This past week I decided to crack open a few very old journals. The first official journal I kept began when I was 13 years old. A lot of what was written is a bit ridiculous, dramatic, and all over the place as you would probably expect from any 13-year-old. Favorite bands and musicians, tv shows, slumber parties and hangouts, and a host of other quirky obsessions. I was captivated as I read through the entries, and it was as if I couldn’t put it down. Part of my desire to read on was because I wanted to know what happened next and the other part was because I did know what happened next and I was waiting in suspense for it to unfold. “It” being my story.
Some of it makes me sad.
The constant struggle with our dad… It was never ending. The ongoing tension of trying to be a “good Christian girl” while living with a parent who was unpredictable, unreasonable and irresponsible. It was a painful dissonance. I realize now that I took responsibility for his actions, thinking that if I could be more respectful, that it would make the difference in our family. As if it was my fault that he chose what he did. I commonly wrote out prayers along the lines of, “God, help me to just forget it,” and “God, help me to just ‘put a smile on.” It makes me sad because I know that little girl hoped and was met with disappointment after disappointment. And for some reason she just kept hoping.
Some of it makes me cringe.
Mainly the way I viewed the world and other people. It was so small and narrow. So lonely and closed off. I was truly scared of people who were different. I thought I was supposed to keep my distance to stay safe, but in finding freedom I realize that this is not the case. I’ve come to love people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and religions. I don’t believe in relativism, but I do believe Jesus loves every soul I meet. I’ve had the privilege of working and learning with people from every walk of life. Sure, there were some people I just didn’t click with, but that had more to do with personality and preference than it did any other reason. I’ve also had the great privilege of being in the middle of different language groups as the only non-speaker and THAT is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. I just want to tell that little girl, “It’s really ok out here. These people are amazing! Sure, sometimes it’s scary, but that act of just putting yourself out there can be LIBERATING!” Really, I was scared of everything in the outside world, now that I think about it. That little girl had no idea what she was missing.
Some of it makes me smile.
The day I got the name of my pen pal in the mail (we went on to write for about fifteen years, but then grew in different directions). She was a huge part of my teenage years. Chats with childhood friends who were living in Egypt at the time, about a crossover fan fiction we were writing about our two favorite tv series. (This is actually when I discovered how much I enjoyed writing… And when I learned to use it as my escape.) Sleepovers with another sister friend set. I’m sure we sounded like cackling hyenas screeching. There was a lot of spastic laughter when we all got together. And dancing. And singing. We were a riot if there ever was one. I think to some extent we could relate in the sense that neither of our families were the “normal” church family and there was an unspoken comfort and safely in that. We could be ourselves and let loose and not feel judged.
But some of it makes me laugh.
Knowing what I do now, having already seen the way my life unfolded, the following entry tickled me.
Backstory: Growing up, college was never a discussion. It was never truly encouraged for us and so it was assumed that it probably just wasn’t for us. (See aforementioned fear of outside world.) I figured we weren’t cut out for it anyway, and being homeschooled, I had nothing to compare myself to academically. We played softball during our early teen years and around age 14 is when my coaches started prompting me about it… but it felt strange and unfamiliar, awkward… and forced. I felt like they spoke to me and my sister like we were aliens when it came to school. And to be fair, I’m sure it really was strange that we had never had ANY experience with school or classes. But I remember feeling so angry at the way they spoke to us. “You know you have to take a test to get into college.” I wrote that one of my coaches had commented to me. Maybe I was defensive and they were just trying to help, but it only caused more shame and confusion.
Fortunately there was one experience I had on a college campus for a sports clinic that opened me up to wanting more. I wanted to experience learning in college, but I also had other motives in wanting to go to college…
Well. I did.
And for some reason, that just cracked me up.
It was the small beginning of a flame that continues today to grow.
Did you keep a journal growing up? If so, do you still have them and have you read them recently? Ironically, they can be full of surprises.
Happy reading & writing!
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