From about the age of twelve (after my mom finally let me watch Bridget Jones’ Diary on VHS), I have kept secret journals. No one is allowed to read them but me, and for years they’ve been tucked away in my room, gathering dust. But every few years, I dig them out for a re-read that usually involves endless amounts of cringing and some surprising wisdom. Below are just a few things I’ve discovered from revisiting my teenage journals!
1. I seriously miss glitter gel pens.
There was just something magical about them. Even though they left your hands with an almost permanent shimmer. Even though the yellow and gold ones were impossible to read.
2. Old journals are a comedy goldmine.
I have friends who I’ve known since our school days, and one of the best things about our friendship is that one of us can say, “Do you remember that teacher who looked like Jesus?”, and it will be enough to send us into hysterics for a good couple of hours. Journals are a great source for the ridiculous, and reading them will never not make me want to call up my friends from those days. When I do, they usually help fill in the blanks, or say, “That’s not how it happened at all!” And then that’s it—the rest of our day is gone.
3. A lot of my time was devoted to boys, and my taste in men was terrible.
My diary from 2003 is an especially painful read, partly because this was the year I started writing mortifyingly unreadable Good Charlotte fanfiction, but also because so many entries went something like this:
“Today I said hey to X and he ignored me. What does this mean?” (It meant he was a jerk.) “Maybe he was trying to hide the fact that he secretly likes me back???” (He didn’t, he was just being a jerk.) “Y (a girl in my class) said she would ask him for me tomorrow at lunch. Fingers crossed!!!” (They would become an item for several months.)
Luckily, I eventually broke this cycle and found out that a) there were guys out there who would treat me the way I deserved to be treated and b) I did, in fact, deserve better. We all do; sometimes it can take reliving past romantic disasters to remind ourselves that this is the case.
4. I was finding my writing voice without realizing it.
True, if I took my diaries into a job interview, no prospective employer would say: “You obviously have plenty of journalistic experience. You’re hired! Also, it is clear to us that the boy from your geography class did like you back.” But reading them again has reminded me of the ways writing every day can teach you things about the kind of writer you are and the kind you want to evolve into. Most importantly, it’s good practice, which pretty much everyone agrees is the best way to excel at anything.
5. You are never too old to journal.
When I went away to a university, I found my journaling began to dwindle. Had I stopped having excruciatingly awkward romantic misadventures? No! Were there no eccentric lecturers to remind my friends of for years to come? No (including one who we referred to as “kind of a Marxist Santa” —it had something to do with his beard, I think)! I finally reconnected with my inner Bridget Jones earlier this year, because you just can’t afford to let these moments slide. If you don’t already keep a journal, I wholeheartedly recommend it. It’s cathartic, fun, and best of all, it will provide endless entertainment for the future you.
Kate Hinksman is a coffee addict, music geek, and general over-sharer from the United Kingdom. You can read more from her at kateregistration.tumblr.com.