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 (?)
-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.