An open letter to the girls from my youth

Dear you,

I am writing you this letter almost fifteen years since we were last together hoping that you are well. Crazy how fast those years have flown by when we don’t have semesters and summers to separate our carefree years.

I want you to know that I’ve thought of you, how life is for you, what you have accomplished in the past decade: are you married, a PhD candidate, do you have kids, did you travel, what do you do for work, are you happy? I am genuinely interested, which may seem strange since we never really talked in high school. Why do you think that was? It is a regret of mine, for being afraid to say hi, to sit beside you, to ask how your day was and wanting for that one second to build a connection, but that never happened because I was too scared. But maybe you were too. It’s ironic how what comforts us actually burdens us.

Then just like that, our high school life was over; we forged our own separate paths as we walked out of those doors, carefree and thought-free of the people we were walking away from, some forever. Then Facebook happened, a tipping point for human connection and interaction. We added one another as friends – what a funny misconception, because we weren’t IRL – and yet, at a safe distance and free from judgement, we were able to like and comment on posts shared. Through this mediated form, I have been able to witness you kick-ass building a career; I was able to see how stunning you looked on your wedding day; I was proud of you when you accomplished that project; I also sympathized with you when you shared some sad news. It made me realize that I never complimented you or encouraged you while we were teens, the pivotal time when compliments and encouragement are so very needed.

That in-between stage of childhood innocence to adulthood awakening is such a difficult time as we figure out how to navigate through wonky hormones and crazy attitudes, yet barely understanding any of it. So we build a wall to protect ourselves from this unknown, but our barrier is uninviting and quick to judge others, and for that I apologize. I apologize for judging you instead of taking the time to get to know you; I apologize for not asking you to join me at my lunch table; and most importantly, I apologize for being mean. But we were young, we didn’t know better, right?

Now, we are not so young, and we do know better, so should our paths ever cross again, I promise I will say hello to you and ask how you’ve been. Maybe we will grab a coffee and catch up on each other’s lives, or we will simply chat for a couple of minutes and then walk our separate way, but whatever the outcome, I will be happy that we were able to connect unhindered from fear for that brief moment in time.

Love,
ali

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Dear Diary

How many of us have written that greeting under the incandescent glow from the lamp on our night table, while siblings softly slumber in the room next door and our pen, our mighty tool, anxiously scribbles the day’s events, the newest crush, the latest dream. Afterwards, we would quickly lock it, and hide the key in one place and the diary in another for safekeeping from prying eyes.

Keeping a journal knows no boundaries, it allows the writer to try-on and live-through various experiences through their own imagination, and it creates a form of autonomy by allowing the writer to control what is written: A diary lets us put who we are on to paper, it also allows us to describe who we want to be. What is writing in a diary but a messy melding of ink and paper that opens a window into a person’s soul.

For many years I was an avid journal-er: I wrote about my dull and mundane life; the troublesome times of my teens; the desire to be popular and soooo cool; the need to lose weight, get a boyfriend, wear cool clothes (don’t know why that was a priority since I wore a uniform in high school). All of this would somehow equate to a better and happier teenage life: the teenage dream.

And then my journal entries took a juicy turn as I entered my junior year of high school. I was sixteen, it was spring and I started seeing a guy (I use the term seeing loosely, as we probably saw each other once a week but we would talk on the phone for hours – “Don’t go on the internet, I am on the phone!”). As my love began to blossom, so too did desires to kiss, hold hands, cuddle, and god forbid, French kiss. These newfound feelings I would vigourously note on the pages in my journal: What were these feelings that made my head dizzy and my heart beat faster? What would it feel like to have my hand held, and in public?! What would it feel like to hug someone that was not a family member, and what does a kiss feel like. To quote an excerpt for my 2001 diary: “I think a kiss feels like a Hershey’s chocolate kiss, if not, why would they be called a Kiss?” Boy, was I right!

These desires weren’t rooted in sin, and I should point out, never acted upon, because hello brace face, but the cause of a natural curiosity towards another human. I could never talk about these feelings with my parents (“What are they teaching you at this Christian school!?”), I couldn’t share them with my friends for fear of embarrassment (“What do you mean you’ve never kissed a guy?”), but I could freely share these thoughts and ask these questions to my bff, Dear Diary. That was until my secret world was exploited, and my life as I knew it came tumbling down. Someone broke the unforgivable act, and read my diary without my knowledge or permission.

I will never understand why my diary was read, just as I will never understand why I, humiliated by my own words, had to read it out loud to my parents. But days later, and a two-month grounding serving as a form of punishment for my words, I watched my diary burn in flames and my words as I vowed to never keep a record of my secrets.

However, that vow was broken a year later when a new leather bound notebook fell onto my lap, and the well of words flowed, just as Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” continued to sing. These tomes full of wonder, anxiety, heartache and love are boxed away in my basement and once in a blue moon I will tiptoe downstairs and reread the workings of my mind from a different time. Some of these excerpts bring me joy, others tears, but most make me laugh.

These days I don’t keep a diary, I have good intention of writing my daily thoughts as unused notebooks pile atop one another collecting dust as my yesteryears become more faded and my memory becomes a blur. Diaries are meant to serve as secret reminders of the person one is because of the who they once was. Maybe I will start writing again?image1