Things I Learned from Reading My Childhood Diaries
A couple of weeks ago, I reached the end of the first of the childhood diaries I’ve been transcribing here, so I decided to take a quick look through what I thought was the second diary in the series, but which actually turned out to be the third – because yay, secret second diary I didn’t even know I had!
Well, I read a few posts, then I read a few more… and then I literally laughed until I cried. LITERALLY. And I only ever use the word “literally” when I literally mean it, so look, here I am literally crying with laughter:
And, er, here I also am literally Snapchatting myself crying with laughter.
(Oh yeah, that mascara I reviewed this month? Totally not waterproof, just FYI…)
This wasn’t just “crying with laughter”, people: I was absolutely HOWLING with laughter – like, rolling around on the floor, clutching my stomach and SOBBING. At one point Terry actually got quite alarmed, but he was watching Formula One at the time, so he got over it, and left me to my hysterical laughter, which was the kind that starts off with something vaguely funny, but then escalates to the point where someone could say “hello” to you, and you’d just DIE, because FUNNIEST THING EVER.
The thing is – just to lower your expectations here – the diary itself wasn’t actually that funny. Well, I mean, it WAS, but not in a “HAHA, Amber’s such a comedian!” way. More like a “Wow, Amber was the most pretentious teenager who ever lived,” kinda way. What an absolute asshole I was, seriously. To the point where, the more I read, the more I thought, “Yeah, no way is this going on the blog: I mean, I know I was 13 at the time, but really – why did no one slap me?”
Guys, I really don’t think I can publish it – or not here, anyway, and definitely not in its entirety. When I started my ‘Secret Diary’ project, I thought it would be really cool to turn the blog into a complete record of my life, starting from age 11, and continuing on to wherever this blog ends up. While I still like the idea of that, though, I’m starting to realise there are probably some pretty big disadvantages to having that kind of stuff on the internet. Like, the kind of disadvantages whereby a brand new reader, or potential client, say, stumbles across one of those early diary posts, out of context, and then judges me entirely on the fact that I once made a small booklet, in which I listed every single thing I hated about myself, and what I planned to do about it. Because, yes, I did that: and bitter experience tells me that, no matter how many disclaimers I slap on that post, saying, “I WAS 13 WHEN I WROTE THIS! AND I WAS STUPID!” people are STILL going to miss them all, and then totally judge me on the idiocy of my 13-year-old-self.
No one wants that, do they?
My current thinking is to publish SOME of the diary posts in the Secret Diary section, as planned, and then to maybe release the rest as an ebook or something. That way the people who are interested can still read it, but it won’t have to be on the internet, where EVERYONE can read it. Until then, though, and because I don’t feel like I’ve rambled on for quite long enough yet, here are some of the things I learned from the surprisingly emotional process of re-reading my childhood diaries…
I’ve always struggled to make friends
As you can probably tell if you’ve been reading the first diary I published, I was never the popular kid in school – in fact, I was always, always the outcast, and no matter how hard I tried, I’ve always found it hard to form really close friendships. Rather than being part of a group, I always had one BEST friend, and then a handful of other people I was fairly close to, but I’ve never had a large social group, and to this day, no matter how nice people are to me, I always feel like they don’t really like me, and are just, I dunno, pretending for some reason.
What really jumped out at me from that very first diary, though, was that the reason I wasn’t popular as a child was because I always seemed to be perceived as “stuck up” or a “snob”. I wasn’t AT ALL “stuck up”, though: the fact is, I was just shy, and socially awkward, and sometimes that can translate as stand-offishness. I didn’t really learn that until I was in my first job, and I went to my very first office party: I’d had a couple of drinks, which had helped me loosen up a bit, and was having myself a fine old time, when suddenly one of my colleagues, who’d also had a bit too much to drink, came over and put her arm around me.
“Amber,” she said, “You’re SO FUNNY! I can’t believe how funny you are! And NICE! You are really, really NICE!” She looked around the table for confirmation of this. “Isn’t Amber really funny and nice?” she demanded, and everyone stared into their drinks, before politely agreeing that Amber was, indeed, not entirely awful. Yeah, they were ALL pretty drunk, now I come to think of it.
I was just starting to feel embarrassed – I mean, flattered, obviously, but embarrassed – when she ruined it all.
“It’s just so surprising,” she said, “Because the whole time I’ve known you, I totally thought you were really stuck up and unapproachable, and it’s a shame, because you’re not like that AT ALL!”
And then for the rest of the night, she wouldn’t stop going on about how she USED to think I was, like, REALLY SNOBBY AND AWFUL, but that’d she’d been SO WRONG, and now that she knew the truth, we were totally going to be BFFS.
It was a bit like when you get a new haircut, and everyone’s all, “Oh, that’s just SO MUCH BETTER on you! I didn’t like to say at the time, but I really hated your last cut! This one is amazing, though, it really takes years off you!” On the one hand, you’re happy they like your haircut, and flattered by all the nice things they’re saying about it… but on the other hand, you can’t help but be retrospectively offended on behalf of the OLD you: oh yeah, and completely mortified by the realisation that, all this time, everyone’s secretly been hating your haircut, and wishing you would change it.
My personality is a bit like that old haircut, I guess. You think it’s OK at the time, and, if you’re lucky, no one tells you any different, but then, years later, you look back and realise you spent a large part of your life looking like the ‘before’ shot on a makeover show: and you’re not totally sure you ever really made it to the “‘after” part, either.
These days, I work hard to overcome my natural shyness/awkwardness, and behave as “normally” as I can in social situations, but inside I’m still 11 years old, and terrified that no one really likes me, no matter how hard I try. Speaking of that, though…
I used to try much harder
After the bullying that ruined my final year of primary school, I really tried my best to be like everyone else. I joined the swimming team, the running team, the netball team – every team they’d let me into, basically. I was completely useless at all of those things, but I thought that if I just tried to throw myself into it, and join in with everything possible, I could make people like me. Of course, that didn’t work, and these days I’ve more or less learned that lesson: I no longer feel the need to do things I don’t want to do, just to please other people, and that has to be a good thing, right?
I really, really hated myself in high school
I seriously wasn’t joking about that booklet I made: it was called ‘Amber’s Magic Summer Makeover’, and it’s filled with cruel caricatures of myself, plus detailed plans on how I was going to change every single aspect of my appearance and personality over the course of one “magic” summer. I know you can’t see me right now (at least, I hope to God you can’t, or everything I’ve ever known about the internet is wrong…), but I’m typing this with my head beneath a pillow, in a bid to hide my utter shame about how STUPID I was…
By that stage, though, I’d decided the reason no one liked me was probably because I was ugly, and badly-dressed, and that if I could just find a way to get rid of my freckles (I HATED my freckles. It’s strange, because I rarely even THINK about my freckles now, but back then, if you’d told me I could get a head transplant to get rid of them, I’d have happily sold my soul to raise the cash…) and persuade my parents to buy me whatever brand of expensive sportswear was in “fashion” at the time, then all my problems would be over.
Er, I think this is the bit where I’m supposed to be all, “But when I look back at photos of myself at that age, I feel really sad, because I’d give anything to look like that now!” That’s how it’s supposed to go, isn’t it? It’s not like that for me, though: when I look back at photos of myself from that age, I just think, “Yeah, I was an unfortunate looking kid: I’m really glad I spent all that money on braces when I was older!” The fact is, I always viewed clothes and makeup as a solution to a problem: the problem being ME, and how completely awful I thought I was, in every possible way.
I’d like to say I don’t do that any more, but I’m still my own worst critic: I know you probably wouldn’t think it, because I post photos of myself on the internet every day, but I still look at those photos and instantly zero in on all of my flaws, and I still use humour as a way to put myself down first, so no one else can beat me too it. It’s like, “If I’ve already pointed out my flaws, YOU can’t use them as a stick to beat me, can you?”
I have no idea where I’m going with this. I feel like there should be some neat little conclusion where I come to some profound realisation about my life, and from that day forth, am a far better person for it. The main conclusion I’ve come to, though, is that I am still the same person: I’m still 11 years old in my head – and I think a part of me always will be.