The holidays always make me a little nostalgic and contemplative. I start thinking where my life has been, and where I want it to go.
While I was visiting my parents for Thanksgiving, I finally found a couple of old journals I had lost. The first one was one I wrote in from around 7th grade-12th grade. My very first real journal. It was blue, with a white unicorn on it. I bought it at the Book Fair held at my school that year. My second journal, which I filled up in early college, was just a plain, small notebook. I admittedly wrote in my "hard copy" journals almost as sporadically as I write on this blog. This is likewise for the current hard copy journal I keep.
When I found the journals, I read through the first one. You can clearly see the shift in my awareness of the world around me as I got older, as I experienced, both directly and indirectly, more of the realities of life. You can also clearly see that the self-image and self-esteem issues have pretty much been with me from the beginning.
The first several pages are pretty much of varying renditions of complaining about my parents, and lamenting being ignored by a crush I had, wishing she would notice me, but also berating myself for even considering the possibility it could happen. I felt I was ugly and awkward. I buried myself in my books.
Reading on, I was reminded of the dramatic turn things took. I read the entries, written through the mind of an immature 12-13 year old. There was the time a boy I considered one of my best friends at the time, tried to choke me just before math class. I remember, he was upset about something, and me, being me, tried to help him feel better and figure out what was wrong, and he just wrapped his hands around my neck. There was the time another close friend moved to Florida. The death of my grandmother. My sister's brain surgery. The friend of seven years, who, a week after being the only friend to remember my birthday, came down with a virus in her brain called viral encephalitis, and subsequently lost the previous 18 years of her life, and I had to reintroduce myself to her.
Reading as an adult, I couldn't help but notice not what I wrote in my entries, but the memories that reading these entries triggered in my mind that I didn't write, the things I was too scared at the time to put to paper, for fear of having to face those realities, and fear of someone reading them. The reasons I learned not to trust people, not to let myself open up and be vulnerable to anyone. The reasons I learned so efficiently how to put up walls and hide my true emotions. Like how finding out I was adopted when I was 12, really affected me. The depths of the problems between my family and I. How she would compare me to my birthfather and say I should go live with him, assuming it would be worse than the current situation. The major academic accomplishment in 7th grade, that my parents barely acknowledged, with my mother telling me she didn't think I could really do it. The fact that in 11th grade, a boy, whose name I don't even remember now, but I remember his face, who committed suicide, and I picked up on the warning signs but didn't do anything or tell anyone. That haunted me for years. The fact that the reason the one close friend moved to Florida, was for her family to start a new life after she spent time in the foster care system, following her disclosure that her stepfather was molesting her. Or the fact that she eventually came back, and spent time in an institution for various suicide attempts after being raped.
Looking back on my life, with the things I've been through and the things I've seen, I consider it a miracle and a testament to the strength of the human spirit, or maybe even the force which we commonly refer to as "God", that I survived as long as I did, and found ways to make meaning out of it and learn from it. It is my hope that I can do the same with anything that comes my way.