I kept a diary when I was in high school, and reading it occasionally keeps me in touch with my younger self.
You might think reading those journal entries would cause me to shudder at my immaturity….and yes, sometimes I do wince, as when I wrote, “I want to knit my boyfriend a sweater. Of course, I’ve never knitted anything, but that’s a minor detail.”
In spite of that immaturity, looking back at younger me somehow provides continuity over the years.
I liked to be busy when I was sixteen and seventeen, and volunteered for projects at my high school like being on the prom decorating committee, being an editor of the yearbook, and writing for the student newspaper. I was the president of my church youth fellowship and had an active social life with dates and boyfriends. Plus, I was a good student and serious about preparing for college.
Occasionally, I stepped off the merry-go-round and took a rest day to rejuvenate myself. I am still like that. I like to do volunteer work and live a meaningful life, but I also don’t like to get too over-extended. My younger self would be happy I learned about that balance when I was her age.
Nancy started playing bridge in high school, and it caused her a lot of grief. “I played so badly tonight and I am getting to where I hate bridge and I get a knot in my stomach thinking about having to play.” Well, guess what. I got better at bridge and have played it on a regular basis with great enjoyment for more than 50 years. Young Nancy would be amazed.
My boyfriend broke up with me my senior year. I did a good job of moving on with my head held high. Soon enough, another senior was asking me out and we had a lot of fun dates until we graduated. Pain was still there, but I didn’t let it stop me from enjoying my life. Young Nancy wasn’t into self-pity, a good lesson for all my years.
I wonder what my younger self would think about me getting divorced after thirty years of marriage. I think she would be philosophical about it. “Good for you for not staying in a lonely marriage,” she might say. Or, “What took you so long? You should have read that handwriting on the wall years before.” It feels good to have that affirmation from myself.
Younger me would really be surprised at how much I enjoy my three sisters now. Back then, Nancy thought they were a real pain. Now, we talk on the phone and try to get together as often as we can. She would be amazed that those blonde, bratty girls turned into likeable women.
She would be glad to know I still have Mom’s recipes for turkey and cornbread dressing, baking powder biscuits, and peach crisp. But it’s best she didn’t know when our parents would die or of the pain around their deaths.
Like most young people, I couldn’t imagine myself as an older woman. My friends and I were quite disgusted at the body habits of our “old” teachers. Our geometry teacher was horrifying. “He blows his nose in his handkerchief and then looks at it!” Yewwwwwwww.
I think about that now as I survey my face with a lighted power-of-ten mirror and tweezers. “What is THAT?!!! Get rid of it!” I am sure young Nancy would exclaim.
Young Nancy was judgmental about older women wearing bathing suits. “I can understand cellulite on the back of thighs. But on the front? Come on…..that’s disgusting.” In that way, I am sure young Nancy would be disappointed at how aging affects us all. But, overall, I think she would say I have done pretty well. She would be especially delighted with the two children she had and her wonderful four grandchildren.
What would your teen-age self think about how you turned out?