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This is What 23 Years of Journaling Looks (and Reads) Like

Posted May 18 2012 2:17pm

I was inspired by Jessica’s recent post about re-reading your blog  and again by Kathy’s Time Warp Tuesday posts , about this idea of going back and reading through all the words I’ve written over the last few years and seeing how you’ve grown and what you’ve learned. Jessica’s post specifically makes us think about what we learn about ourselves in reading old words.

And then I realized, I’ve been writing about myself for a long time. I may have only been blogging for a little over three years, but I’ve been keeping journals since I was seven years old. And I still have every last one of them.

In a week, I turn 30. In the last week of my twenties, I figured this would be a fun opportunity to crack open these insightful tomes of my youth and see what I can glean about myself over the last 30 years of my life.

A Whole Lot of Journals

For those of you playing along at home, that's 16 journals.

That pink diary on the left? That was my very first journal.

I ordered it through the Book Fair at our school – remember those newsprint flyers from Scholastic, paper so fine that if it was humid it may as well melt and disappear? I lived for those Book Fair flyers when I was a kid. I read books like a champ. So when I saw that adorable little brown bear telling me My Diary was “a special place to doodle and dream” – how could 7-year old Keiko refuse?

I wasn’t exactly a young Dostoyevsky. Or even a moderate Dr. Suess. My very first journal entry – written on April 5, 1990 – instead bitches about a fellow classmate:

My First Diary

As you can see, I experimented early with script writing and marker as media.

I’ve blurred out her name but I can promise you: she’s a fine upstanding woman doing quite well for herself. She’s a nurse and used to model for a time. We were on-again off-again besties during elementary school. Now we’re Facebook friends, meaning, I occasionally read a status from her if it shows up in my feed.

On the opposing page, I talk about having the “flew.” I seem to remember that was the year most of my school had the “flew” and we actually closed school for a couple of days because so many students and teachers were sick. “Don’t give up hope,” I wrote to myself. “I still know my flew will go away.”

And then immediately below that entry, I’m back to bashing that girl again with a self-deprecating twist: “And the prom queen is……. [name redacted]. She’s so pretty! And I’m the one with the nerdy glasses and a dunce cap on my head.”

Lol… what? Was this my first attempt at biting sarcasm?

I am so second-hand embarrassed for myself reading through these journals. Sometimes, I drew fantastically awful sketches, like my Picasso-worthy rendition of “Paris”:

We'll Always Have Paris

Remember... we'll always have Paris.

Granted, I have a damn good eye for graphic design and have been known to dabble in photography . But between the upside-down fleur de lis, the curly-q backed chair and that monstrosity of a rose… this is just… wow. From looking at this, you wouldn’t know I would develop an eye for art and design later in life.

My gift for poetry wasn’t much better:

Tragically Bad Poetry

It's photos like these I'm thankful for the NoPin tag.

If you can’t read it, here’s a work of staggering poetic genius when I was 13. To make this even more embarrassing, imagine me reading it in this voice :

From when you were born,
till the day you die.

You walk side by side,
even, when you run.

Balancing your life
with the weights of time.

She will carry you.
She loves you always.

She will protect you.
Guardian angel.

(Funnily enough, I wrote this on January 26, 1995. Thirteen years later, I’d get married that day to someone I wouldn’t meet for another two years. Kind of neat to think about that slice of time in my life as it relates to all the things that have happened after it.)

My middle school journals are perhaps the most embarrassing. I’ll let this speak for itself:

La Vie Boheme

Oh yeah, those are totally pogs taped to the front of my journal. Oh the 90's.

It was 1997. Times were changing, man. Jonathan Larsen was dead, man. So was Princess Di. La vie boheme, and all that, right? I was such a non-conformist, what with my flannel shirts from the Salvation Army, calling myself grunge… when I didn’t even own a single Nirvana album. And yet I ran around singing the soundtrack to RENT like it was my own personal anthem. By today’s standards, you could probably have cast the 15 year old version of myself as a regular on GLEE.

Most of my middle school journals are pages and pages of who my latest crush was at the time. And there were many. I think half the reason I face premature ovarian failure now is because I was trying to burn through an entire life’s worth of estrogen between the ages of 13-16.

These entries were juxtaposed with more tragically bad poetry and pictures from Cosmo and Seventeen Magazine literally cut and pasted into my journals. And stickers. Where the hell did I get so many stickers?

But don’t let my dorky facade fool you:

Its Over

I was a very well-adjusted teenager.

No, that’s not Larry. And the tale of that ex-boyfriend is a weird one. He’s now married and a successful chef in Australia after spending some time with the Marines or the Navy. I forget. But anyway, at the time this picture was taken, he was 17 and I was 13. Yeah, you read that right. I pretty much haven’t spoken to him since but yanno, Facebook is great for the occasional check-in to see how he’s doing.

No, we’re not Facebook friends. Yes, I still check in on him.

…Actually, I forgot that I’ve written about him before – he’s the one I was supposed to meet in Paris last year .

Once I got to high school, my journal entries got very serious. I didn’t have time to worry about crushes because hello, I was dating my soulmate already at 16. And after we broke up the summer before senior year of high school, those entries got dark.

It’s actually really hard to go back and read those journals from senior year. Larry and I did and said a lot of hurtful things to each other before we got back together in college… and I think played the manipulative bitch card more often than I’m comfortable admitting.

But it’s all there in my journals. My modge-podged journals covered in pogs and Winnie the Pooh and gutwrenchingly bad poetry.

As embarrassing and most times hysterical as they are to leaf through, I’m glad I have them. I stopped keeping journals once I got to college. I discovered LiveJournal and began my ranting online, locked away behind convoluted privacy settings and friend groups. I even got disciplinary action as a Resident Assistant for something I posted on LiveJournal (I had indirectly called a fellow RA a whore – I had linked the word to her LiveJournal profile page). Oh the early days of the internet. You were so carefree then.

I’m glad I still have my LiveJournal available to me as well – it’s in college that I started writing earnestly about my decision to live Jewishly as I progressed towards converting to Judaism, so I’m lucky to have a record of my religious transformation. And it’s full of plenty of embarrassing posts and photos, too.

Having read through these journals of my youth makes me look at this blog with new eyes. Will I look back on this years from now and think, “My G-d, I’m so second-hand embarrassed for myself because I was panicked about the possibility of twins”? Will I look back at the posts that are genuine complaints about living with infertility and think, “Ugh, I was whiney”? There’s no way to know.

But I’m still glad I have them to reflect upon, even if the uncomfortable truth about myself is that yes, I’m a huge dork who was a nearly uncontrollable horny teenager who thought her poetry and drawings were THE BOMB DIGGITY and in fact, they are not.

I guess that’s the cool thing about turning 30 in a week: no matter what all these journals might say about me, no matter what dorky truths they reveal – I’m okay with every one of them at this point.

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