Nostalgia is sometimes disappointing.

I woke up this morning with the intention of finally getting our second bedroom into shape. Right now it’s just full of boxes; some of the boxes are recent: full of wedding leftovers, random things we didn’t know where to put, and so many Cooking Light magazines that if the room caught fire it would go up in a second; but piled precariously on top of the newer boxes are old, falling apart boxes full of items from my child- and teenage-hood.

These boxes contain pictures, newspaper clippings, school papers, framed photos, and of course many handwritten journals. I was immediately distracted by the journals: how could I not sit here and read them all?

I read through one starting during the summer before freshman year of high school that continued through the summer after my sophomore year. Oh, the memories! Of course, I don’t remember being so precious. I was though, falling for a new boy every month, taking the risks of asking him out, and of course the inevitable fights between friends when you both liked the same boy. That happened less than I expected, or at least I didn’t write about it; I tended to mask my emotions, surprisingly. I also, much like now, forgot to write when I was happy, because I was too busy being happy.

A lot of my entries are things like “Omg I like him so much!” and “I just wanted to grab him and kiss him!” (I was quite forward), but there are sprinklings of troubles with friends (“Perry is such a bitch!” I said a lot – I now realize that she was probably mad at me because I kept trying to date her friends and boys she had crushes on. Sorry, Perry.) and trouble with my extended family (I really didn’t like my cousin Heather.) I rarely talked about anything of substance (sadly) and only touched upon my experiences in music and theater. Reading over this journal was like reading about the life of a stranger. Where were the entries about my struggle with learning my lines and memorizing the German aria my voice teacher had assigned? Where were the entries about my desire to be a Broadway star or a writer? Why did I seem so… lame?

Not everything was superficial though. I had quite a few entires about what love is and how I had not been in love. I never lamented over not finding love – I was 14 after all – but I was adamant about not being in love with any of the boys I “dated” in those two years. I teased myself with the idea that this boy, Jordan, I had crushed on for several years (and “dated” in 6th grade), was someone I loved, but at the end of the entry I dismissed that thought. In one entry, my 9th grade boyfriend Mike had apparently told me he loved me, but I wrote “I did not say it back, because I do not love him.” I was frank and honest, and I liked that about me.

I have memories, however, of my 10th grade boyfriend, Travis, and I exchanging “I love yous”, and yet my journal mentions nothing about the encounter. To be fair, I may be remembering wrong, but I do remember that he had plans to purchase me a ring that had “I Love You”, but in Latin, engraved in the inside. That never happened, of course, as Travis and I had a “mutual” break up (I am pretty sure Teenage Emily lied about that – the entries leading up to the break up are things like, “Why didn’t Travis call me back??” A few years later, in college Travis came out, which explains why he probably never bought me that ring. We’re still friendly.)

The thing that got me the most, however, was starting on my next journal, the one I kept during the year I finally started dating Jesse, the person I consider to be my first love. I skipped the several months before we got together and found the entry about our first kiss. I am pleased to say I was ecstatic, and I actually proclaimed “I’m in love!”, which sounds like an exaggeration for a 16 year old (us not even being a couple yet), but Jesse was slightly older (thereby justifying real feelings) and if my memory serves me correctly, we had already expressed that we loved one another months before. (Jesse lived far away so our relationship began through letters, emails, and IMs all which made us more open and honest.)

I was sad to see that I was either so busy being in love or so afraid of writing down feelings, that I wrote very little about our relationship. I have such vivid memories of every moment we spent together. These entries speak only of things like, “I brought him to prom and every one liked him. Jen and Kristen said he was HOT!” or “I visited Jesse in New Jersey for the first time. He lives on the beach!” Not every entry was superficial; I touched upon some of the deeper moments of our relationship (in one entry I mentioned that we had discussed having sex – it would have been my first time) but I never dived into the emotions I was feeling.

God, I remember being so incredibly in love and enamored. I remember staying up until the sun rose, talking to him on the phone or online, because we missed each other so much. I still have the gifts he gave me for our “month-a-versaries” packed away, and today found a framed collage of us he put together – and yet I mention little of these things. I remember, fondly, us deciding to go on a real date: we made reservations at a real restaurant up north, but that morning he slipped while shaving and sliced open his lip. He was embarrassed to see me, but I didn’t care. We went on the date anyway, then parked his car on the beach and talked (and made out, certainly) for hours, as the sun set. I remember eating Milano cookies with him all the time (it was our cookie, for some reason) and all the inside jokes. And yet… I wrote so little about this time.

I did write about him going away for a month in the middle of us dating. He went on a whirlwind trip around Europe that July. I wrote little about my feelings towards him being gone; the most in-depth I got was “I heard from Jesse today, I miss him so much. He sent me a post card and some journal pages.” Later this morning, after I put away the diaries, I dug up those postcards and journal entires – they were about his time in London and Paris (I’m not sure if he ever sent more) and the difference in quality of his writing versus mine (at least in those diaries) was substantial. He wrote beautifully (and apparently called me his Sweet Emily, which was a pleasant reminder) and filled his entries with thoughts and desires and so much more than I feel young Emily was capable of.

I flipped through the diary, trying to find the entry that I wanted to read most. I wanted to know what this superficial version of Emily wrote about losing her virginity. I remember that time like it was yesterday: the first time it got brought up, the reasons why not, the decision to do it, the planning, and the actual event. But yet, young Emily wrote nothing about it. I am so disappointed to learn that I didn’t allow myself to explore my feelings in writing. But let’s be honest, for a girl who was so frank in her writing I wasn’t really that frank. I skirted major issues, avoided diving into my hormone driven emotions, and I skipped over major life events.

I wish I knew why I wrote like that. And I wish I could go back to young Emily and tell her, “Please don’t not write! Please don’t hide your feelings in these pages: these are the pages where you’re supposed to express your deepest, darkest, secrets. These are the pages where you can write about anything. Don’t hold back.”

I am glad that I have such vivid memories. I’m glad that I can still remember so many little details about those years. But will I always have these memories? I sure hope so.

After I lamented over the lack of information in these diaries, I flipped one more: it was my sophomore year of college and I had been dating Oliver, the person I consider my second love, for a few months. There I didn’t hold back any emotions, although I read over the words now and wonder why I never could write that way about Jesse. Was I too young? Was it because I wasn’t encouraged to write? Or was I just stupid?

All of this reading is making me want to start keeping a diary again. I kept one through my first year or two out of college. Maybe if I do it now, I can write about things more intelligently, more deeply, more openly. Maybe now I won’t mask my emotions, so when older Emily picks one up in 15 years, she’s not as disappointed as I am right now. But I guess, isn’t that sort of the point of this blog?

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3 thoughts on “Nostalgia is sometimes disappointing.

  1. I think sometimes memories are better stored safely in the corners of your mind. Putting them on paper dilutes them, altering their truths, regardless of how accurate they may be.

    • That’s a good point. I’m just a very nostalgic person that wants to relive her past. Or maybe I’m looking for some proof that I wasn’t a shallow teenager? But maybe, I just wanted to keep it to myself and kept a journal primarily because that is what a young girl is supposed to do.

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