You’ve seen all those letters that people write to their 16-year-old-selves.
The ones that tell them not to worry about their weight, or whether they have enough friends and that they are worthy, kind and wonderful. Well my advice to me, now in my 40’s, is from my teenage self.
I have uncovered a bundle of diaries that I wrote all through high school and aside from my terrible handwriting, bad spelling and completely forgotten memories, I am actually discovering my carefree, teenage me has some lessons to take heed of right now.
In a simplified, innocent form of prose, peppered with the cool lingo of the 80’s - “spew”, “yoo”, “dag”, “blob”, “wacko”and “wally” - I’ve also inadvertently recorded forgotten history.
Like the exact date I first shaved my legs, the first time I used a cash card, how much I earned per hour at McDonald’s ($6), the cost of my formal ticket ($20), the play list of the Angels and Dire Straits concerts, not to mention who won and wore what at the 1982 Brisbane Commonwealth Games and my keen observations of ‘Pat the Rat’ from Sons and Daughters.
But most importantly, this collection of diaries covering five years of high school showed me that many of the issues that faced teenage girls in the 80’s are still the same today.
Relationships with parents, friends and boys. Concern about school grades. A focus on weight and body image. Self-doubt, bullying, parental deception, work-ethic, morals and uncertainty about the future-just some of the topics covered that are still relevant today.
The difference, unlike now when everything teenagers do is out there for the world, not just their friends to see, my soulful yet fun-spirited writings are kind of like an eighties version of blogging except no-one else got to read them.
So here are a few snippets from my teenage me! (Of course there are some, like how I secured my fake ID, that will remain out of the public domain):
1.Teenage love is very important.
Reading back through my diaries there are poems, haphazard/ intense/fleeting interest and heartfelt angst over boys. I’ve documented all my relationships and break-ups.
I was focussed on the pairings and ‘wally-ons’ of my friends and, it seems, everyone else I knew. Even those I can’t remember.
In a nod to my current organisational skills and to-do lists, I even had a ranking system and a picture of the boy of the week.
Here is just one of almost daily love observations.
“It has happened and I never thought it would. Jason told Ross to tell Danelle that he doesn’t want to go with her anymore, then he went and asked Michelle, Sharon’s twin to go with him.”
All of this this (and some coded entries) I will try to recall or at least refer back to, when my daughters are labouring exhaustively about their and their mates current relationship statuses.
2. Kids can study, do extra-curricular activities, home chores and have a part-time job!
Like many parents today, who stress that their kids are over-committed and then cut them a break at home, I have often fallen into the trap of being slack. “Ok honey. You do your homework, I’ll empty the bins for you” (Although I’d argue I am a little firmer than some of my friends), (and my kids would argue this was more rare than often).
But my 15-year-old self has given me resolve with the logging of her daily life.
Here is one edited extract:
“Today we had to run 2 and 1/2 kms for cross country...I came 31st overall….it poured rain while we ran it…I missed half of lunch to watch Grapes of Wrath for English, it was bulk-boring. I worked 5.30-7.30 on chicken and fish (at Maccas)..I did my ironing while watching the Academy awards…. did some SOC study. It’s 9.50 and I’m off to bed.”
And I had time to write in my diary - so suck it up 2015 parent princesses and princes.
3. STOP IT about your weight!
“Fat toad”, “FAT, FAT, FAT, “god I’m fat”… These are just some of the terms I found I had written in my daily diaries, but mostly in the year I was 14.
Other than looking back at photos (and yes there may be some that I have hidden) I don’t remember being that one-tracked about my weight, but of course even today it is a constant topic of conversation. But friends and I also often lament that we wish we had appreciated how we looked back when we were young and ‘spunky’, so how about we STOP it!
Let’s not get to 80 and wish we’d appreciated the way we looked in our 40’s.
4. I was destined for a career in fashion.
This is really just a laugh lesson considering I am now involved in the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival and often find myself doubting my style cred when surrounded by designers, models, stylists and industry stalwarts.
I have uncovered so many entries about the clothes I wore and what I bought. I have even kept mementos.
Examples and extracts from diary:
“This is the tag from the dress I bought last night.” (For the record-size 12, cost $72.00)
“It is beautiful. It’s pink, comes just off the shoulder and has lace lining everywhere. It’s beautiful.”
“From this warehouse I bought a black, cord skirt and a beautiful, trendy jumper.”
So what I’m taking from my teenage self is the excitement factor of fashion, especially now I have more money to spend, style advice at my finger tips and friends with large wardrobes.
5. Stop and smell the roses.
It seems even the small moments were important remarkable events when you are writing them down as a teenager. If I had to write a diary today would I comment on how much I spent on groceries and that I googled the temperature in Thredo?
Would I be so focussed on who I met that day, why I liked or didn’t like them and what I wore?
Reading back on these diaries in the company of my daughters has been hilarious.
They can’t believe how much I commented on what, to them, are boring everyday acts and observations.
We've also noted the lack of divorce, depression and drug mentions - and for that I am so grateful to my parents and for my childhood.
However while this read-back reminded me what was important in my teenage years, warts and all, the girls also got to see that all my preaching to them about having a clue about what’s going on may in fact be true.
This is what I wrote in August 1985.
“Today will probably be my last entry because I am so busy I never get time to write and it’s too hard to catch up.”
What wasn’t invented, and I didn’t know I’d do in the future, was blog.
So the most important lesson I’ve gleaned from my teenage me is finding the time to keep recording.
If for nothing else but the laughable look back in 30 years.
Karryn blogs at www.karrynw.com/
Like this? Why not try...