A few weeks ago, in a fit of craziness, I decided to re-read all of my journals since 1995. (Okay, truthfully, it was after I got my copy of Cringe, a truly wonderful collection of people’s teenage diaries, abandoned love letters, etc, in the mail.) This is not something I would really recommend, unless you’re fully prepared to be embarrassed and moody about things you had totally forgotten. If MY journals were ever going to be published as an essay collection (while I’m certain the universe would be endlessly amused, I ASSURE you I could not handle the embarrassment of that idea), it would have to be called “Elizabeth: This Is Your Life…. In Boys”. Because apparently I have a tendency to use my journals to write ALL ABOUT nearly every crush I have had since the age of 14.
Watching my handwriting become smaller and smaller and TINY and then legible again over the past thirteen years was entertaining, at least.
But in all seriousness, my observations about my former selves were amusing and difficult at the same time. I wish I could go back to my high school self and tell her that making lists of “guys I’d totally date….. if they asked!!!!” was sort of futile. And that eye contact? Doesn’t mean he likes her back. (It astounds me just how often I chronicled making eye contact with a boy in the hallway, utterly convinced that he noticed me and must LIKE ME BACK NOW OMG…) And that integrating random capital letters into her handwriting is really funny to go back and see now. And that it’s really not the end of the world if she writes her journal entries in the incorrect color from her four-color pen.
I didn’t write very much during college, but oh, I was so SAD in college, and that fact has completely escaped most of my college memories. (This is a good thing, because a lot of good stuff happened then, too.) College was when I perfected my ability to overanalyze conversations, reading into words and gestures and being TOTALLY convinced that he liked me for real this time. (I seem to have spent a lot of time liking boys who never liked me back, all the while collecting microscopic bits of evidence that they did.) Several of the college-era entries are not funny to re-read, just plain difficult. Certain things really did a number on my confidence, my self-image, my SELF, and obviously I’m past them now, but it’s harder than you’d think to read all about how you were shattered and thought it was all your fault when you know SO MUCH BETTER now.
There are several times in my life that I am so glad that I documented, though, like my meticulous retelling of the entirety of senior week in college. At the request of several friends, I may post (edited) versions of those entries here, because those were incredibly heady times, full of emotion and craziness and lots of beer and very little sleep and so many details I had completely forgotten.
Mostly, though, it was an interesting exercise to re-read what I wrote. I’d forgotten just how it pretty much made my life in 1996 when I got my bottom braces off (you better believe that was one half journal page full of just those words, “I GOT MY BOTTOM BRACES OFF!!!!” and a drawing of my mouth with sparkly, non-metal covered teeth, utilizing ALL FOUR colors of that four-color pen.. that may warrant actual photographic documentation now that I think of it), and how very proud I was of the articles I wrote for the sports section of the college newspaper (one of the things that I now wish I hadn’t given up so easily, as much as I know why I did it at the time…), and how much of a fucking superstar I am at reading into things (and how that hasn’t changed very much at ALL, ahem) and how very confused I was about What To Do With My Life for so long (not that I’m claiming to have it all figured out now) and how I was convinced that I was completely undateable after college. I guess it’s weird to type these words, but the whole experience sort of made me realize that maybe I’ve actually grown up a bit. Imagine that!