Nova Scotia·CBC Creator Network

Two friends revisit their high school notes, 16 years later

The CBC Creator Network series What We Carry With Us explores how we choose to curate and revisit our memories.

'Open another fold, and in the creases of our past selves, we find something sacred we had forgotten'

What We Carry With Us: High School Notes

2 months ago
0:31
How do we choose to curate and revisit our memories? This three-part CBC Creator Network series reflects on different ways we capture moments of ourselves and our loved ones, and the process of learning from mementos from our past selves. By freelancer producers Amy Grace and Megan Piercey Monafu, along with CBC producer Natalie Dobbin. Video by Arden Ong for CBC. 0:31

In What We Carry With Us, friends Amy Grace and Megan Piercey Monafu explore how we choose to curate and revisit our memories. This CBC Creator Network series reflects on different ways we capture moments of ourselves and our loved ones, and the process of learning from mementos from our past selves. 

In the first episode, the friends revisit their high school notes to each other. Here's their audio essay: 

This summer, two best friends decided to revisit a part of their past. Megan Piercey Monafu and Amy Grace went to Sackville High together. Now Megan lives in Ottawa, and Amy in Halifax. For 16 years, they've held on to the handwritten notes they gave to each other as teens. In part one in their three-part series, What We Carry With Us, Megan and Amy unfold these messages from the past. 8:20

Amy Grace and Megan Piercey Monafu reflect on the experience in this personal essay. 

Between the folds of high school notes, written in stolen classroom moments at Sackville High School, we find a rite of passage of one teenager bearing witness to the other. Each note is folded to its smallest capacity, covered in music lyrics and quotes from books and movies we loved. Some hastily done, some in code, and others written with deep care.

We both — Amy Grace and Megan Piercey Monafu, high school best friends — kept the notes we received from each other, stowed away in our closets and under beds in different apartments and cities for the last 16 years. After many months cloistered by the pandemic, dwelling on our past lives, it finally felt like it was time to open them up. 

The process was surprisingly liberating.

Both of us had assumed more distance from our past selves than what was really there. We felt separate from our younger years, certainly more mature, and definitely cooler. 

What a lovely and fascinating trick we played on ourselves. It surprised us both, in different ways, to find that no matter how many places we've been or lessons we've learned, we always carry ourselves with us. 

There is no denying that we have both become fuller over time. The women we are today stand a lot taller, more aware of who we are and where we're going. We've now spent many years of our friendship apart, and each time we see each other, we notice the laugh lines, beginnings of grey, and the pauses in conversation created by long-distance friendship.

But our core fears, beliefs, personality quirks and wounds expressed as teenagers haven't really changed. It's a humbling discovery, reminding us of the concept that growth is a spiral, not a ladder. 

Megan Piercey Monafu, left, and Amy Grace, right, met while attending Sackville High School. They bonded over their love of writing. (Natalie Dobbin/CBC)

As William Butler Yeats described it, "Life is a journey up a spiral staircase; as we grow older, we cover the ground we have covered before, only higher up; as we look down the winding stair below us we measure our progress by the number of places where we were but no longer are."

Reading these notes again, we see the things about ourselves that are still true, both strengths and flaws. As we grapple with the new challenges of our 30s — our sense of direction, family dynamics, children — we see that many of these questions started a long time ago, and that life is a process of progressive answering. 

If this is not completely comforting, it is at least affirming to have found this wholeness of self. 

It's easy to downplay the mementos of our past, the items we have stowed away for some unknown future. Maybe there's a good reason that we can't seem to throw some things away. 

Perhaps that box in the back of your closet has some answers for you, too.

About the creators

Megan Piercey Monafu is a writer, director and theatre producer from Halifax, now based in Ottawa. 

(Submitted)

Amy Grace is a writer and producer in film and television from Halifax who is passionate about creating and developing stories and content that brings strong characters, insight and depth of humanity to the forefront. 

(Claire Fraser Photo & Videography)

now