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Column: No reminders: Let past columns rest

"I want to be forgotten, and I don't want to be reminded."

That is the opening line to one of my favorite songs of late, "What Ever Happened" by the Strokes. I sang along to it on the way to church one day last week, mimicking the singer's jaded, tired-sounding voice all-too well.

Shortly after I arrived, a woman stormed into my pew and sternly berated me for insulting Sarah Palin in a column I had written over a week earlier.

"'Have you saw a bear?'" she said incredulously, referencing some imaginary dialogue I had attributed to Palin in my (fictional) column. "Sarah may be from Alaska, but I highly doubt she's that stupid."

As the conversation continued and I pointlessly explained that I was only trying to be funny, I began to notice that she remembered more about my column than I did. For every argument I made, she had textual evidence to counter it, and thus prove that my intentions were not what I thought they were. I was flattered, in a sense.

Yet, something about this exchange bothered me vaguely.

Who knows? Maybe my anti-fan was right. Anyhow, I hadn't thought about the column in days. In fact, it hadn't entered my mind since I hit Send the previous Tuesday afternoon, three hours past its due date. I never read anything I write once it's written, and I don't think about it either, if it can be avoided.

The Palin column had passed from its short-lived position of relevance, at least to me, and into the unused archives of the past. I had my eyes on new sites, but the world seemed intent on digging up old corpses and pointing out their defects.

It was then I realized that people are not judged by what they do, but what they have already done. This was a mild example, granted, because the stated column was only one edition of the Detroit Lakes Tribune out of date. Yet, the same seems to hold as true in the larger scheme of things as it does in smaller matters; maybe even more so.

Sooner or later, people start to define you. You're expected to behave in a certain way, support a certain party, write with a certain voice. If you try to change, people say you're not you anymore, and then what do you do? Once you paint yourself into a box, you'd better not plan on leaving it. And if you do, be ready with a darn good explanation or else become fresh grist for the rumor mill.

Sometimes, I wonder what it'd be like to be someone else for a while -- a Rhodes Scholar headed to Princeton this fall, an aspiring rock 'n' roller drinking beer with my band-mates in the basement, a serious writer. But it's hard to change when so much is invested in remaining the same, and you can't live in the future when the past is all you have.

The next day, I ran into a friendly man on the street, who went out of his way to compliment me on my columns. He seemed to like my most recent one especially -- the one about Palin. "Nice work you do for the paper, kid," he said while we stood waiting for the light to turn green.

I replied with a "Thank you very much," like always, but I had to bite my lip to keep four very different words from escaping: Please, don't remind me.

Nathan Kitzmann graduated from Detroit Lakes High School and will be attending the University of Minnesota this fall.