From the viewpoint of an objective observer, I noticed some interesting things while reading my five-year diary (see “The Reunion, part 2″).
The first entry appeared on January 1, 1968, and continued until I graduated from high school in May 1972. I stopped on that day because I saw my diary as something from “my youth” that I no longer needed.
As I read entry after entry, I thought, “What kind of person writes every single day and fills every single line, beginning at age of 13? Disciplined? Focused? Organized? Intentional?” (Sounds a lot like me!)
By the time I accepted my high school diploma, I had already completed a semester of college and had worked for five months as a secretary at the Lincoln Fire Department. I was 17 years old.
There is simply no evidence for the labels I placed on myself: Unsure, Awkward, and Afraid. The person who wrote in that book was full of determination and vision. She boldly asked to graduate mid-term from high school, and then took a senior level college class, assuring her adviser that she didn’t need the prerequisites. She was right. She earned straight A’s that first semester in college.
Yes, she was a misfit in high school. She couldn’t wait to get on with her life. She didn’t like sporting events, pep rallies, dances or parties. All of that seemed so frivolous and unnecessary, a waste of time. She would rather debate philosophical topics with her teachers than hang out with kids her own age.
The more I read the diary, the more I liked the girl who wrote it. I found her delightfully energetic and hopeful. I smiled at her idealistic dreams and envied her self-assurance. Everything was so black-and-white for her. Little did she know the territory in between, the place I now so contentedly live my life.
As I placed the book aside, I realized how I had blamed my teenage self for all of my perceived shortcomings. She’s the reason I felt uncomfortable in crowds, had no fashion sense, and couldn’t dance.
Eureka! There are the red flags I was looking for! Blame and resentment! I love it when I see them clearly because I know what I need to do. I need to take responsibility. Period.
As a responsible, self-generating person, I acknowledge right here and now that if I wanted to learn to dance, I could. If I really cared about fashion, I have plenty of trendy friends who could teach me a thing or two. And as for crowds? I don’t mind one bit being the featured speaker at a conference, but when it comes to conversations, I’ll take a meaningful philosophical debate any day.
Thank you, Barbara Jane, you were the perfect teenager to lead me to who I am today. I honor your hard work, quirky ways, and serious outlook. Tomorrow night I’m headed to my 40th high school reunion with the memory of you tucked safely in my heart. You rock!