Whereas last week I discussed the exquisite painful pleasure of reading journals written in high school, this week’s topic is how fun they can be. There are two journals covering the period of my senior year in high school (and a bit after graduation) and they are much lighter in tone. I think getting the boyfriend #3 question settled freed up a lot of mental and emotional space which means my musings are not as depressing to read. And, at the same time, I can also see parts of my personality developing that very much make up the core of who I am today.
My senior year was a hard one. Not academically, as I think I got the best grades senior year. It wasn’t hard in the realm of boyfriends because I didn’t have one, though that did not stop me from spending 50-65% of my time musing about this boy over there or this other one over here. Senior year was hard because I was fully conscious that this was the last year everything that was familiar to me would remain the same. Led Zeppelin is right that the song remains the same, but everything else in my life was less than a year away from becoming totally different.
The way this manifested in my life was that I began pulling away from all of my friends. I was working, so I worked more hours. My work schedule often scheduled me on Friday and Saturday nights, so that took care of socializing most weekends. I still had band, and I still talked to my friends at school, but–without realizing it–I began to break away. Then I spent a lot of time complaining in my journal that I didn’t have any friends. This feeling persisted, despite the fact that they surrounded me both at work and at school. This habit of mine, to feel alone and lonely despite the number of people around me that clearly care for me, is something I still have to push against today.
But I also see delightful things about myself emerging. In these journals, I’m funnier, for one thing. The 18-year-old me has developed some pretty good descriptive powers and some wry observations that caused the current me to snort with laughter in some places. At one point, I go to a show boyfriend #1’s band is playing at the Crazy Horse and I observe that said boyfriend’s, “Neanderthal brother was there, and he really messed up the mosh.” I was never a fan of that guy, and his long, lanky flailing, plus his inebriated and testosterone-fueled state, made the pleasant thrashing about of a good mosh rather dangerous. Also, now and then, Boyfriend #3 would bring the new girlfriend to eat at Pizza Hut while I was working (despite the fact there were seven Pizza Huts in Boise at the time) and at one point I expand several sentences about how this pisses me of and then conclude my musings with an astute snark: “I bet she paid though.” I was definitely the sadder but wiser girl at that point.
I’m also suddenly doing stuff that I still do to this day. I began turning my energies away from torturing ex-boyfriends and started channeling it into more productive pursuits. I planned and executed a dinner party for 15 people (held in our garage) and I was the driving force behind the planning of the trip four friends took after graduation to the Oregon Coast. My journals have pages here and there devoted to food costs, campground reservations and, as we got closer to the trip, complaining about how difficult it is to work out all the details. We went though, and it was a highlight of my senior year.
My parents gave me a word processor in February of my senior year and I started writing again. I had hit a dry spell during much of high school, but having this cool personal publishing system (with five built-in fonts) freed me from horrible handwriting and threw me back on the path of creative writing, including a completely awful poem I pasted into my journal, which I will never let anyone read. But a piece of the writing I did that year won first prize in our school’s literary magazine and not only did I receive a cash prize of ten dollars, but also recorded that a teacher said after reading my piece, “You’re a little young to have that kind of maturity.” I then continued the entry by saying, “which I remember exactly because I didn’t understand what she meant by it.” I still have that literary journal and it recently took me three weeks to screw up the courage to read that piece. I have no idea if it’s good, but I know it’s incredibly embarrassing.
And I was suddenly all about the movies. My friends and I had always seen movies (it was one of the few alcohol-free things to do in Boise after the sun went down) but senior year I started watching movies in a much more methodical fashion and, for the first time, free of companions. In May I write,
“I saw two movies tonight. I called Aaron to ask if he wanted to go, but he was really tired so he said he couldn’t. It was a relief, actually. I understand what Ponyboy [a character in the book the Outsiders] means when he says, ‘I usually lone it anyway, for no reason except that I like to watch movies undisturbed so I can get into them and live them with the actors.’ I have such vivid recollections of [boyfriend #3] always sighing and shifting around in his seat, doing his best to destroy the movie.”
Being able to see movies on my own meant that I never missed a movie I really wanted to watch. To this day, I’m happy to see a movie with people—having exorcised all the sighing shifters from my life—but the majority of movies I see, I experience by myself, which works well for me both from a scheduling perspective and from a quiet remunerating perspective.
I’ve always been thankful I wrote in journals. There have been many periods when the act of writing saved me from making horrible choices, although there are also many times when the act of writing shines the harsh light of day on the horrible choices I was making. I like having a physical representation of my life. All those notebooks sitting on a shelf give my life a permanence I don’t think it would have if the journals didn’t exist. They are chock full of me, of course, but also stuffed with newspaper articles I found interesting, comics I found funny, entire songs written out in longhand. They are an archive of my life, just waiting for me to dip back into them and it’s fun to see myself emerging.
ps. I think writing an personal essay for a personal blog about my past personal journals is perhaps a perfect loop of navel gazing. Thank you for indulging me.