The other night I discovered something really important. Ok, two things. 1) DO NOT store important documents in a place where “you won’t lose them”. In my world that means I have shoved them somewhere and I have no idea where they are and I have to spend hours tearing everything out of my room to find what I am looking for. However, this lead to thing 2) My journals from age 10 to present day. What a discovery!
My first reaction was to cringe, mostly because my diaries from 1994-1996 are covered with hearts and the words “I LOVE BRIAN WEEKS”. (Brian, I haven’t seen you since 6th grade and I have no idea if you are still out there, but I apologize for the upcoming embarrassment.) Now, Brian wasn’t my first crush. I believe my first crush was a much older man who is married to a family friend of ours. I was a flower girl in their wedding. My heart was broken as I walked down the aisle, tossing pedals at age 5, but I knew it would never work. We were just too far apart. I would have to graduate kindergarten first. He was in his twenties and a working man. There were just too many obstacles.
While my earlier entries centered around Brian, my best friend Emily, how much money I had in my “secret change box”, and my grades, I was able to learn a lot from former me. Brian was a boy from youth group whom I mostly admired from afar, thinking that if I wished it hard enough, he would come over and sweep me off my feet. I remember one time my friend Clare and I wrote our phone numbers on pieces of paper and “dropped” them on the floor thinking our crushes would pick them up and call us. That never happened. One of my entries says, “I am going to my first dance this weekend. I hope he asks me to dance. What if he doesn’t? Is it ok for a girl to ask a boy to dance?”
Sitting on my floor, now 31ish years old, I was transported back to pre-teen me. She was a perfectionist. She wrote in cursive. She used very adult vocabulary (there is actually an entry where I talked about “having a dispute with a friend”. What 5th grader says that?) She was also in a lot of pain. I burst into tears when I read an entry from 1995 about my weight. I was 11 years old at that point and already ashamed of my body and my weight. My heart was crushed for myself.
As I continued to read, I followed my journey from wide-eyed pre-teen to a teenager desperate for love and acceptance, to a young woman who was living a very tormented double life. I do not remember writing any of these entries, but I know they are mine. I can hear my voice and feel my tears and remember what it felt like to navigate life and be very confused.
There were some humorous parts (reference my recent Facebook post in regards to getting a computer for the first time…). I would confess more boy-crazed entries but I actually still know many of those men and would rather shoot my own foot than admit what I wrote as a 15 year old who “fell in love” at the drop of a hat.
In Dan Allender’s brilliant book (and now workbook), To Be Told, he references the importance of story and walks reader through learning, writing, and navigating the truth of their own stories. I gave myself a huge gift in keeping diaries and journals for so many years. As trivial as some of them may seem, they are a window to my soul, who I am, and where I have been. I can read back and remember all of my hurts, happies, likes, dislikes, sorrows, joys, questions, and fears. There are some things I don’t want to read and remember, but even those entries are gifts. I sent the following picture to my mom. It is the only entry from my 10th grade year, which was one of the darkest years of my young life.
My mother responding with, “I once was lost, but now I am found. I love you baby girl.” What a gift! I have so much compassion for that girl now. She wasn’t crazy. She didn’t need to be ostracized. She needed to be loved. That is what I can tell myself now when I start to hear the negative and self-bashing thoughts trickle in…remember that girl, and remember that even she needs to be comforted, just like everyone else who is struggling.