Monday, May 9, 2011

The Journal Tells All

I stayed at my parents house this weekend and woke up early, looking for a book to read. Instead, I discovered three journals which I kept from ages 15 to 17. I sat in the same bed I wrote them in and read.

The themes surprised me.

I expected a lot of angst and frustration about my parents, but they were scarcely mentioned. Out of the hundreds, there was only one entry in which they were the focus and that was to say that I wanted to be free, which is pretty unoriginal.

I also anticipated a great deal of bemoaning the fact that I didn't have a boyfriend because, when I look back on that time, I think of that being the center of my miserable high school existence. However, most of my discussion about boys was really that I wanted to befriend more of them because hanging out with girls had become tiring and petty. I even recounted an entire romance I had completely forgotten, in which I was the one being pursued but I just wanted to be friends. I did mention boys that I 'liked' but, in retrospect, it seems that I was the fickle one. There was a new boy about every single entry and I changed my mind about my feelings every other day. This was eye-opening. Previously, I had been convinced that, at that time in my life, boys did not like me.

Perhaps the most surprising of all themes was the tremendous pressure I had put on myself to succeed. Almost every single entry refers to a test, a race, a match, or a recital, to which I was 'sick to my stomach' over. They are entries begging, please God, please, let me win, let me come in first, let my teacher praise me, let me get the solo, let me be the best. Honestly, this obsession was a little shocking because it is something that I do not recollect at all.

As I learn to write for a teenage audience, I find these journal entries invaluable. Obviously, I have a lot of misconceptions about my teenage life as a girl who was 'angry at her parents' and 'sad about not having a boyfriend'. In actuality, I may have just been a compulsive overachiever breaking boys hearts with wild ambitions to be free.

Interesting. Very interesting indeed.


  1. This is so interesting, Melissa, because I just received a photo in the mail from an old elementary school buddy who found a pic of us at our Junior High School prom with our dates. I remembered the boy I went with, but I remembered him very very fat. He was not. I remembered him as not very good looking. He wasn't half bad. Our memories certainly play tricks on us. Those journals are invaluable. I didn't start keeping one till I was 28. Darn!

  2. I love reading old journals! And it's crazy how something you obsessed over in high school and jr high, you don't even remember now.

  3. Old journals...I'm actually one that likes to avoid them. I don't like them. But maybe one day I will. Awesome that you got to spend a weekend at home like that, though!

  4. Ya know, I never thought of using old journals like that. They will be invaluable as you said. Still have some from my late, late teens into early twenties. I should keep them in mind just in case. Have fun!

  5. I have some of those somewhere. I need to figure out what happened to them. I wasn't super faithful at writing in them, but my college ones . . . man, talk about obsessed with boys. And the year before I got married? Forget it. The whole thing makes my head spin.

  6. i love reading my old diaries. i kept them pretty much always, starting at about age 6, altho there are gaps.

    i was completely boy crazy, up until meeting my husband at age 19. i never actually matured until well into our relationship. it's kind of embarassing when i look back.

    and i was obsessing over my wait from a very young age- which is weird and sad. i've never had a weight problem (altho, maybe this is why) but i'm always concerned i'll start gaining weight. ??? the seed was planted very early on.

    i find those diaries just so interesting. i have a best friend that i've known since 4th grade. our memories sometimes conflict with my entries, which makes us laugh. we wish she had kept a diary too...

  7. I wish I had kept a journal in my youth. It would give me a view of the then and there. You are so lucky to have written and kept them.

  8. I've looked back at my journals in my blog, it's definitely interesting to see how we were vs. what we remember. I get your thing about boys liking you but you wanting to be friends. I always liked the ones who didn't like me back, ignoring guys who were maybe a little geeky or shy but who expressed interest. I never knew that until later. I'm so glad I learned that lesson in college b/c geeks make the best boyfriends (+ husbands!)

    It is definitely embarrassing and difficult to look back at old entries. but I agree with you, it can help us understand ourselves and with writing!

  9. I wish I had my diaries from when I was a kid. I wrote in them for years. I must have thrown them away when I went to college. :(

  10. I have a box of my old journals, probably from 6th grade on, discreetly labeled "PRIVATE" in red Sharpie. I've been too scared to re-read them, because I know I'll be embarrassed by what I wrote, but now I'm curious...