Culture | Once upon a time

Open mic for your inner child

Wildly popular in Toronto and Ottawa, “Grown-ups Read Things They Wrote as Kids” – also known as GRTTWaK – is a free, open-mic reading series that has now found a home on the island of Montreal. Last Wednesday, November 5, Drawn & Quarterly hosted a room full of former children revelling in the dramas and musings of their younger selves. What ensued was hilarity, absurdity, and at times, touching sincerity from the pens and pencils of babes.

The first to read was an eccentric man in his late thirties, with an excerpt from a science fiction novel he had written at the age of seven. He read about aliens, diners, incredibly fast cars, and fantastical spaghetti entrees in space. A childhood prodigy underappreciated, he confessed his grandmother used to tell him that his stories weren’t “worth the matchstick she would use to burn them.”

After his reading came many diary entries, some love notes, a few more short stories, and a reading of my very first novel – The Cat. The readings portrayed intense emotions about boys, girls, romance, and frenemies; end-of-the-world angst and cringe-worthy lyrics with lines dramatic as “I broke my leg – nobody REALLY cares!”

My personal favourite was from a Judy Blume-themed diary: on May 21, a girl started her journal entry with “Happy Canada Day!” She proceeded to draw a Canadian flag and list her favourite things about this country – “maple sugar, bagels, and red.” Ah, the roots of Canadian identity….

To be a kid is to get away with whatever you can. You can laugh, scream, jump, kick, scratch bums, pick noses, play “make believe,” and openly mock others without being told that you’re making a scene or embarrassing your friends. Everything you do is magical and life-changing because you are doing it for the first time: you garble speech – it’s incredible. You walk – it’s momentous. You burp – it’s cause for celebration! I do all of these things daily, and I receive no applause, no parental congratulation, no standing ovation or scrapbook insertion.

I am envious of children and nostalgic for my childhood. To be a curious and expressive child, I feel, is a privilege – people don’t give the same behavioural leeway to adults. In attempt to mature as refined, affable human beings, we inevitably water down our childhood selves in favour of social norms and necessities. This is, for the most part, a good thing, as it would be unreasonable for the world to expect a five-year-old to be as capable as a 25-year-old; but it is still important for 25-year-olds to remember what their younger selves were once capable of.

Just because we grow up doesn’t mean we grow old, and all “grown-ups” usually still have quite a bit of growing to do. Despite being the youngest person reading, I could see that all those grown-ups retained some of their childhood perspectives they were reading from: the sci-fi dude was visibly offbeat and the Judy Blume lady was sweet and airy.

Adulthood is a looming, constructed, and restrictive entity, yet I fail to believe that adults truly feel like adults all of the time. My sentiments are best expressed by something Britney Spears [almost] sang once: I’m not a [kid], not yet a [grown-up] / All I need is time, a moment that is mine, while I’m in between. Sing it with me at the next reading.

For podcasts and information on upcoming events, visit grownupsreadthingstheywroteaskids.com. You can also listen to Aditi’s reading by clicking the audio files attached to this article.


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