I went to my 30th high school reunion this past weekend, and I not only loved every minute of it but I've looked forward to it, and all of my reunions, for years. Somehow I had a childhood that left me unscathed and even happy, and I still enjoy being around the people I grew up with.
Because I am one of the planners (of course) and a huge fan of the Mortified concept, I decided to read some excerpts from my 1985-86 journal. I mainly thought it would be a funny addition to the evening but the more time I spent reading & choosing selections, the more I realized how significant those [insanely embarrassing] reflections really are.
To begin with, the picture I've kept in my mind of my teenage self did not match the voice I heard when I was reading through the journal. It seems strange that I would see myself so differently considering I literally am the person who wrote those things. Many times we will create a version of ourselves that is better than what we are/were but in a way, I've been remembering a Teen Me that was much less confident and more timid than what I presented on those pages three decades ago. Some of it is cringy to Adult Me - an unnerving, lengthy explanation of how I named a teddy bear after Prince plus my Canadian boyfriend and his best friend who I also thought was cute - but a lot of it makes me nod proudly for the moxie I had, at least on paper. Alone. In my bedroom with the door barricaded against parents who never knocked before entering.
Of course there is the obvious connection between my life today, full of Potential Second Husbands, and the constant celebrity crushes I wrote about: Many were completely understandable like Matt Dillon, Richard Gere, and Andrew McCarthy (who I mentioned at least 4 times in the 18 months of this particular journal, one time in detail as the basis for my fantasy future son's personality) but some were unexpected and intense (Phil Collins, Martin Short) or obscure: "I do like Carlo Imperato from FAME very much - yes. And I still feel weak when I listen to Friday Night." Props to Teen Me though - that performance is pretty hot.
However, there are dozens - not an exaggeration - of entries featuring boys from school whom I have no memory of being interested in. An excited note remarking on what a barely-remembered upperclassman wrote in my yearbook, which I revisited last week and found hardly eyebrow-raising. A 4-page entry I read at my reunion that describes multi-day encounters (I'm avoiding the word 'stalking' as it has such a negative connotation) with an underclassman I've literally never spoken a paragraph to, before or after that time. And I know this to be fact, not just an effect of my apparently-faulty memory, because I certainly would have written an all caps, exclamation point-filled follow-up, right? Nothing; I moved almost immediately on to other boys, most of whom were also eventual nonentities in my real life.
I've been trying to figure out what this means. Maybe nothing. Teenage brains are mercifully wired to dismiss a lot of information in order to make room for more useful adult details like who will make a trustworthy partner, when rent is due, which vodka is actually good, and how to stay alive in general. It is probably a good thing that we don't remember all of the things that happened to us in high school, when many of us were so rabidly insecure that we behaved like lunatics, spending half our time desperately trying to be noticed and the other half hoping to not stand out. But I do think that being able to revisit these times is useful in that it resurrects a person you didn't know you were, someone you might actually be proud of, so you can reevaluate who you think you are and maybe even better understand other people. Reading about times I was nervous but rallied and cheered myself on makes me appreciate Teen Me better, which reminds me to like Adult Me more and stop second-guessing my skills, praise myself for doing the things I'm afraid to. And if I can do this for myself, I should do it for others more often.
I mean, after all, they might be Phil Collins fans, too.