My journals, dating back to age seven, alternately chronicle my most unflattering and unfiltered thoughts, and the banalities of my day. Mixed in, for flavor, is a fair smattering of misused multi-syllable words and overwrought prayers, finally adding up to the most condescending shitlist ever penned by someone who dots her “i’s” with hearts.
I read some passages aloud to my husband, brother-in-law, and sister (who features prominently in my best diatribes). My sister spent most of the time confirming that I was, yes, a total bitch growing up, and that what I thought were my most hidden thoughts, were really pretty obvious to everyone. My husband and brother in law both said that the diary sounded like it was written by an adult trying to imagine what a little girl’s diary should sound like.
Being raised on a steady diet of young adult fiction and The Baby Sitters Club, my internal narrator was, in fact, an adult writing in the voice of a child. Only I was a child. So my journals are written in the voice of a child mimicking the voice of an adult writing as a child.
Around 5th grade I started reading the classics, including Little Women, multiple times. I start more than one journal in a deliberately classical tone, imagining myself, I’m sure, writing by lamplight in a dressing gown.
Jan 1, 1995- Well, I’m starting off enough new year of hopes, dreams, friends, family, etc. I hope I will make new friends. I dream of my “castle in the sky” from Little Women. Friends and family, well, they’ve been the same for a while now…I play piano. My practice sessions leave a tiny bit to be desired…You might say I’m a teachers pet. I’m darn proud of it. I have two sisters, Annika, 6, and Kierstn, 3. By the way, my name is Bekah Annell Stolhandske.”
Taking my cue from adolescent literature, I treat my diary like a trusted friend. Or rather, a friend with zero boundaries, who repays my constant whining by dangling obligation over my head.
Daily journals were the worst. I remember a constant sense of guilt as a I scribbled random, inconsequential thoughts before bedtime, just to have attended to the glaring blank space. Several entries begin with apologies for not writing. After a few missed or slapdash entries in a row, I get passive aggressive with my diary.
March 2, 1994- Listen, I have a lot to do! Okay? I gotta go.
That is literally all that is written on March 2.
It’s clear throughout that I have what would be called in adolescent fiction vernacular an “indomitable spirit.” In plain English, I was full of myself.
The prevailing sentiment seems to be one of misunderstood genius, unrealized potential, and untapped stores of romantic energy. In short: I was never given the credit I was due, a would-be starlet surrounded by imbeciles. (See photo above…)
The diaries are on the one hand, things I would never want anyone to read. Whiny, misanthropic diatribes and embarrassing secrets (one from my 3rd grade year simply reads “I pooped in my bed last night”). On the other hand, the woes of misunderstood genius, and the generally affected tone indicate that I actually did intend for these to be read one day.
One entry in particular does away with any pretense of intended privacy:
January 1, 1996
It’s 1996! This is the last entry to this diary. I have REALLY enjoyed this diary. This book is to hold all of my secrets, and maybe some day when I’m famous people will pay money to read this and publish it so this is very important.
Of course, a girl needs a place to actually keep her secrets…so I often kept more than one diary at a time. One for the general public and one to be burnt. Those uncensored journals disappeared along the way. I distinctly remember tearing all the pages out of one of them. I might have forgotten about them entirely except for occasional confessions in my SFW diaries.
May 25, 1995
Well. I thought I could trust my two best friends in the world not to look at my other diary about who I like and go tell it. Then today I had to go to the park with them. Luckily I could keep an eye out for blabbs.
I’m sure I imagined the sanitized diaries would market as a highly selective collection of entries offering a glimpse into my precocious beginnings as a philosopher and story teller, filled with obvious portents of my future in the bright lights.
Instead, they have become a source of late night entertainment while we are drinking. In college I nearly threw them away in shame, but I’m glad I kept them. Not only to give me insight into my own daughter as she navigates the Class V hormone rapids of middle school, but to remind myself from whence I have come. The thoughts recorded in the journals are embarrassingly familiar. I now dress them in more socially acceptable verbiage, but I still feel like the unrecognized genius for more often than my work merits.
The journal covers thoughts on God, love, family, justice, money, friendship, and the agonies of childhood. And it does so with almost zero insight, at surprisingly shallow levels, for the most part. Aside from a few sad accounts of wounds that are now old scars, there is nothing moving or poignant in these tomes.
If there is one heartwarming or profound takeaway, it is this: Reading through the journals, I’m released to let my freak flag fly a little higher, because it’s hard to outdo the ignoble musings now forever preserved in writing.
So, in honor of 1996 Bekah, I’m publishing the highlights here, as a series of blog posts over the coming weeks. I hope you are horrified. Please don’t stop being my friend.