You came back to me in a set of two cardboard boxes my parents brought to the house last weekend. They’re hoping to downsize soon, and that means cleaning out the second of two childhood homes I grew up in. I lost your key when I was aged in just the single digits, and for the rest of the time I spent writing regularly, I unlocked it with one of my grandmother’s old pins. Hopefully that pin is somewhere in those boxes, too. But I never got through the rest of the boxes – not once I found you.
I’m not sure what I was expecting to find when I ran upstairs and fished a safety pin out of my jewelry box, struggling to remember exactly how I used to torque the sharp point to pop the lock that mercifully shields the words contained within you. Finally, the pin caught the latch and you popped open. I ignored your cover, adorned in hearts and a “No Peeking” sticker, and I read.
I should have known better.
I want to rip out your pages.
I want to set you on fire.
I may well do both.
Reading you makes me feel like an idiot, even though I haven’t touched pen to your pages since I was 16 years old. I opened you up in 1994 and updated you – sometimes daily, but sometimes silent for months – through the beginning of 2000. I was a new driver. I was a high school sophomore. I was a virgin (yes, for all of you who knew me then and swore otherwise – you read that correctly). You’ve three shades of page – blue, red, and green. I stopped writing just as I reached the green pages, even though I thought I’d have so much to say by then.
But reading you makes me feel like I have nothing to say. It makes me feel like I am still a stupid little girl, hanging her entire self-worth on who likes her, on whether her parents will survive a bout of intense fighting, on whether her period will EVER arrive, on wishing she could be as good at things as her brother is. And calling herself names. Constantly.
You’re a moron!
Why can’t you do ANYTHING right?!
He’s never going to like you!
Nobody likes you!
Everyone thinks that you are a whore.
I wrote these things. To myself.
Reading you hurts. It makes me sick to my stomach and full of regret and overwhelmed.
I am not one of these impossible people who look back on their childhood personality and think “Oh, how funny. How cute. How innocent.” No. I cannot rationalize you away, Diary, because the words in you came from me. And though I know I was a kid, and I know better now than to look at the world – and morover, at myself – in such a way, I’m still embarrassed by it all. I knew so much about things that meant nothing, and nothing about things that meant so much.
I cannot change who I was, Diary. I was just a kid. And really, I wasn’t that bad. But keeping you, reading you, and knowing that when I’m gone, someone might find you and use a safety pin to unlock all the self-hatred and poison inside you…well, I know what to do.
But I cannot change who I was, Diary. What I can do is find the lighter and some kindle.
And begin saying prayers upon prayers upon prayers that my future daughter will be a bit nicer to herself than her mother once was.