I have been converting my high school essays from their borked Word .doc format to Markdown, to preserve them for future readability. So far, I have converted my ninth grade work and half of my tenth grade work.
As I go, I don’t read each essay in depth, but I have read some of them and found them to be incredibly, unmistakably me. I could have written them yesterday—even my very first high school paper. Sure, I would have made fewer spelling mistakes and would have employed the em-dash (which I did not know how to type at the time) a lot more, but, for the most part, I would make the same writing decisions now as I made back then.
It has been unnevering to see that I already knew how to write pretty well as a newly minted high school freshman. It makes me worry that I have not grown that much as a writer since then.
I am certain, however, that I have grown much as a thinker and as an organizer of information. Writing long papers in college and grad school (20+ pages) encouraged me to prioritize structure over style, to plan my writing process, and to organize the work and pre-work that goes into writing each section. In my career I developed technical writing skills that built off these concepts and techniques. Lastly, as I shifted more into non-technical work in my career, I also developed an intense focus on clarity, which can only gained through experience writing for many people over a long time period.