You’ve come all this way and made it to the end. Paranoy #17, fall 1997. Cover by Mat Tusing. As your reward for reading posts about the previous 16 zines you get to… see nothing from this one. Really. This issue was pretty much just filled with love letters to my friends. And while I still hold those people dear to me, and while reading the memories from our teen years was fun, these letters aren’t something I want to display here. They’re from another time, from Past Amanda. That doesn’t devalue them to Present Amanda, but they’re just not for public consumption. Not now.
I can tell you some things. In Christina’s letter, I reminisce about playing Island of the Blue Dolphins at her grandparents’ cabin (um, as teenagers). In Eric’s, I remember mix tapes, and long letters sent while on tour, and sleepovers. In Jenny’s, I’m adoring her silliness, her southern accent, and her desire to crush anyone who hurts me. There’s Jake, and how I slept at his house more than mine for a while, and his sweet mother always asking me when I’d be home, meaning back to their house, again. I write about Amber, and our summer trip to Brainerd , the Omega, star pennies, and Perkins. Phoebe, with Women’s Studies, the Orpheum, purple hair, coffee, and our journals. I write about Sara, and our mutual loathing of most of humanity. Andy, and the instapunks, making tapes of his band, and summer movie marathons. These were people from my teenage years, but they’re still people who are important to me. There’s something to be said about friendships forged during this time. For as little as I liked being a teenager, or high school, or people, I loved my friends.
The last thing in the last issue of my zine was this quote:
“I tend to think things through and try not to say too much. But here I am, saying perhaps too much. But there are these feelings inside me which need badly to escape, I guess. And this makes me feel relieved, because one of my big concerns these past few years is that I’ve been losing my ability to feel things with the same intensity–the way I felt when I was younger.”
–Douglas Coupland, Life After God
This still resonates with me. Sitting here now, at 36, and having this sort of bizarre archive of my teenage years, being able to access so much of my past self, the thing that strikes me–more than the angst, more than the shitty poetry, more than the ranting–is the intensity. I was intense. I loved things intensely; I hated things intensely; I had big feelings about lots of things and no hesitation in giving myself over to those things and spilling my guts about them on paper.
Making a zine was the best thing teenage me could have done. It pulled me out of my tiny town and showed me a whole world of interesting people and possibilities, a world of other kids sitting in their rooms creating zines, trading ideas, searching for connections and outlets.
After high school, I got a letter one day from an author who was writing a young adult novel where the main characters wrote zines. This author had read my zine and wondered if I’d tell her a little bit more about it–how I started, why I wrote, stuff like that. I wrote her a few letters, sent her a few more zines. That author? Ellen Wittlinger. The book? Hard Love.
The pre-zine-making Amanda could not even conceive of the world that I eventually found and called home. A world where I could turn the endless scribbling in my notebooks into things other people would read, where I’d make friends with other kids doing the same thing, where I’d feel less on the fringes and more in the middle of something–the middle of something that mattered. Where I’d feel inspired and excited, where I’d meet people I’m still in touch with today, where I’d feel less alone in my angsty alienation–like maybe we were all just angsty and alienated. I wrote like it was the only thing that was keeping me sane, like it was something I had to do, like it was keeping me alive. And some days, I don’t think it’s an exaggeration when I look back at that time and think, yeah, making a zine really was what kept me going, what both led me to my self and saved me from myself. Pretty good for a bunch of photocopied and stapled pages.