One of the things my ex-husband held hostage after our divorce, was the equivalent of a studio apartment of things we stored in his parents’ basement. I wasn’t interested in the old leather couches or my son’s baby clothes, but there were two small boxes containing some old journals, report cards, greeting cards, and other mementoes. I didn’t remember exactly what was in there, but I knew it could trigger some of the high school memories I had buried because therapists have told me I tend to repress things I don’t want to remember. Imagine this phenomenon!
Recently my teenage son was able to liberate these boxes and the trip down memory lane yielded tears of laughter and tears of sadness because history can slap you in the face and sting like a winter wind, wishing you can give your younger self a hug. You would tell your younger self it will not only get better but that you are totally normal. I was always hard on myself. I berated myself for inconsistent writing in the journal and rather than do it badly, I didn’t do it at all. I remember feeling “stupid” for documenting the munition of my life and 30 years later I’d love nothing more than a peek back into that world.
As I read through the few journals I found, I was surprised to discover my voice sounded already like me. I was a bit more closed-minded and inexperienced, complaining how no one loved me or understood me and could never imagine a happily ever after for myself. In other words, a typical teenager. This is the same me I’ve been hearing in my head my whole life; she’s never left.
I read things about the drama happening between my parents and how I worried about my mother’s drinking. I wrote about average adolescent angst. One thing I didn’t remember writing: “When I grow up, I want to be an actress. I want to go to Hollywood. Only my parents would never support that.”
What? I wanted to be an actress? Who me? Ms. Over-sharer? Well, I never!
I’ve only dipped into some of the found treasures. There were report cards from my elementary school, my 100-page biology report on the porpoise, my 20-page report on Lyme disease for my “Human Infectious Diseases: From Aids to Influenza,” class (not the best class for a hypochondriac), and a one-scene screenplay I wrote about a fight I had with my sister about who cleans up the dog shit in the backyard.
There were dozens of letters I had written to my sister when I spent one summer in a French emersion program in the south of France and another time when I took photography classes at UCLA. Whereas I was disappointed with my journal writing endeavor, I was proud of my letter writing, especially considering my audience was my eager-to-please, filled with unconditional love, sister, 6 years my junior. This pride is blatantly evident as I’m the one who kept all these letters from a quarter century ago even though they were technically hers to have.
There are many letters still folded in tiny squares left to be read and notebooks to rummage through, but not all at once. I can only tolerate so much nostalgia from the attic at a time.