I’m convinced no one should EVER throw out their teenage journals. They’re literary time capsules of poor choices, adolescent emotions and slang that marked a generation.
Uncovering my long lost journals from high school, and even my overseas gap years, was both hilarious and insightful.
Which boy *gasps* met my eye in chapel and totes held it for, like, at least three seconds…
How the heck Claire managed to see the new Jonas Brothers video BEFORE ME when I’m the one who has a Google alert on them and a poster on the back of MY wardrobe…
The running commentary on my turbulent relationships with everyone and anyone, from the ‘mega hot’ P.E. teacher to my stepmum, who needed to “take a chill pill BIG TIME” when it came to cleaning my room…
They’re pure gold, and some of my finest work.
It’s been said a child’s perspective can often be the truest and unbiased view of the world. But from what I read in my journals, it’s a young woman’s perspective that’s the most brutal.
Basic teenage girl language and celebrity obsessions aside, the pages of these journals contain a worrying pattern of heartbreakingly negative self-talk and discontentment. Having re-read them now in my mid-20s, it makes me sad for my teenage self and protective of the young girl who was so clearly influenced by what everyone else was doing and thinking.
Listen: Why we need more realistic images on social media. (Post continues after audio.)
A bit of context: was I the most popular girl in high school, with the most friends and the most party invitations? No.
But was I without my regular gang of girlfriends every recess and lunch by the oval, and after school watching the year 12 boy’s footy practice? Never.
I may not have received the most attention from my male classmates, but I did have a high school boyfriend (who I ran away from when he asked if I wanted to go out with him).
Based on what ‘matters’ in high school, I was pretty on par with average. Braces, baaaad cowlicks and a bit on the chubbier side, I was very much middle of the road, firmly lumped in with the majority of my peers.
But as a young woman, I was witty and cheeky, with a sassy streak, an intelligent mind capable of forming opinions and a love of making people laugh. I loved playing netball, doing musicals, watching movies and loitering at the local shopping centre after school.
So why was I so discontent with my life, when I had so much going for me and to look forward to in the future?
Reading back through these snapshots of my adolescence, each year began with an unsettling repetitive entry about all the things I was unhappy about.
Like how I was still single (at 19 years old...) and that my life was “empty and meaningless” without a man to “make me feel sexy.”
How if only I could “be more like other fun loving, adventurous girls”, I’d have “a fuller social calendar and not be so lonely all the time.”
How the fact I weighed more than 60 kilos was “repulsive” and “embarrassing”, making it impossible to “get a man who would see me as an attractive woman.”
At 16, I thought I was mature enough to refer to myself as a ‘woman’ who knew she wanted a ‘man’ so desperately, but not enough to see that this kind of negative self-talk was really damaging and dangerous.
Why, at the age of 14, did I think it was OK to call myself a “fat, disgusting pig” after indulging in a choc top at movies?
But more importantly, where did I get the idea from that using this type of language to describe myself – a human being – was normal?
Unfortunately, these destructive conversations are going on in the minds of women and young girls everywhere. Every day.
I think about how I heard the female figures in my life who put themselves down and criticised their bodies, their intelligence, their ability to make friends or date a nice guy.
In hindsight, flipping through years’ worth of self-deprecation and worry, it’s clear just how much of an effect this had on me and how I saw myself.
If I could cover myself in alfoil and go back in time, I would grab my 14-year-old self by the ballpoint pen and tell her, with the authority of someone who’s kinda been there and done a bit of that, you are enough.
You are not defined by what others think of you. Or by your body shape, freckles, if guys think you’re hot, the number of friends you have, how you dress, the brands your family can afford, and especially not the number on the scales.
I would, however, ask her to just balance things up by eating a few more veggies, because eating Twisties and BBQ Shapes by the box is not a habit I'd like to take into later life.
I’d probably also suggest letting Matt R. go — he never dug the anonymous Valentine’s Day roses, and will unfortunately never dig you. Which has nothing to do with you.
But what will define you? The way in which you see yourself and the worth you place on yourself as a person, and how this will affect every aspect of your life moving forward.
So be kind to yourself, and focus on the things you can change, and more so, the things worth changing.
Because if it doesn’t serve the purpose of moving you forward and making you happy, then it’s not worth your brain power. Save that for memes.