“Journal writing is a voyage to the interior” Christina Baldwin
In the last few weeks I have learned a lot about myself through a voyage into my journals. Since I was 8 years old I have kept one fairly regularly. (I tell people I was a blogger from an early age.)
My sister and I both grew up avid writers. This, despite the fact that neither of my parents have ever kept a journal. I am not sure where we picked it up? I know reading The Diary of Anne Frank was a big influence as well as the stories about romantic writers such as Jo March in Little Women and Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables. I have also always loved letter writing (something my parents do not have any interest in either.) From the earliest entries I have addressed my journal in letter form- beginning with ‘Dear Friend,’ and ending with some variation of ‘Love, Rachel’.
I must admit as I look at the ramblings of a young me it is hard to not feel nostalgic for the past. In fact, a massive variety of emotions ensue upon opening each book. Some of the experiences I recall vividly, such as the despair I felt at the passing of my beloved Grandpa and cousin Lisa in 2001 within 2 weeks of each other. Other moments I’d forgotten about or remembered with a different slant. For instance, with each of my mother’s pregnancy I express feelings of fear and anxiety. (I recall this being a difficult time but I don’t remember being scared.) On one such occasion after she had the baby I write I feel like “a million blocks were taken off my shoulders” (October 7, 1996).
Several other themes stuck out to me as I read. First is how often I talk about being tired, sore, exhausted, and worn out- even at the very young ages of 8 and 9. How I wish I could reach out to the young me and give her the answers I now have? I was probably experiencing a sugar high/low and didn’t know it! Some people have doubted my story of struggling with weight from the age of 8-9. Well, here’s a picture from 1990.
This was a year later. Don’t you just love the rockin fireplace background and the crimped hair!
It also surprises me how much I thought about weight and how often I refer to getting in shape. For some reason, I have this picture of me as a mostly-confident kid, and I think in some ways I was, but obviously I had many moments of self-doubt, frustration and perhaps even self-loathing.
Many of the entries are predictable and probably full of the kind of details only interesting to me- grades in school, various friends over the years, squabbles with my family (some I hope the particular family members never read!) and other going’s-on in a young life. One thing I’ve realized is that I was very independent growing up, but I was also in constant need of validation- validation from others that my choices were correct. Whether it was my taste of music, friends, books, movies, or activities I was almost never satisfied just to like something for my own fulfillment. I’m not sure why this is but I recognize I still have some of this trait. To a lesser extent, but it’s still there.
The other lesson I take from reading these journals is my constant faith in the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, God’s love and in Christ’s sacrifice for my sins. In years of chronicling my inner-most thoughts I do not have one entry expressing doubt or questioning. I’m not saying I never did, but not in a dramatic, extended way.
October 21, 199o says (I have fixed the spelling but that is all), “I love the Lord and Jesus Christ and love it even more when you go to a place and have a great feeling and that place is the place where sins vanish. In the stake center or church building when you are baptized and confirmed.”
Much later as a high school student I said, “I’m so grateful for the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. He is my comforter and my best friend and I love him dearly. It’s hard for me to comprehend what He did for all of us but I am grateful that he did. I was once asked ‘ who in history I would like to meet’…My answer was decidedly sure. I’d meet Jesus. There is no one who has done more for me.” (April 2, 1999).
I could give many more examples, but suffice it to say I am grateful for my faith and the grounding, comforting influence it has been throughout my life. I think I would have been a lonely fat little girl/teen without it.
On a funny note, almost every angry, venting entry has something to do with not wanting to work. There is a hilarious diatribe about gardening (to this day I still detest gardening above all other chores):
Sept 4, 1995, “If you want something done right you have to do it yourself. I wish my mother took this more to heart. Want- a garden, Way- have kids do all the work, Profit- a bunch of food you can buy in the store and is moldy anyway.”
Another entry from 1993 puts it more bluntly. (I was disappointed on this day because we were supposed to go boating but it was cold so we ended up working instead. Also, a friend was supposed to come over but couldn’t. ):
“I finished cleaning my room. When I grow up I am never going to make my kids do work.” There are a lot of other examples- my poor parents! Somehow they taught me to become a workaholic? (Well, my mission taught me that, but they helped!)
I just wanted to share one more entry from June 1, 2000:
“Sometimes I wonder if there is something wrong with me? I seem to see the world through different color glasses than everyone else. In some ways I suppose that I am more well-liked for my peculiar nature but I still wonder why I have it? Well, I suppose I will never know and if years from now, dear friend, I am reading this and have figured the answer out, I ask only that I share that knowledge with friends and family who will most likely find it most interesting as I am sure they have long been wondering what makes me tick”
Sorry friends and family…I’m still working on the answer to that question! Thanks for putting up with me anyway.