Getting lost in my teenage diaries and all my former selves

“Hi, today we have decided that there is no longer a group. We feel really guilty that we were bitches . If only we had not had the group in the first place. But from half of year seven to the end of year nine, there was a group; a group of friends who laughed. chatted and hung out, a group of young teenagers who did everything together, a group that started out with 10 members and finally ended with none (well maybe three), a group who have changed and grown up. It’s sad that all those things we were meant to do together when we were older won’t happen but things change. Life goes on, a chapter in my life has closed.”
- Me, aged 14 in 1999

Oh to be 14 and this melodramatic again! I’ll be honest I was struggling to come up with anything to talk about today (hello week three of lockdown!) and then suddenly had an idea which involved me having to go through boxes in my cellar. Hours later and I am now knee deep in teenage diaries, reliving some of the funniest and most painful moments of my school years. I apologise, therefore, that this is is an evening supplement.

I remember the incident that led up to me writing that diary entry above. There was a big row in the girl’s bathroom. Several friends had felt they were being pushed out of said group. One of the girls was someone I absolutely idolised. She had moved to our town in year eight from up north and I thought she was the coolest person I had ever met. I couldn’t believe she wanted to be my friend. I adored her but when I saw her making friends with other people who I considered far cooler and worthy than me, I cut my losses and basically blanked her. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be her friend. It was that the idea of losing her to them was too hard for me so I decided to jump before I was pushed. What I hadn’t realised was the impact this had on her. She wasn’t going to dump me as a friend and so consequently my actions broke her heart. When she told me this in that bathroom, I cried so much I couldn’t breathe and my face was all swollen and blotchy for the rest of the day.

It felt like the absolute end of the world at the time. That and the actions of another friend caused a seismic shift in our “group” resulting in the collective decision to “end the group” which seems so ridiculous to me now. As if we needed a meeting to decide to end a friendship group but, having said that, it was our most important relationship then. What happened was a real coming of age moment. I realised then just how much my actions could hurt other people and also the knock-on effects of not properly communicating when there was an issue. Things were never the same between me and the girl but we did remain friends until our later teens. Sometimes I see her name on Facebook and it’s hard to admit but I still think back to what I did with regret. If I confessed this to her, she would surely tell me to get over it.

I’ve been thinking about the past lately because of a big writing project I am currently working on. During the research for this, I came across something I had written in my early twenties, which upset me and my good friend reminded me that I am not that girl anymore. But am I? The writer Cathy Rentzenbrink says when teaching memoir writing that sometimes it’s helpful to think of the different selves that make up our story. Each different stage of your life is a different self. This really got me thinking about all the different selves I have been and that make up who I am. So no I am not the same girl I was in my early twenties but at the same time I also am.

Thinking about this reminds me of a deep conversation I had with a Uni friend at a wedding. We hadn’t seen each other for a good few years and she was telling me how embarrassed she was to think of her younger self and how much she had changed. “I’m a totally different person,” she told me. I frowned at her and said gently that I didn’t think she was, actually. She may have developed and grown and learn an awful lot. She may do things she never thought possible, she may have a different lifestyle but fundamentally she was still that girl I met 15 years ago. In fact several things she said and did that weekend confirmed this to me.

In psychotherapy, there is a concept of the “inner child” who you need to nurture and look after but at a workshop I attended in London once, the teacher told us she believes it’s more that we are a Russian doll and all our former selves are a different doll inside of us. I like the idea of this. I think one of the best things about my eight years of being single is how much I have really gotten to know my self – and how my other inner selves make up who I am as a whole. Obviously when you are in a relationship you can do self-work but for me I needed this time to really get to know myself without being distracted by boy dramas.

Anyway, I adore my teenage diaries even the ones that remind me of crappy boys treating me like shit or horrible arguments with friends. I know some people don’t like to look back and I think there is a danger in thinking about it too much but I just love my diaries and think I can still learn a lot from them. Cathy writes in her book The Last Act Of Love that she chucked all her teenage diaries out, which made me squirm to read. My diaries are my most precious possession. They went missing for years after my parents moved house and I was devastated. I just couldn’t get over it and then luckily my sister found them.

I was actually looking today for my thoughts on being single because I thought it would be interesting and maybe even funny but then I started thinking about all the above instead. There are an awful lot of entries about how sad I was that nobody fancied me or that my crush hadn’t noticed I existed. But I’ll leave you with these two entries below to read in the hope it will cheer you up if you are having a bit of a crap time at the moment.

I think we are all having a pretty crap time. This is a good article on the topic if you are: It’s not just you: Why the current lockdown is having an extreme effect on mental health. It is week three of the third lockdown here in the UK and we are probably 10 months into this pandemic plus it’s January so it’s pretty hard. Yesterday I was going to meet a friend for a walk but we had to cancel because of the floods and today I should be seeing my support bubble but the snow has put paid to that. By the time I see them it will have been another two weeks of being all by myself with no-one to talk to in person. I am mainly coping well and staying pretty positive but there are definitely moments when it is harder. On Friday night, I felt really low after watching the news conference where Boris Johnson said all this scary stuff about the new variant but then I did a 90s dance aerobics class on Frame on Saturday morning and felt much better. Isn’t it annoying how exercise actually does that? I guess I better keep doing workouts…!

Anyway, here you go. Hope you can read my handwriting, which is terrible in both these entries. In my earlier diaries I wrote so neatly. Anyway these are both when I was 15 and “get off” means snog, or kiss with tongues. For the record, I have no memory of calling my diary “hun” and I think that is actually the part I am most embarrassed by. Having said that I do agree with my 15 year old self; it really is crappy being single when there are no parties to go to. How very 2020/21 of me!

Here is the second which is from a few weeks after. The first half this entry is all about my friend getting her heart broken after her boyfriend of six months broke up with her (Remember when six months was basically marriage!) Anyway I love how wise I am… and also maybe I was always destined to write this newsletter!

Have a good week and stay safe!

Nicola

Twitter: @Nicola_Slawson | Instagram: @Nicola_Slawson

What caught my attention

I Miss The Thrill Of One-Night Stands

Charlotte Manning wrote this great piece about one-night stands. They get a bad rep but Charlotte does a great job of advocating for them. She writes: “There’s few things I’ve missed more than the magic of locking eyes with someone for the first time, glimmers of attraction developing, brushing their arm at the bar, and edging in anticipation towards the dancefloor. I’ve had some of the best sex of my life with people I’d only just met, people I only knew in passing, and even some mates. I think there’s something in the ‘fuck it’ bit of our brains which seems to be activated by precisely four double vodka cranberries that allows us to indulge in these chaotic but fun experiences with people we might never see again – or even maybe will.”

Who Gets To Decide Which Relationships Are Worth Mourning?

This is beautifully written piece is about how sometimes we grief more for the so-called small things - a short fling, a lost cat, a cancelled date with someone you haven’t even met – than for the bigger things like a broken heart. Annie writes: “I was supposed to shrug it off, say “men are trash” and move on, but it felt like I was going through a breakup. I would be in the supermarket and I’d remember the mint taste of his mouth when we kissed, how it mixed with the plastic strawberry taste of my lip gloss. In bed, I’d think of how he looked up at me with a cheeky smile when he tied his shoelaces, redness from the sun breaking out over the bridge of his nose. I’d go over and over what went wrong. Maybe I shouldn’t have pissed in that bush? Maybe he’s met someone?”

Now for the nudes: thousands turn to online life drawing

My friend Sarah wrote this fab piece that was in The Observer today. Sam’s story is brilliant so I wanted to share it: “Sam Cowley, 41, had just come out of rehab for alcohol addiction when lockdown was imposed in March. He was sitting alone in a room in a dry house in Essex, contemplating how he’d lost his wife, children, job and house, when he came across a life-drawing class online. He decided to give it a go and hasn’t looked back. “I did my first class and I felt a warmth and excitement. For an addict, being on your own is a hard thing. I did that session and felt so inspired. I started to feel a sense of purpose and belonging. I’m passionate about life drawing now,” he says.”

About me

For those who don’t know, I’m Nicola Slawson, a freelance journalist who lives in Shropshire, UK. If you would like to support what I do, please consider subscribing to be a paid supporter of The Single Supplement. If you would prefer to make a one-off contribution, you can also buy me a coffee, here’s the link to my Ko-Fi page. Follow me on Instagram and Twitter.

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