Yesterday, late last night and just into the early morn, I went looking for, unearthed, deep in my closet— then perused an old diary of mine. I recall that I didn’t leave it in Trinidad for fear of it falling into the wrong hands—whoever that may be! Hey, you never know. To be safe, I packed it with me as I set off for university. It covers my thoughts and life, during the years, ages 13-15. I haven’t peeped in it in many, many years but I knew it was here somewhere. It is this rainbow-and-neon hued Lisa Frank diary.
It was as though I sat down to catch an inner glimpse into my teenaged self from my older self’s vantage point. I eventually christen the diary “Lisa-Anne” after Anne Frank and Lisa Frank, the namesake of the Stuart Hall Co.’s then uber-popular stationery line. My entries start as “Dear Lisa” then morph into “Dear Lisa-Anne.” I had read the Diary of Anne Frank and enjoyed and loved it tremendously as a girl. Admittedly, without any sense of irony at all, this—my diary—without a doubt, is one of the most compelling things—out of anything—that I have read in a long time. What a strange, brooding, angsty teen I was. Good Lord.
It’s weird too. Almost like I forgot some aspects of who I was. So I sat down and I read my diary. I was moved to tears and even bawled hard for some sections. I laughed out loud at some others. I saw my younger self etched on the page, first, in my careful penmanship that reeked of trying too hard, circling all my i’s with the little o’s that were once in style in girls’ handwriting. A fine point ball point used here. Purple ink in other entries. A pencil in one or two. I wanted to be “an author”, “a dancer” or something “in medicine”. And all my angst. Oh, all my raging teenaged angst. Sounding like a protagonist inside of a Judy Blume book, which I did read with a voracious appetite, by the way. And was I so boy-crazy? Had I just forgot?
Do we ever really forget who we were (are)?
Like hormones on legs, even though I never had a boyfriend as a teenager? On holiday in the states in the mall in July vacation, I note: “there are lots of cute boys here every where you turn.” Two entries later, “I saw a cute boy by the Sears boys section counter, he had small glasses.” Then, a following entry, yet another cute one is espied. At Universal Studios, outside of my obervations on the rides, I come to the conclusion “that boys with braces are so, so, so cute. Most of ’em”. Ever wistful, longing. I almost forgot I was—but shit, I guess I was that kind of girl.
My teenaged self is oh, so emo. Ever quirky me. And strangely meticulous me. There is a hand-drawn map on a page, detailing the lay-out of my form two class and where everyone’s desk is. A complete list of the names of everyone in my form class, everyone who transferred in and out and all of my subject teachers. A hilarious freak-out over the fact that I have to go to school with an annoying cold that isn’t going away soon enough: “I have the cold and it’s embarassing to go to school with your nose running. Very. WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO? WHAT? WORK VOODOO? (Just kidding)”. (Yes in all caps) And freaking out a year later that Renelle gets “a transfer to St. George’s just when I belonged to a clique!!!”
Fearful me. A “wish” that I “were pretty” me. Paranoid about “blood stains on my white PE clothes” me. And impending womanhood. And blossoming bosoms. Disappointed to miss Convent POS Bazaar. An “excruciating pointe” class aftermath—go figure, I would never be a professional dancer. Crushing on a boy who never liked me back. (And is now happily married to someone I know, just fyi.) Then getting over liking him. Such a teenaged Libra me. Embroiled in the living of the moment and the terror of my unrealized wishes and longings me.
Addresses for pen-pals in Europe: Germany, Sweden as well as the United States. CIC bazaar coverage. A freak-out over my mum right before Fatima Mayfair. My awful but styling-for-the-time outfits for said bazaars. But no further explication on why I was upset with her and I rarely fight with my mum, in fact I don’t recall that I ever have. Clearly I did, as an angsty teen, at least once. But I don’t know why. Don’t remember why. We remember what we want, I think. Queen’s Hall Theatre camp. A concert in the National Stadium. Cool people I’d forgotten I’d met. Cool people I’d forgotten were cool.
On a BWIA plane leaving to go Guyana one August: again, I notice, “there are no cute boys so far” and “Guyana here I come!” Later, as “I’m watching the most gorgeous sunset ever. Light shades of purple, orange and pinkish red, indigo-ish blue. It’s not as scenic as flying by day but some other things are nice too. The plane is rocking a little. I’m not scared though. The clouds look like trees and the sea appears as a huge black mass. Trinidad looked beautiful”. I think about when that changes as I get older. And flying scares me and turbulence makes the pit of my stomach fall out onto my feet. And I say decades of the rosary, over and over, to grant me safe passage and soothe my tumultuous heart-beat on a flight. When was I ever that girl? The girl that wasn’t afraid to fly? Another thing I forgot I was.
Unconscious that her older self (or anyone) will see this—my younger self is uncensored—so, I read. I read till late into the early morning. It is a strangely illuminating feeling. I honestly don’t know if I could keep a record like that now for myself. So fearless. So honest. So filled with life, happenings, some judgments, conversations after they occur, moments frozen in time, description and real feelings. Most poignantly, all the things that made me feel sad and bad. All. And made me who I am today. Unashamedly. Unflinchingly. (Some of these, I do not recount here).
I see my younger self unfold her wings on the pages. Doubt herself. Question whether God loves her. Scream with fury at the mirror. Cry onto the pages. It rivets my older self—even though I feel as though I have forgotten some of these things. And paradoxically, I know I know her, this girl on the page, very well. I think I must have written them—these things, so I will remember her. I will remember who I was—am—was?
My first kiss. Fuck, I even forgot my first kiss. My own first kiss. See, it’s a kiss with no tongue. But still, a kiss. A peck on the cheek, then quickly, breathlessly, one on the mouth. See? Memory is funny. We remember what we want. That doesn’t change the fact that it happened, true. But if I didn’t report it to myself—who will remind me now? I don’t even know where that boy is now. I know I was not his first kiss. Fleeting. Perhaps not even memorable for him.
I unravel the story carefully,
see, in my head, when I think of my first kiss, I think it’s at 17 and completely different because it was some spit and swap and my first real kiss like you see on television. An inside Sweet Dreams books. And he kisses me. I don’t kiss him. And since when I was that girl, that girl that kissed a boy on the cheek and mouth, softly, like I know anything ’bout kissing. Is that why I forgot? Couldn’t, wouldn’t remember? Changed the storyline of my life?
But I record it here in detail. The awkwardness. The plot (his mother really liked me, blah blah blah. She knew the family of my Guyanese mother and thought it was a swell idea that I was visiting and we ‘liked’ each other. Though, astutely and honestly, I record that I feel it is me doing all the liking). About the kiss, I excitedly record that “I am very, very happy”, signing the entry, “heavenly”, in regards to how I am feeling as I leave the words on the page. I also write a short, expository account of the kiss titled “My First Kiss” and the entire moment, in addition to a diaric account.
And in there, of the “kiss” night I notice “cool night air”, “I let caress (spelled wrong) my face with gentle whips” as I listen to the “frogs splash-splashing in the muddy trench”.
I read now and remember.
And I laugh aloud at my teenaged self. At how wrapped up I was then in being attractive to the opposite sex. How much it contributed to my sense of self in the world that I was socialized into. (Post-colonial, heteronormative, catholic-christian doctrines, classist and whatnot). And how elusive it proved for me. I mean, I had to go to Guyana to have my first kiss—which sums up the story of my luck with that as a teen. Yup, my first kiss wasn’t even to a Trini. Neither was the second–now that I think about it! Sad but true. According to my diary, I “cry” when I leave Guyana, for my great-aunt, family, the boy and the place. I marvel that “I always thought kissing a boy would be simple. Just kiss but it isn’t. It feels wonderful to have a boy you like, like you back too. It’s a great feeling”.
My heart swells for my teenaged self—for me. For the many moments of utter sadness. And I want to go back in time and hug me and squeeze me and tell me that things do get better one day. They do. A promise to me from me. From me: I promise you, I promise you, I’d say inside my ear. As I wipe my own tears away. I wish it were possible to be able to do that. Nothing is perfect. But better—I’m happy and satisfied with better. The diary ends down on the last available page on the note: “this was my best summer ever!” and all the fun at camp that year. Of turning 15, I reflect “gee, I’m old”.
Now that is ironic.
I have a later teen years journal somewhere. I never finish the pages in it. I will re-open it soon one day, see what more of myself I discover I’d forgotten in there.