Maybe I Should Just Burn Them All

When I was moving my boxes of books and supplies up to my new home office, I found my box of journals. I’ve kept a journal off and on through good and bad (mostly bad) since fourth grade, so it’s a pretty big box. There are notebooks of weird writing attempts from college, my 7th grade complaints about how terrible junior high was (the most terrible), stressed out and desperate post-college writing, and truly over the top dramatics from high school. A few Saturdays ago, I sat down on the floor to go through the box. I was excited because I thought I’d come across all sorts of crazy, hilarious memories and spend the whole evening laughing. I was ready to have a good laugh at Kerry of the Past’s life, while also realizing that I’ve always been a precocious yet lovable weirdo.

Instead, what I found out was that I’ve always just been super weird and depressing. If anything, I used to be even more weird and depressing. Nothing about my weirdness is quirky or cute; mostly, it’s just annoying. I am a horror, and it took reading through almost 20 years of journal entries to realize that.

Things started out with plenty of promise. On January 20th, 1996, I began my journals with a declaration of self:

“This is the first page of this diary. Hi! Here is some stuff about me:
I like to read.
I don’t like gym.”

Both statements would remain true for the entirety of my childhood (and presumably for the rest of my life). I also appreciate that I said hello. I was nothing if not polite.

Things took a turn for the weirder soon, though, when I wrote the following entry:

“Today I got a phone call from somebody that said they were my secret admirer. I hung up. I think it was just one of my friends.”

Did I get prank called in the fourth grade? I did! I’d actually mostly buried that memory, but the pink polka dotted pages of this diary brought it right back. I still remember the bitch who did that and then sneakily tried to ask me if I “got any phone calls” the next day. Smooth as always, I just said no. I was pretty much the James Bond of fourth graders. I still won’t add that girl on Facebook.

Writer’s block quickly found me, however:

“I don’t have much to write. It’s only morning. I’ll probably have something to write later. Like I was saying, just give me some time–I’ll come up with something to write.”

I get it, Young Kerry. The insistent pressure to get words on the page! Whether it’s a work deadline or a self-imposed journal deadline that you get strangely defensive about, the struggle of the writer is all too real.

My January 29th entry proved that my anxiety about completely inconsequential things was there from a young age:

“Today in school, I forgot my assignment book. It was terrible!”

How did I even deal with the stress? But it wasn’t all lost assignment books and prank calls. There were good times, too, like on February 14th:

“Valentine’s Day! The dance was cool. All my friends were there. The best Valentine’s Day of my life!”

You want to know why all my friends were there? Because we were in the fourth grade, and dances happened during the school day. They didn’t have any choice. It’s sort of impressive that it was the best Valentine’s Day of my life. Even better than third grade? Impossible.

I have a lot of affection for fourth grade Kerry. She was weird, she wrote a lot (even when she faced immense pressure from her journal), and she was steadfast in her hatred of gym. If only all of my journals had been so sweet! Things quickly took a turn for the “Oh, God no” when I got to junior high and high school. First, I talked about boys approximately 95% of the time, despite the fact that most of my male classmates were dirtbags, and not even the sexy kind of James Dean (or even James Deen) dirtbag. Just, like, the kind of guys who call people “retards” and don’t read books and DEFINITELY do not care about a girl who spends most of her time writing in her journal about how much she hates gym (that didn’t go away until I took my last gym class in freshman year of high school).

And in college? Well, let’s just say that’s where things got really bad. Frankly, my college journals were so bleak that they actually made me wonder if I was depressed at the time and just didn’t know it. Why was I always so sad? Why was I never excited about any of my classes? Why was I so hung up on that dirtbag I dated, the one I was totally in L-U-V with even though he wasn’t going to college and listened to a lot of Avenged Sevenfold and smoked and liked to drag race for fun? Oh, because I thought he was really hot? I was 18, so pretty much all we did was make out in his basement and I considered that, like, a solid relationship, but that didn’t stop me from journaling my weird little heart out about him. He was, truly and objectively, very good looking in a dirtbag sort of way. Reading through my journals prompted me to look him up on Facebook and his face is now swollen in the way of a guy who drinks too much, which he probably does. To quote a poem he has definitely never read, nothing gold can stay.

Even the parts of my journals that made me laugh also just made me sort of sad. My best friend and I used to keep lists of our “inside jokes” on the backs of my high school journals, and I was so bummed to realize that I couldn’t remember 98% of them. Some of them are so strange-sounding that I did actually laugh out loud. Behold:

-Sarah Ferguson ponders terrorism (how this could have even tangentially related to a joke, I don’t know)
-The Avril Lavigne of mental illness (again, I don’t know)
-Mr Beans and his magical early 90′s sweater (I guess our guidance counselor just wore weird sweaters?)
-Jayne’s Sam’s Club Membership (nope)
-Paul, Ringo, and George Michael (wait, this one was because one of our friends truly thought those were the members of The Beatles. I still do find that funny!)
-Spandex Hippie (?)
-Slow-hedge (??)
-Stephen Tyler (literally, just the name of the Aerosmith frontman was written on the list. ???)
-”I Can’t Spell Furnace Boy” IMs Cat (okay, this one I do understand–we made fun of this kid because he couldn’t spell furnace, which sounds mean, BUT IN RETROSPECT he was a high school boy, which is to say he was terrible, and I guess he IM’d one of my friends and that alone was funny to us? I DON’T KNOW)

Some of the items on that list were essentially just random orderings of letters that made no sense to me. Funny, but also depressing. Actually, reading my journals in general was depressing. The act of going through them ruined my entire evening by reminding me that I’ve always been an incurable, sad weirdo. I guess some things never change.

I like to read. I don’t like gym.

What I’ve Been Reading

What have you guys been up to in our long period apart? I went to the Bellville World’s Fair and ate apple rings. I went to my 10 year high school reunion (uneventful, but I did have chicken wings). I went to IKEA for the first time with my family and I didn’t even eat meatballs even though clearly I should have. I’ve been listening to a lot of Judge John Hodgman and Bullseye and eating approximately a ton of apples because, you know, fall. I’ve been sort of trying to unpack some boxes but mostly I’ve just been working. But also, I’ve been reading! Here are some of the books I’ve read recently.

An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
There’s a reason everyone’s been talking about this book–it really is that good. It’s about a kidnapping, which is already something that stresses me out so I probably shouldn’t even have read it. But good luck putting this one down once you start it! It’s extraordinarily violent and disturbing, and it features by far the most upsetting, graphic depiction of sexual violence that I’ve ever read, so keep that in mind. But nothing’s gratuitous; the book is all about trauma and living through things, about how people get through the worst possible stuff and what happens when it’s over. Nothing about this book is cheesy or simple. It features some truly complex people, and I don’t mean the type of characters that people say are complex because, like, sometimes they’re gruff but actually they have a heart of gold! These are people who are racist but also save your life, or people who love you but still make the worst choices. This book just knocked me out.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell.
Okay, let’s get a little bit lighter. This is a book about a magic, time-traveling phone. Well, the phone itself isn’t time traveling, but it lets the main character talk to a past version of her husband. I just try not to think about time travel too much because I’ve never understood it. I liked that this book was about marriage and the importance of committing to your relationship. Does that sound boring? Don’t get me wrong, I love a book about people falling in love, but I also like a book that is upfront about how marriage can be a lot of work, not all of it fun work, and how that relationship is ultimately more important than anything else. Sure, this one was pretty cute and funny, but clearly I took some additional meaning from it. Which reminds me that An Untamed State also featured a complicated marriage!

The Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes
I read this one for review and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. I love books that are set in all-female environments (convents, homes for unwed mothers, all-female boarding schools, the house in Little Women) and while this wasn’t technically an all-female environment, it was all about the ladies. I feel like this book would make a great movie, definitely one that I would watch when I was sick. This is one of those books that will make you be all, “Women used to have so few choices!” and then you realize that things are still sort of the same.

The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner
Working in television sounds terrible. That’s probably not the moral of this story, but that’s one of the lessons I learned. Jennifer Weiner books are always compulsively readable and they will always make you feel pretty good. This one features a disabled object of affection, which is so rare that I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever read it. Apparently this book was inspired by Jennifer Weiner’s time working on that ABC Family sitcom starring Raven, of “That’s So” fame. If that’s not enough to make you read this book, then I don’t know what to tell you.

What have you guys been reading lately? I’m currently trying to work my way through the National Book Awards longlist, although I’ll probably give up once I hit a boring one. I’m on An Unnecessary Woman right now, and so far so good. The narrator loves books and hates America. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!

This Week on HelloGiggles

belzhar meg wolitzer
This week on HelloGiggles I wrote about Belzhar, Meg Wolitzer’s new novel that marks her foray into YA. I really loved it, and not just because I always love books about boarding school (although that’s true). It was a dreamy feeling book that really puts you in a different world for awhile. Meg Wolitzer herself favorited one of my tweets about the article, which made me remember that she is a real person. For some reason I tend to think of “adult” authors as people who live in a different universe, one in which they are unable to read my tweets.

In conclusion, Meg Wolitzer is a real person and you should read Belzhar, especially if you are a Sylvia Plath fangirl (but even if you’re not).

Lady Jam: Metronomy

On Sunday night, H. and I had the chance to see Metronomy at the Wexner Center here in Columbus. The Wexner is not necessarily a concert venue so much as it is a museum/art space, but it does have a very nice stage located somewhere within the bowels of the building (seriously, we went up and down so many stairs and ramps that I would never be able to find that room again). The last time we saw a concert at the Wexner, it was Bill Callahan with Chasey, and the audience was comprised entirely of, like, 17 well-dressed men with weird hair. The crowd was much bigger and more diverse at this show…someone even brought a toddler! At one point before the show, he rolled around on the floor in apparent boredom. As an impatient person, I could relate.

Anyway, Metronomy was great. I mostly went because H. likes them, so I didn’t know a ton of their songs, but they were really high energy and fun. Their bassist was bananas good and the whole band was just so stylish (by which I mean that I majorly admired the drummer’s outfit, hair, and lipstick).

Even though there were plenty of older people there, we were mostly surrounded by 21 year olds with topknots and Urban Outfitters ensembles and I’ve never felt more ancient. I mean, I’ve always been an elderly person at heart, but it’s still a little weird to think that we used to be the target audience for every show and now we’re just slightly older than most of the crowd (except for that time we saw Hall and Oates, when every age was represented because Hall and Oates unite us all). I felt like Schmidt on New Girl.
schmidt youths

If you haven’t listened to Metronomy, you should check them out! And let me know what you’ve been listening to lately! I’ve mostly been into Twin Shadow, Childish Gambino (like usual), and the new One Direction single on repeat.

This Week on HelloGiggles

pointe brandy colbert
This week on HelloGiggles, I gave some of my personal suggestions for those of you who are new to YA. People ask me for reading recommendations a lot, and these are some of my faves for those of us who don’t exactly put the young in young adult. You can check out my picks on HelloGiggles! And, as always, if you have any suggestions for future columns, please send me an email at youngadulteducation@gmail.com.