29 May 2009

Memorial Day

I spent this past Monday with a very special find — my diaries, from 8th grade all the way through senior year of college. These eleven (!!!) volumes had been locked away in a file cabinet, which used to be in storage at my mom's house; I took them out and regarded them with a certain wariness for weeks. Did I really want to read them? How would they make me feel? There was only one way to find out.

I've finished reading, but I'm still processing the experience; for now, I am emotionally jet-lagged. I've gone back and read single volumes of my diary before, but never the whole enchilada in one sitting; truly, I have seen my life flash before my eyes, and it is a rare opportunity to see the narrative arc of one's own youth. 

Among other things, I'm glad I could reconnect with my twelve-year-old alter ego. It's exactly what I needed, the missing piece in the puzzle of the story I'm now trying to tell. If you can get your hands on your old diary (or any writings from your youth), I highly recommend taking a peek; you'll be surprised by how quickly you can tap back into the emotions and mindset of your former self. 

In many ways, going back in that diary time machine can be a painful experience, a reminder of how it felt to have your entire life ahead of you, to be full of possibilities and hopefulness and youthful energy. Also, it can serve as a reminder for all the stupid mistakes you made. (Why did I go out with that guy? And why didn't I go out with that other guy? Why didn't I study more?Whatever happened to those girls I lived with in college in that crazy townhouse?) But it can also be an uplifting experience. Reading those diaries definitely made me feel old(er). But they also made me feel wiser. Back then, I spent a lot of time writing about not knowing who I was or what I wanted to be.  While I still have a lot of questions about my life, I'm confident now of who I am and what my place is in the world. So I think things turned out all right.

By the way, if I knew you between 1982 and 1992, you are most likely in the LaReau Diaries, Volumes I-XI. If you were a boy who broke my heart during that time, you should be very, very afraid.

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