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Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Stroll Down Memory Lane

January 1, 1981       8 years old

Dear Diary,
today is new year's. 
I spent the night at my friend's house. 
We had fun.
we ate at grandparents.

that's all I have to say!
good-by

June 9, '82

Dear Diary,
For the last couple of days we've been studying the Gold Rush, it's hard.
I have to go to bed now
good-bye!

Aug. 20, '83

Dear Diary,
Today we went to "Knotts Berry Farm". 
It was fun but my Mom is leaving for San-Francisco
Tommorrow. I miss her a lot.  She bought me a lot of stuff today it was fun

Well
       gotta
                jam
Bye

And so it began, my passion for writing, a passion that has continued to be ignited by the fire that blazes within my soul.  The entries above are completely accurate, down to the type-o's and misspellings.  Not too bad for a beginner. Of all the writing I have done in my life, my journals provide more entertainment and insight than anything I else I have written so far.

I have kept a journal, better known as "Dear Diary" for 31 years now.  I have not always been faithful to daily entries, and more often than not, I have written in spurts, usually when I am struggling with something or someone.  Isn't that always the case, seems I have always written like a real media person since I was 8 years-old, going for the most shocking, scintillating and sensational tale.  I mean, c'mon-the story about new year's, the friend's house, the fun?  Doesn't get much more provocative than that...

I would offer up some more of my entries from my tween and early teen years, however to protect the innocent (including myself) I choose to omit those bits.  Suffice it to say, most of the pages are filled with triumph (meeting a new boy, falling in love AGAIN) and tragedy (breaking up with said boy and having my heart broken, AGAIN).  There are also juicy tidbits of gossip and name-calling about friends and enemies alike. 

The funny thing is that when I look back on that time in my life, I can see that often, I wasn't being completely honest for fear that someone might discover my journals, read them and know what I was really up to...which was relatively benign and harmless.

It wasn't until I reached high school that the pages began to fill with more deeply emotional thoughts and pleas for advice from the floral fabric covered book that I hoped would surely hold all the answers.  I began to confide my true feelings, perhaps secretly hoping they might be discovered.

There are seven of them, these chapters from my life, each one telling a different story, all deeply personal and reflective and in my own words, covering the span of the past 30 years.

Initially I started looking for my journals to use as a tool for research and ideas for short stories or perhaps for that book I am (still) working on.  I thought maybe I could shape a character by using anecdotes from my past, but what I remembered as I read through the pages, is that I suffered from deep sadness and depression in my latter teen years, that frankly, I am amazed I was able to escape.  I suppose I could channel that energy again, but reliving that stuff...it just puts a bad taste in my mouth.  Could make for a good novel though, we'll see.

When I finished the fourth book, it really stirred up a great deal of emotion.  That was such a difficult time in my life, there were major transitions like moving in with my dad, changing schools for the fifth time, questions about love and comments on sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, quite literally.  A lot of crazy stuff started happening when I got into high school during the late '80's.

I realized that I compartmentalized that part of my life because those memories were so cumbersome and painful.  They held me back from moving on with my life.  Instead, I talked myself into thinking that my teenage years weren't all that bad and that I lived a pretty cushy life. 

These handwritten pages suggest otherwise.

But I am resilient, this I know for sure.  Now I can read those entries without being dragged down because I recognize how much I have changed.  All those experiences have served me in some way, they have allowed me to grow and accept myself, shortcomings and all.  Through my darkest hours, I could still see light.  I still had hope that I could overcome obstacles and face the challenges that held me back. Something inside gave me strength to alter the patterns that had become deeply ingrained in my psyche and I persevered. 

One of the things I am grateful for now, is that when I interact with kids today, my own included, I feel like I have a better understanding of what they might be going through.  Things haven't changed all that much in the past 25 years in terms of how teens relate to each other. 

The means of communication and the terminology may have changed (texts, emails, etc.) but the emotions are still the same. I feel like I might have a better grip on what they are thinking about because I have physical evidence of what I was thinking and feeling at that age.  That, and a WHOLE lot of psychology and sociology classes under my belt!

Don't get me wrong, there were many good times, but I can still remember the times I felt so lost and empty inside, and I know that even the most well-adjusted kids can struggle with issues of self-esteem and loneliness.  It's an exceptionally trying time, those teenage years, and no one is immune.

Carpe diem, is the motto I live by.  I have learned through vivid and emotionally traumatic experiences in my own life that right now, this very moment, is really all that we can know for certain.  But, looking back has allowed me to see how far I have come.  I have grown, changed and overcome my past like a phoenix rising from the ashes of a very dark and scary place.

Reflecting on our own history is the only way we can change our future. If you kept a diary, I urge you to find it and look back on the days when you struggled to fit in, find yourself and get through the day.  I promise, it will give you both laughter, tears and an opportunity to understand yourself and your own kids a little bit better than before.

If you never kept a journal, it's never too late to start. I am thankful every day, that I have kept a record of my life.  I am grateful that I can look back and harness those memories, and take with them the lessons that each one can offer.   

Although I still keep a handwritten journal, the entries have become few and far between.  Instead, I've chosen to share my thoughts and ideas in a very public manner, via this blog...which (in cast you didn't know) stands for "Web Log" otherwise known as an "online diary." 

Although I am fairly certain that my writing has improved since I was eight, why fix something that was never really broken?

So in keeping with the standard theme...I leave you with this.

Dec. 1,'11              39 years old

Dear Diary,
Today is December 1 and the holidays are here.
I think they will be really neat.
I hope I get some really cool stuff.
I really like my readers, they are cool too.
Today was fun.
That's all I have to say.
Good-bye.

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