Shit My 16 Year Old Self Says

14 Sep

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.

When I bought this book I thought it was the prettiest thing ever.

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12 Responses to “Shit My 16 Year Old Self Says”

  1. Sarah D. September 14, 2012 at 3:01 am #

    What an amazing insight into the Anne I used to know. It’s a trip to think of who we were then, and how far we’ve come. All the petty nonsense we all go through in high school – we either outgrow it or move on, and in so many ways it’s a universal story, and in so many ways such a personal experience … you make me wish I’d been more consistent in my journaling then. If I re-met my 16 year old self I don’t know if I would throttle her or give her a great big hug … lol.

    • bellejarblog September 16, 2012 at 1:25 am #

      Go with the hug! Your sixteen year old self (and, well, every sixteen year old self) was dealing with a lot of shit, and probably doing the best that she could. We all did stupid stuff, but I guess it’s okay because it led to the awesome lives we have now?

  2. annie September 14, 2012 at 3:06 am #

    aw! this was so darling. i wish i still had my diaries from when i was a teenager.

    “…that girl? The one who wrote all that stuff? That girl lived in terror of being laughed at.” – oh how i identify with this sentiment.
    thanks for sharing all this!

    • bellejarblog September 16, 2012 at 1:26 am #

      I have a suitcase full of ’em. I stopped keeping one regularly a few years ago – I should start again. I have at least one from when we were living together.

  3. ryanfhughes September 14, 2012 at 4:27 am #

    You certainly picked better heroes to emulate than I did. You had Atwood. I had some hellish combo of Ani Difranco and Jim Morrison.

    • bellejarblog September 16, 2012 at 1:35 am #

      Oh I definitely had Ani Difranco in my mix, too. And Tori Amos. And many others.

      I remember the day when I suddenly had this revelation that Ani only had two types of songs: sad and about relationships, and angry and political. Well, and angry about relationships too, I guess. I still love her, though.

      • ryanfhughes September 16, 2012 at 8:52 pm #

        Yeah, repeating oneself is not really automatically a bad thing. Albee’s been writing the same family/relationship dynamics for 50 years now. It’s rich territory.

  4. shannon September 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    I’m so jealous you kept a journal back then. Brilliant. And wow–that’s some good writing. There’s no way mine would have read that way, I don’t think.

    We have so much in common. Except for the not having money part. Well, I don’t think we had money, but that didn’t matter. We spent like we did and I wanted for nothing. I was awkward and riddled with acne, has zero fashion sense and always stood out at school. I was lonely.

    I like: “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.”

    I used to make up songs wherever I went, even thought I couldn’t read music or sing.

    And this: “Findo out what’s wrong with my skull.” I think that every day. 🙂

    And this: “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.”

    You say things beautifully.

    I would tell my 15 year old self to fuck all of them (maybe literally-HA!) and to focus on who she was instead of who she thought they wanted her to be.

    And I would tell her to use way less hairspray and lay off the blue eyeliner. And that perms are NOT the way to go.

    Beautiful piece, A. 🙂

    • bellejarblog September 16, 2012 at 1:48 am #

      I was lonely too, and desperate to be liked. Especially by boys. I mean, I had friends, so I guess it wasn’t that bad? But I felt like I was alone a lot of the time.

      I have to say, I was actually pleasantly surprised by how un-awful some of the writing was. I mean, a lot of it (most of which isn’t shared here) was terrible, but some of it was actually not too bad!

      I would tell myself that thick black eyeshadow does not equal a “smoky eye”.

      And thank you 🙂

  5. Erin September 14, 2012 at 9:30 pm #

    When I saw this, I went to pull out my journals from when I was 15 and 16, to see if there was anything humourous I could share on Facebook. But I realized I couldn’t possibly share any of that stuff… partly because it describes, in excruciating detail, fantasies about members of boy bands who shall remain nameless, but mostly because I felt things so intensely then, I couldn’t possibly put that up for other people’s amusement. It’s still me, if a less-experienced, more dramatic version of me, and I also lived pretty much in terror of being laughed at.

    I used to think that I would let my future kids read my journals when they got to the age I was when I wrote them. Now I think there’s no way on earth. It’s way too personal, too raw. (Although I have been re-reading them for insight into the pre-teen mind.)

    • bellejarblog September 16, 2012 at 1:54 am #

      “it describes, in excruciating detail, fantasies about members of boy bands who shall remain nameless”

      … that is amazing.

      Yeah, I hear you on feeling things so intensely. A lot of the stuff in the journal is stuff I wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing. And I doubt I’ll let my future kids read my journal either, although I did have that idea at the time.

      That’s cool that you’re re-reading them though! Although it is CRAZY that Aidan is a preteen. CRAZY.

  6. Jasmine March 22, 2014 at 1:45 am #

    I have that same book from that same age. Mine was a gift and it’s full of bad poetry.

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