So I got to wondering, what is it with the urge to leave your mark on things? I immediately think of the “Kilroy was here” phenomenon, as well as bathroom stalls, park benches, and fresh concrete. I’m not talking about the urge to leave rude, obscene, or gossipy comments–that’s another urge altogether, I think–but simply wanting to leave your mark.
With me, at least, there are several reasons. First, there’s the desire to create a permanent mark, some small legacy that when you’re eighty you can take you grandkids to and say, “Hey look, I did that when I was a spry young gal.” Then there’s the urge to do something slightly naughty–I think it’s the result of all the classes in high school that I never skipped out on. My group of friends seems to prove that if you don’t get your inner rebel out as a teen, it comes back to dominate your adulthood in one fashion or another. (For me, it’s buying clothes at Hot Topic and being geeky–among the tamest of rebellions, I know.)
Both of these reasons played a part in a small instance four years ago when the sidewalk near our rental house was torn up and redone. Alex and I stole out late one night, giggling like the juveniles we are, and inscribed “A [hearts] S” in the fresh concrete. This, however, I can also justifiably blame my parents for, as they used the fresh concrete from their shed when I was a kid as a canvas for our hands and the pawprints of our cats.
Then again, it was their shed.
Then there’s the desire to leave something clever, wise, and/or funny for others to enjoy. I quite enjoy reading insightful bathroom stall doors, and am always struck by the fact that even if I lacked my inner rigid moral scolding–er, conscience–and could bring myself to put pen to stall door, I really have nothing clever, wise, or funny to put there.
I wonder, does this urge occur to writers more than other people? Is it merely the seductive quality of the written word, no matter where it is written, that calls out? Or is it all due to the smirking youth that lurks inside all of us?