When my friend Carolyn first told me about Mortified I was intrigued – and just a wee bit appalled. Basically, people go back and find things they wrote when they were kids – stories, diaries, letters, song lyrics – and read them on stage to a group of strangers. It sounded like some odd new therapy to get over your childhood – and I thought I just might gain something from reading the secret thoughts of my nine year old self to people who paid to hear them.
A few days later I found myself laughing out loud at the youtube videos of people’s performances. I so want to do this, I thought. I wondered if, without any background in theater, someone like me would be accepted to do something like this. I read the FAQ. It seemed like if you had material they liked and could pull off reading it, they’d possibly be interested.
My first mission was to find the plastic 18 gallon Rubbermaid container that held every journal I’ve written since getting my first diary in 1985. That treasure trove of childhood frustrations and angst was on the second floor of my parents barn – where all things deemed important enough to store for “some day” are sent. My childhood dreams and aspirations were now sharing space with six mattresses, a set of patio furniture, and a cotton candy machine among other things.
I hauled the storage container off its shelf, down the stairs, and out the barn door. There I dropped it in the grass until I had the energy to walk the thing up to my parents house. Eventually I lugged it to my temporary room on the second floor of their house. And there it sat for months while I filled more journals with my thoughts during travels to the Italian Coast and the Spanish countryside.
Upon my return, I finally pulled off the cover and pulled out piles of journals and notebooks. Then I saw it: the diary that started it all. I was ten. It was a gift from Santa. Pink cover with hearts and a lock. Now I looked at its torn cover, then carefully opened it. I read it from beginning to end. I was surprised by how many times the only entry for the day was, “Today was a HORRIBLE day!” No explanation of why. Just the date, those words, and my signature. Once, three entries in a row professed the sentiment. Was I such a miserable fourth grader? And fifth grader?
If I had to pick a theme for the pink diary, it would be “musings on how much I hate my sister Liz.” But Liz wasn’t the only one I “hated.” Most family members were mentioned at some point after that word, as were classmates who, just a few entries earlier, I had declared to be best friends.
Then there was my obsession with ending entries with, “P.s. My boyfriend is__________.” The name changed often in the beginning, sometimes listing three or four lucky boys. None of whom, I can assure you, ever knew they were my boyfriend.
I eventually started addressing my entries “Dear Tiffy” – short for Tiffany. And then started signing myself as Vikki (complete with a heart to dot the last “i.”)
Eventually, I grabbed some post-it notes and started marking pages I thought might be appropriate – even funny – to read on stage in front of strangers. The web site said to bring a few suggestions of material, but that they could help you flesh it all out.
Then I started reading what I wrote in in college and in my early twenties. I was more than a little disappointed at how little it seemed I’d changed. Some of the same worries I write about today were first written in those pages over fifteen years ago. Really? Do we ever change? I wondered.
Those who knew me in high school will assure me I’m not the same person. For one, I no longer deny the fact that Liz is my sister. But reading the words of my teenage self dampened my spirits just enough for me to pack up my journals and stuff them into the closet.
Maybe when I go home for Christmas I’ll pull them out again. And just maybe, you can all come see me read my diary on stage one day in NYC.
9 Comments Add yours
they claim that learning isn’t a linear progress, it’s just not a straight line. it’s more of a snail shell, where we go over the same issues, topics or problems, but maybe a little to the outside of where we last were. So it makes perfect sense to me that you still use your diary to vent. Your frame of reference has shifted from your 10 year old perspective on the relationship with your sister, pondering an imaginary boyfriend, and signing off with a different persona, to a woman who can appreciate the personalities of her siblings with good humor, who’s comfortable alone but wouldn’t mind if Mr. Right would step up, and has traveled the globe trying on all kinds of jobs and lives. Do we change? Damn right. Can you ditch your history, your past? Nope, it’s how you evolved into who you are right now.
So insightful, Jenn, as always. I’d never heard the snail thing before. I like that…it makes it all make a whole lot more sense!
it also explains why I still can’t make a right hand turn in a car without hitting the curb. i’m still that 17 year-old on the inside, but with a 30-something year-old’s understanding of how much it may cost to replace the tire.
You were missed at Quonnie! I looked at the empty twin bed next to me that weekend and wondered how you were doing on the pilgrimage. I’ve been enjoying your blog posts so much. Sorry I’ve just been lurking, but I did want to say congratulations on this journey you took this year. I too am pretty mortified by my journal entries, even the next day after writing them. Best of luck in NC. It looks like a lovely place.
Hi Danielle –
Thanks for reading. Lurking is perfectly fine – but am happy you took the time to comment:) I missed Quonnie for sure, and my dear roommate!
I’m a total newbie to you and been lurking a bit on your blog.. this one was totally funny and I can totally relate! I recently read my old diaries (elementary/high school/college/after college) and now I’m 40 and have the same darn ‘issues/problems/worries’… it is a little (ok – a lot) depressing I must admit, to realize that. Most of the time it was about ‘what should I do with my life’ …and being that I’m also a scanner – that changes on a daily basis! 🙂
Love your blog.. I feel that we are almost the same person…though you are a bit younger and a bit more adventurous! I was that way until moving to a very expensive city called “Los Angeles” and now have a full time day job for 10 years that I appreciate because it supports my lifestyle out here.. but also the scanner in me is crying to ‘get out!’. 🙂 I do new/fun things all the time on weekends and nights and vacations to make up for it though and your blog gives me inspiration.. 🙂 Have fun in Asheville!
Thanks for sharing your story Pam. Am happy you find some inspiration from my site. There are plenty of us scanners out there – that was so reassuring to me once I found out! Happy you have work that can support your lifestyle and are still able to dabble in some of your scanner interests:) Good luck to you, and if you need some more inspiration, never hesitate to shoot me an e-mail:)
I think you should up the ante and read the diary entries about Liz with her on stage with you. I’d buy admission to that show. Then again, it would probably bear a striking resemblance to Christmas dinner.
But at least you get good food along with the Christmas Dinner entertainment!
Thanks for commenting – this made me laugh out loud. So much so that I had to share it with the four other women I was on my writing retreat with (who have heard all of the stories I’ve written about me and Liz).