I’ve always had a hard time remembering the past in anything more detailed than vague, broad strokes and themes. I know I’m not alone in this, yet I often feel like I am. I have very few specific childhood memories that I can easily recall unless I look at photos or talk to friends about our lives then. This includes college years. And after college. I’m a little better about memories from my mid-20s on, but everything else has so many gaps! I hope some of you are nodding along and saying to yourselves, “Me too, Angie, me too.”
Recently, though, I went back to my childhood home in Panama for a two-week vacation with my husband and kids. While there, discovered a large storage box containing photo albums and… a treasure.
I found all of my scrapbook journals from age 12 through 18! Like many kids of the ’90s, I was obsessed with detailing my day to day in colorful, bubble-lettered, and fun ways. And boy, did this treasure not disappoint!
It’s been like opening a pandora’s box into my early, mid, and late-ish adolescence, and I could not be more grateful. I brought my journals home with me in my luggage, and I’ve been going through them ever since. And I have to tell you, these things are page turners full of childhood memories! The best part is, I’m realizing some truly life-changing things.
I’ve known all my life that I’m a deeply feeling, sensitive soul. More recently, thanks to the book “Bittersweet” and podcasts by Glennon Doyle and Brené Brown, I have learned that I tend toward melancholy — I experience longing perhaps a bit more than others. And I’ve come to embrace that aspect of my SELF and to appreciate its value.
That said, because I’ve always been so inclined, the bits I remembered about my younger years seemed to always focus on these types of feelings and little else. For example, I knew I had lots of crushes on boys, and although I had a couple of relationships before leaving for college, I still felt like most of those years were spent sulking over unrequited love.
As it turns out, though, I had such a full life! I was always doing something with my friends, whether school was in or out. My days were filled with activities and quality time with my friends and family. Trips to the beach or the countryside during weekends and school vacations were the norm. Sundays were for Mass followed by lunch at my grandparents’ — and I often commented how good the food had been! There were countless weekend nights at the movies — or movie nights at home thanks to Blockbuster. I even spent a lot more time with my busy pediatrician dad than I thought I did, which was such a nice discovery!
Finding my treasure trove of journals helped me see that my teenage years were replete with joy and happiness as well as typical adolescent turmoil and other struggles; both types of experiences coexisted harmoniously and contributed immensely to the person I am today. The bonds I formed with my closest friends created a strong foundation that is still important today. And for that I feel blessed and grateful.
The journals have also served as a bit of an eye opener as I start experiencing what it’s like to parent a pre-teen. With my oldest getting closer and closer to those hormone-packed years, I now have a preamble for what to expect — and let’s just say, I’m not necessarily eager! At the same time, thanks to my own recollections and experiences — as detailed in my journals — I have one more tool to prepare.
Knowing how I felt as I faced challenges, worries, new experiences, conflicts, and everything else that comes with the teenage territory is preparing me to face my children’s teenage years with more understanding, compassion, grace, and realistic expectations. And wow, what a treasure that is!