Growing older has always scared me. Even though it is something that happens to pretty much everyone (except Cher) I prefer to bury my head in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. I don’t want to think about it. There’s a variety of reasons I hate even the thought of it, but perhaps the most dominant of these is that it causes me to do something I truly hate: Reflect.
Reflection is my least favourite activity because once I start reflecting I can’t stop; it’s like opening Pandora’s box or a tube of Pringles. In between the cool waves of nostalgia for specific moments of intimacy with boys who don’t think about me any more (my favourite) other questions start to raise their hands. How long will I favour loose and lively nights over afternoon brunch? How long until I’m able to keep my finances in check? At what point did I miss my opportunity to make Shawn Mendes fall in love with me? Will these careless choices ever stop? Will I always have the impulse control of a toddler? How long until I am completely struck off the ‘young and attractive’ list?
…on and on and on they go.
Yes, I hate reflecting because it causes thoughts and questions to emerge from the undergrowth, pummelling my day with regrets, fears and just a general disdain toward my entire life. Then before I know it, I’m emanating one gruff, depressive sigh after another. So, when I came across the diary of my teenage self the other day I seriously contemplated burning it – but I didn’t.
I was having a clear out and came across a full box of ‘old’ stuff. While going through all these treasures, most of them now dust covered and forgotten but once important enough that I felt an urge to keep them, I came across my old diary. In a moment of excitement that I feel could only be appreciated by Ginny Weasley after her chance visit to a Hogwarts bathroom, I opened it up at no particular page and started to read.
Now, if you thought the news in 2018 is a constant nightmare feed then you should have a read of my teenage harangues. Pages and pages of honest, messy and self-indulgent scribbles from a boy who, at first, I didn’t even recognise. I felt like I’d taken a holiday to someone else’s past, visiting some ancient ruins, just shuffling alongside tourists. The tone of my journals has definitely changed over the years. There’s no more documenting of freaky mood swings and recording them in surgical detail. No more honesty pouring from a broken damn of teenage heartbreak; no listless emo lyrics scrolled around the boarders of the pages (most of the time anyway) and there’s no more short poems so tragic they make me want to punch myself in the face.
I stumbled upon entries about money worries (for the weekend’s obligatory three litre bottle of cider), as well as ones describing my flimsy hopes and unrealistic dreams. There are paragraphs about being bullied and feeling ashamed; there are a string of sentences depicting what I now understand to be the early benchmarks of clinical depression. There was one entry that stood out for me in particular though – a list of my life goals.
I will not inflicted the list in its cringe-worthy entirety upon you as it’s nearly three pages long, but here are some highlights.
1) When I finish school I will find ways to make money without having any full time or non-music/art job
2) I will spend this year getting good at photography (black and white and colour) and become MySpace famous.
3) I will find love by finding a real relationship and will stop thinking about Alex as he’s no good for me.*
4) I want happiness and health for Vicky, Sarah, Steve, Paul, Steph, Toots, Alanna & John
5) I will be married and have a kid by 25.*
6) I will do something creative everyday.
7) I will learn to stand up for myself.
8) I will learn to value myself.
*I have no clue who Alex is.
*I can’t even get a text back let alone get to the stage where I have offspring.
Those last two struck me down like the hand of God. Why? Because years later they’re still something I struggle with. They made me remember that I’ve experienced an alarming amount of in intolerance in my life & I’m not just talking about one to gluten.
I was the only openly gay kid in a small, somewhat backwards, town. In some ways I’m still very much stuck in the mentality of being rejected at high school. I felt very disenfranchised as a young person. And when that happens you can either grow up and either become a bully or you can go the other way and hate seeing people feel the way you once did – and sometimes still do. Re-reading these entries made release that the part of me that’s such a bleeding-heart liberal, that’s obsessed with making sure everyone’s alright, included and heard, is detrimental to my own well being. Because in the process of helping other people, or tiptoeing around their feelings, I neglect my own.
That behaviour is something that forms from having little-to-no self worth during adolescences. Like many young gay teenagers I felt misunderstood, hated, unworthy of love so I placed other people above myself; I felt they were better than me. Because if you’re treated badly for long enough you start to believe that’s you’re not only worthless, but also that you’re worth less than other people.
That piece of me that cares so much, that has a deep investment in ensuring are other people are alright has caused me to stop and have my very own Carrie Bradshaw moment: “And as I sat up and typed wondering if my friends were alright, I realised I never stopped to ask myself: Am I alright?”
After reading my naive teenage scribbles I was reminded again that life isn’t really like a movie, because there are no happy endings or sad endings. Life just keeps happening, you can’t know something will lead to something. It’s just one unpredictable piece after another and you just have to keep going.
Each entry was doing more than recording a moment in time, they are asking, almost begging, to move beyond it. They are demanding control of my life. The bloom of youth doesn’t make up for the humiliations of being half a person or for not seeing how being treated badly is a treatment you learn to believe you deserve. These words I wrote go past space and time, they’re asking for something more and the wisdom to grab hold of it when it arrives. My body just needed to catch up with my dreams; my heart just needed to learn how to love itself.