Like many (most?) people , I had a shitty time as a teenager. I felt like a lonely, isolated weirdo. I guess I kind of was a lonely, isolated weirdo?
My parents split up when I was 13, and my mother, sisters, and I moved into low income housing. Our neighbours there did things like getting their 10 year old son drunk on Christmas and then laughing as he vomited all over the front lawn. Behind our row of townhouses was an old landfill covered with sod, which everyone called Mount Trashmore. On some nights we heard gunshots, although, to the best of my knowledge, no one there ever died. Once I saw a man, naked and high on something, beaten by the police in broad daylight.
We didn’t have any money, which meant I didn’t have the right clothes. Scratch that, I didn’t even know what the right clothes were. For some reason, I didn’t get the memo sent out to all the girls sometime during the summer before 7th grade. This memo apparently told everyone that, going forward, we would be dressing in cute little t-shirts and tight jeans. I showed up for the first day of school wearing baggy track pants and a pink sweatshirt with kittens on it.
On top of all that, I was socially awkward (no surprises there). Adolescent conversations contained a layer of subtext that I couldn’t detect and didn’t understand. I wanted desperately to know how to act around my peers, but I couldn’t seem to get my shit together and figure out the right way to be.
Oh and also, I had really, really bad skin. Like, really bad.
Anyway, I found my diary from when I was 15 and 16 today. It was weird reading something that I wrote literally half a lifetime ago. Some of the stuff in it is super pretentious, some of it’s strange, but some of it’s downright lovely.
I thought I would share a few snippets with you:
“I dreamed of you again last night. It was a pleasant interlude from the harsh reality I am trying to cope with. I wish you would come back.” [oh the big emotions and big words of a 15 year old!]
“Last night I dreamed that A called me; I was very happy.”
“Here I go on & on about how I hate society, but we have made society & we are society, so I suppose that what I really hate is people.” [a revelation!]
“I pretend that I am Margaret Atwood as I walk to school, making up long monologues in my head. This usually happens after I finish a book of hers. I spend days in Atwood-esque contemplation. I tell myself that I should write things down, but I never do.”
“P does not really hate me, he says. He was just in a bad mood. He hugs me with that half-bemused, half-sarcastic smile on his face and pats my back. He hates scenes of any kind. I know, of course, that eventually he will hate me, but I can pretend for now that everything is the same.” [relationships and hormones – rarely a good mix]
“Houses that have been steeped in the living of people have a certain character. More on this later.”
“Everybody wants to be a writer.” [hah, how true]
“Find out what’s wrong with my skull.” [this is scrawled across the bottom of a page and I have no idea what it means]
“Does everyone feel with the same intensity that I do?” [Oh, honey. Probably.]
“Shakespeare was a hypocrite.”
“I like the smell of wood burning. It reminds me of birthdays and camping trips and maybe something deeper than that.”
“I need this book so that I can remember me and know that what I have become is better than who I was. Or happier, anyway.”
My first instinct is to laugh at the stuff I wrote, the babyish attempts at prose and the juvenile idea that being “literary” means using multisyllabic words. I won’t laugh, though, because that girl? The one who wrote all that stuff? That girl lived in terror of being laughed at.
I’ve been thinking about that girl a lot. I’ve been thinking about what I would say to her if I could.
I would tell her that even when it seems like no one loves her, plenty of people still do.
I would tell her that, even though moving to Halifax is a good idea, she’ll never be able to outrun herself.
I would tell her that she has so many awesome people that she’s going to meet.
I would tell her that she has good taste in books and movies.
I would tell her not to to be too hard on herself.
I would tell her to brush her teeth more often.
I would tell her that there are no easy answers, and that at 30 I still have self-esteem problems, but in spite of that things are good.
I would tell her that the people who are making her feel bad right at that moment won’t matter to her in a few years, but that her good friends will only become better over time.
I would tell her that some (thought not all) of the things she’s found excruciatingly embarrassing will someday be funny.
I would tell her to do her damn homework.
I would thank her for writing all these things down, because she’s right – I’m grateful to have this record of who I was at that time.