How a Forgotten Journal Helped Me Move Beyond a Painful Past – Cat Michaels

Whenever I visit schools visits, some dear child inevitably raises a shy hand to ask how to become a writer. I urge her to write. Keep a journal of your thoughts and what you see around you, I say. Keeping a record sharpens your writing skills and helps you find story ideas.

Children are surprised to learn that I started journaling decades ago as a teen-ager. I let them know my journals provide precious insights into my teen years as I look back on them as an adult. Kids don’t understand this yet. Such wisdom comes with age, I guess.

I stumbled across my first journal recently when cleaning out the attic. Startled to re-read the tiny handwritten scrawls of an insecure adolescent after all this time, I addressed my entries to older darlin’ — the future ME! How did I know capturing my thoughts would offer insights to unravel future challenges and help me move through life! And I can’t tell you why I wrote in slang, but I transcribed my journal, warts and all, faithfully as written.

It’s not easy for me to read Teen Cat’s journal as she pours her heart out. It brings back painful high-school years as if they were yesterday, when my middle-class upbringing and my father’s occupation as a teacher put me on the wrong side of the popular clique tracks in an affluent Connecticut suburb. The timing of this journal, started days before my youngest sibling’s birth, also offers context for my confusion and seeking solace in journaling.

I think there could be a YA coming-of-age story here — if I can find the rest of my journal stashed somewhere in the attic and steel myself to page through so many tender memories.

Please read on and meet Teen Cat. Then encourage the kids in your life to start their own journal. And if YOU haven’t started yet, what are you waiting for?

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===========TEEN CAT’S JOURNAL======================

Page 1 – Introduction

November 1

 

Let me tell you about myself. I’m 15 ½ years old, 5’-1” tall, 113 lbs., brown hair and eyes, a big mouth, but that’s not all. I’m starting this account of all these events for two main reasons.

  1. I can’t tell everybody my problems and
  2. I’ve got to have some way to let out my emotions.

When you finish reading this, older darlin’, if you do finish this and there is an end to these unrelated tales, you can finish the but that’s not all business yourself.

Oh, I suppose that in a few years from now when I read this, I’ll think what a dope I was to feel like this. Remember, older darlin’, in all your wisdom, don’t knock us younger kids. We have feelings, too.

Where did it all begin? I suppose I started the change from a quiet, shy, fat, intelligent girl into a noisier, still shy, and not so fat and not half as intelligent young lady. No, I dislike that word intensely– young lady. I’m young, but a lady sounds so old! What am I really? I’m not that young, but certainly, in the eyes of parents, I’m a mere babe in arms.

Parents…Now there’s a word. If there’s any one thing or any people, who have complete lack of understanding, they’re it. “Do this!” and “Do that!” “What did you say? I’m your mother, not she!”

Know what I say? To h…. with parents!

I gather you think I’m mad. Well, you’re right! Parents think this new generation is so wild and rotten. They go around citing statistics on juvenile crimes, teenage car accidents, and illegitimate pregnancies. Got news for ya, all you parents: it’s all your fault! Who can kids turn to if they have problems? Parents? Don’t be crazy.


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November 3

Had a usual Sunday. Went to church and Sunday school. I was really quiet today. Muriel kept askin’ me what was wrong. I really think this thing [journal] is helpin’ me. What a mess if they [parents] find it.

Oh yes, I saw Scott [at church] today. I think he thinks I like him. Maybe I used to and I could, but not now.

Why do I make such an ass out of myself? I’ve got a big mouth, but it gets me places. Is it good for helpin’ ya be popular? Maybe I should try bein’ quieter.

I wonder what everybody’s opinion is of me? Do they call me giddy or boy crazy? I don’t want that. They must say, ‘Oh, God, here she comes again!” Maybe I should try to act older, not too terribly old. Or I just would smile and shut up and don’t say or do crazy things?

 

Nov. 10 19xx Sunday 10:50 p.m.

I’m in a snot mood.   First of all, I went off my diet. Yesterday, I went shopping and bought a black sweater that doesn’t fit. The only good thing that happened was “The Diary of Anne Frank” was on Saturday Night at the Movies. It was absolutely terrific. I couldn’t stop cryin’ at the end when the Gestapo came to get ‘em.

 

November 11

Lynn came over yesterday and we went for a walk and we got lost. Then she gave me a perm last night   I guess it came out OK, but my hair smells of that Alberto VO-5 junk I put on it to make it less frizzy.

I have no desire to go to school tomorrow. There’s nothin’ for me to look forward to. Maybe if I fixed up my hair really pretty and wore something really sharp, I’d feel a heck of a lot better. My black sweater and knee socks with a gray kilt should be okay.

I just decided to have a mad, passionate, silent unrequited crush on Vinny E. Now wait, maybe I could just go to school for once and not like any fella, couldn’t I, older darlin’? Sure, why not?!?! Go to school with a free mind. Maybe I’ll just happen to like somebody and he’ll like me back. That’d be really sharp!!! What ya say to that, older, darlin’? Think I could?

========================================

 

Yes, indeed, insecure, desperately searching for identity and belonging, Teen Cat. Yes, indeed. You can do that and tons of even more awesome things. Sending hugs, kisses, and oodles of affirmation that you’ll turn out just fine.

Xxx,

Your Older Darlin’

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About Cat

Cat Michaels writes The Sweet T Tales, chapter books for beginning readers that tell of every day life with a twist of magic and mystery. A former special educator, communications manager for a high-tech company in another lifetime, and enthusiastic digital-dabbler, Cat lives with her family and writes in North Carolina. She is working on her third book in the Sweet T Tales for publication in winter 2016.

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7 thoughts on “How a Forgotten Journal Helped Me Move Beyond a Painful Past – Cat Michaels”

  1. That is great idea. I will try motivate my kids to start their journal. When I was 9 years old I wrote my first book. I have been thinking about digging deep in the attic to finally find it. Your article is inspirational for me. Thank you for sharing a part of your journal with us.

  2. I have journals going back to the 6th grade – some were the small books with locks on them. Sometimes I read them. I’ve been journaling since then. Interesting what we carry forward and what we leave behind as we become our older selves.

    1. Laura, I love your observation about carrying forward what we left behind. Just imagining your locked journals written as a child makes me smile. Happy writing-:D.

  3. I uncovered my journals (I started in elementary!) when I was cleaning out my room as a college junior, preparing for marriage. I read through every last one of them…and then threw them all away. For me, they served their purpose as the release that writing was and is, and I no longer wanted to remember those times (middle school woes, ugh!). But I never gave up journaling and am constantly placing different thoughts in new ways on paper. Your entries make me wish I could have one more sneak peek into my younger self, though, Cat; thanks for sharing!

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