The other day, a friend and I were analyzing the strange behavior of another girl we know. We came to the conclusion that this individual possesses absolutely no ability to grow as a person. At first I felt very smug about our assessment. Then, suddenly struck by a relapse of anxiety symptoms, I started to wonder whether I myself had the ability to grow as a person. After years of therapy and self-loathing, I feel better about myself than I ever did … but how much is that saying? I decided to investigate. And that meant picking up the journals I kept meticulously in high school.
A few things that struck me instantly:
- My childhood bedroom obviously reeked of guinea pig chips
- I had the handwriting of a lunatic
- I ate a lot of candy
- My flair for the melodramatic was truly unparalleled – clearly taking inspiration from the ABC After-School special and too many young adult novels
I thought you might appreciate some excerpts from these journals, written roughly this week in 1990 – my senior year of high school (class president: my husband). Please note that the views of 17-year-old me do not necessarily reflect the views of 38-year-old me.
4/2/90: Did I mention I got into Brandeis? Notice how thrilled I am. I am crazy, I know, to be miserable after getting into all five schools, but Washington is screaming for me. [This is where my high school boyfriend, B, was going to college.] I envy B because I know he will make it one day. Most people like B a lot more than my parents – they make him nervous. They make me nervous. They ARE nervous. Today was the first day of the last marking period I will ever spend in high school. We picked our gym classes 1st period – I got tennis and frisbee. Taxi driver killer LC is back in school – and guess when she has gym? [Please Google for more info – I don’t feel safe providing it.] I’m still thinking about that movie “Threads” and nuclear war. Today had no characteristic trait. It will blend into my memory and I will never know the difference between it and any other day. It sucked.
4/3/90: A [unrequited love of my high school life] looked so sad today. I asked how he was and he said “mediocre.” I asked if there was anything I could do and for a second, he looked like maybe there was [I can assure you the thing I could do was to shut the fork up], but he shook his head. On his way out of class he stopped at my desk and stared down at me with a weird look on his face. [I can assure you the weird look was his way of saying, “For the love of GOD you freak, stop writing about me in your guinea pig-scented diary.”] Being nice gets you nowhere except shit on, life is shit. The people who are vicious and cruel are a lot happier. B read me 25 characteristics of a disorder termed “anxious-neurotic.” I fit every single one. Nicole and Bob came over. Bob and I hate half a pint of Heath Bar Crunch. I feel sick.
4/6/90: Yesterday we signed in late to miss two gaywad senior assemblies [CRINGE! DOUBLE CRINGE! And note that the emcee at both asssemblies was … my husband.] Mr. O [menacing vice-principal] saw us come in and bawled us out. Like we were the only seniors who did it. Like I ever did ANYTHING wrong. Nicole and Jay weren’t in school today – they were down at Rutgers DJing. There is this thing called Derby Days Bob’s fraternity is involved in. It’s a fundraiser with sorority help. Sam, Jess and I went to Bridgewater [mall that opened circa 1989 with awe-inspiring food court]. Sam tried on this gorgeous peach prom dress – oh she looked so beautiful.
4/8/90: If only “if only” could alter the world. Sam and I had sundaes at Friendly’s, then went to the A&P for popcorn, Pringles, and dip [no, sadly, we were NOT stoned] and came back here and watched “When Harry Met Sally” again, my 8th time. Jamie had her friends over, they were being so loud and Sam told them to shut up. Tomorrow I’ll be lectured. Mom, Jamie and I had lunch at the Diet Works, and looked at some prom dresses at Doris Amster, pure tack. I did get 3 Cadbury Creme Eggs at Walgreen’s. I was thinking it would be so fantastic to keep a journal in college – can you imagine how priceless that would be years later [literally price-less]? I feel doomed – every time I do something I think it’s the last time I’ll ever do it. I can’t stop wondering if I’ll be okay, and not just okay, but happy? How hard will it be to get that way? I wonder if people outgrow neurosis? [Ha!] I can’t see it getting any better, only worse.
4/9/90: I really hate Passover. I know this is sacreligious [sic], but the seder drives me crazy. I believe in God, but I have my own image of God [impressive]. Some of these rituals are so silly. And who are we to say we are the chosen people? I feel so lonely. I wish I had a car. I have this new song onbsession. It’s called “Cigarette” by the Smithereens. Their lead singer is from Scotch Plains. The town was actually mentioned in Rolling Stone once . [This September, I heard the once-famous lead singer perform at the annual Italian Festival in the parking lot of St. Bart’s, but had to leave in haste due to an irritable bowel episode.]
4/13/90: This has been a miserable week. It all started Tuesday morning. Grandma is in the hospital. She was going to drop Jamie and D off in Westfield, then go home and pick up a few things. I was really rude to her. She kept nagging me to come with her and have lunch with her but I blew her off so she left, and she was gone a long time. I thought she was sulking at home and waiting for one of us to call and beg her to come back (she did that on July 4th). Usually when someone’s late I start to have scary thoughts, but this time I didn’t. In the middle of “General Hospital,” she called and said not to get excited, but she’d blacked out and had an accident and was in the hospital, Overlook. I got hysterical – I cried so hard – just the way she said it, and I kept picturing the accident, this old lady all by herself, she must have been so scared, and she kept saying thank god I didn’t go with her. I felt guilty somehow, like somehow I could have done something if I’d been there, and I felt guilty for being so mean – I kept crying, I didn’t know what to do. She said she was fine but that they didn’t know why she blacked out [this was probably an early and unrecognized sign of the problems that started to plague her four years later], and her chest was bruised from the steering wheel. I kept crying. I called my father’s office but the service answered so then I paged him. I was crying so hard he thought I was Jamie. That night we went to see her. There was no room available, so she was in the emergency room. Her clothes were all smushed into this little silver basket on the bottom of the bed. Her coat. Her Reeboks. When we left I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to stay with her. B thinks he is smarter than me [he isn’t]. He said I wouldn’t have gotten in to Penn [probably not, thanks to my stellar test-taking abilities]. Even while I knew that, it still sounded like an insult [uh … maybe because it WAS?]. It’s 2 weeks and six days til my 18th birthday and I must figure out a way to let A know. These are such troubled times. I wonder if I’ll ever feel okay again.
I am much funnier now – does that count as personal growth?
Given the amount of junk food I ate then and continue to eat now (although after 35, I had to draw the line at Pringles), it’s a huge miracle I didn’t experience MORE personal growth
I made a lot of mistakes.
I could not write to save my life.
These are always troubled times.
I actually do feel okay.
Have I grown? I’ll leave that to the people who knew me when!