I have journaled on and off for most of my adult life. As a kid, I journaled all the time, but we called it a diary. Keeping a locked diary was one of the cool things to do in the 80s, but it was also something I quite enjoyed. I had many fancy pink, purple and unicorn designed diaries as a child. As a teenager, I wrote in composition notebooks, tracking the details of my friendships, my crushes, family life and everything in between. I must have filled up 20 of these marble notebooks with my thoughts, dreams and feelings.
Until very recently, I had forgotten the content of those journals. Twenty years ago I had given them to a trusted family member for safekeeping because they were full of my most precious and deepest secrets. After selling her house and cleaning it out, my box of journals was found and returned to me. When this treasure arrived on my doorstep, I felt as if I were about to unleash the powers of the Universe. I thought that, somehow, sifting through these books would provide the answers to so many of my adult life questions. I was sweating with anticipation. I sat with my long-lost journals, a cup of coffee and began the momentous reading event.
As I ran my fingers over the worn lined pages and consumed the written content, I was puzzled. I did not recall writing any of this. The doodles, bubble letters and many, many scribbled hearts could have been drawn by anyone. The torn-out sheets leave more questions than answers. The ink on some pages blurred into a hardened blob, presumably from tears. The angry words that filled the pages were written by a young girl I hardly recognize. The anguish of a teenage girl with raging hormones and a turbulent temper filled the pages of multiple marble notebooks. And as I read these pages of misery, it occurred to me that I may have significant memory loss. The feelings, events and situations so meticulously described barely resemble the high school years that I hold in my heart.
Once I finish the series of disturbing accounts, I find myself struck with anxiety. The adult life I am living does not line up with the alleged teenage years documented in these books. The stories I share with my children of my own beautiful childhood are not the same as these. Frustrated and furious, I do the only logical thing I can think of. I call my sister. I divulge some of the content and demand to know if she has memories of these events. My sweet, soothing sister. Not only does she remember much of it, she still has nightmares. We spoke for some time, which did help activate some of my memory, but still, I felt confused. Why are these journal entries so different from what I remember?
I hid the books away. I found myself strolling down memory lane for days. The more I focused on the past, the more everything started coming back. Some events were clearer than others. After a week I noticed that, instead of my usual bright self, I was feeling angry, sad, hurt, ashamed and guilty. These feelings led me to a big AHA moment. I finally understood why I could not remember these experiences from my childhood. I didn’t want to.
The woman I am today is a far cry from the girl I was in my high school and college years. The woman I am today is a mother, a wife, a business owner, a friend and a human trying to be the best I can be. The woman I am today would never behave the way the teenage me did. I am health conscious. I practice mindfulness and the law of attraction. I surround myself with kind, positive people. I care about and help others. When faced with challenges I work to find a solution. My faith is tremendous. I had let go of those memories expressed in the journals because they did not serve me.
Through my studies, experiences and knowledge, I understand the importance of living in the present. I am aware that living in the past causes depression and difficulty moving forward. I know that dwelling on previous mistakes, failures and tragedies is non-productive. This is why, over the years, I put the bad moments out of my mind and chose to focus on the good ones.
Some would say that therapy is a great way to move through all the trauma. I know this practice is extraordinarily helpful for some people. As for me, I choose to dwell in the light of the present. I know that by consistently talking about past negative experiences, I am only bringing more negativity into my life. I have learned that whatever I am focused upon, I get more of. I chose to omit those memories for a reason and after rehashing the past with these journals, I stand by that choice.
I forgive the girl who wrote in those journals so long ago and I forgive those who hurt her. But I also appreciate her so much because without her resilience and strength, I certainly would not be the woman I am today. She has shown me so much of what I don’t want in my life, and that gift helped me discover what I do want. I am better because of her.
As I revel in the beauty of the journal experience, I am filled with gratitude. Walking through the past can be quite the emotional rollercoaster. Being able to do that and come back with more understanding, appreciation and love for myself is something I wish for everyone.