at my roots is the only way to know how far I’ve grown. All of us are growing and learning every day — tomorrow, I’ll be a slightly wiser version of myself today. So I try to acknowledge the growth I’ve made, because I am the hero 12-year-old me hoped to grow up to be.