Nostalgic Adults Read Old Diary Entries And Reveal The Things They Wrote As Teens.
It's hard to tell how much we've really changed over years as we age and mature. But something like a diary works like time machine, to transport you back into the world of your younger self.
Here, adults share what it was like going back to old diary passages they wrote as teens.
1/28. My grandfather looked back at the week I was born in his old journals lately. On the day after I was born, he wrote "My grandson is looking MUCH older today."
It makes me smile.
2/28. I'm 50 and have journaled off and on my whole life. I recently went back through a lot of my entries from junior high, high school, and college. It was crazy. Some of the stuff I remembered well, and reading it again just transported me instantly back to that time and those feelings.
Other things I had no memory of whatsoever. Like, the boy that I was wild about in high school and had a long-distance relationship with for six months in which we both claimed to be in love -- he HAD A GIRLFRIEND. Straight up had a girlfriend the ENTIRE TIME. I wrote about it the first time we met, wrote something like "but it doesn't matter," and then proceeded to be wild about him from then on. Can you say denial? I was stunned to read this as an adult. How had I entirely blocked out this critical fact?
3/28. My mom is almost 60 and used to journal prolifically. Me and my sister randomly opened one of her old ones, it was from the 80s before we were born and the first line was "Too much coke!" My mom threw her old journals out after that, what a shame!
4/28. I'm only in my 30s but I've been journaling almost daily since I was about seven. I still have my first diary, most of the early entries are bad drawings of my pets and a weird obsession with documenting exactly how old I was. One of my favorite entries is from when I was about nine. It's marked "most important" and clearly I took time with it, the borders are colored in and the words traced over in pen multiple times for emphasis.
"VERY IMPORTANT! DO NOT FORGET!! EVER!"
The next few words underneath are illegible and I can't for the life of me remember whatever I wrote.
5/28. I'm in my 30's. I recently found my journal from when I was 16. My tone in the beginning was cringey and bubbly. I wrote about boys, sex, high school, driving. But also about cartoons I was watching, the amusement park I frequented and sleepovers. I wrote about my excitement for my upcoming birthday party. I was very much a girl on this weird cusp of adulthood. One entry I ended with "at least tomorrow the weather is supposed to be really nice."
The next page was just " . . . "
A few days later my party was cancelled. My tone shifted to worldly troubles. I sounded mature. I was suddenly aware of the world outside my safe little bubble. I was afraid. My birthday is September 14th. The journal was from 2001. The ellipses were on 9/11. That was the year I grew up.
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6/28. My Grandmother (born 1930) kept a journal from when she was 16 until she died (2006).
Us grandchildren were reading some of her early journals - in high school she was dating like 4 boys at the same time! She didn't have much to say about each of them, but then she met Al (our grandfather), and never mentioned the other boys again - she was over-the-moon smitten by this tall, strong, son of a navy man who has his own car.
We also read the days each of us grandchildren were born, but were a little disappointed that she didn't go into a whole monologue about what a momentous day it was now that we were born. She just listed our names and weights, and kept talking about her life.
It was really interesting to browse this bookcase of journals. We saw her as her own person, and not just 'grandma'.
7/28. From what I know through other relatives, my father was that bad boy with a motorcycle that would woo after my goody-good smart mother. I didn't believe my relatives when they told me this because my father is extremely strict. Found a box of mementos in the garage and one was my mothers journal with a photo booth strip taped in of them from a date. Dad had a bouquet of flowers, leather jacket, slicked back greaser kind of hair and mom looked the same as always.
8/28. When I was 55 or so, I decided to kinda "audit" my life, so I sat down with 20 years worth of journals I'd kept intermittently from 11 on. It was all whining with a little bit of interesting stuff like who I was dating, where I went on trips, different jobs and so on. But so much whining. I did not want to complain/whine to other people, so I kept it private by writing it down. I took a single unwritten book and put it next to the 18" stack of journals and spent several evenings going through the journals. If it was non-whining, I put a summary in the new book. Drawings were pulled out and put into the new book. The rest got shredded. I now have a concise record of various life events and no whining for posterity.
9/28. Nearly 70 and have been journaling since I was 12.
At 15 I made a list of things I hoped I'd live to see. Among them, the first woman president, an up close picture of the moon, front row seats to Bing Crosby, and to see a new state get added.
I'm still crossing new things off it to this day and it reminds me to never stop experiencing and trying to get the most out of life.
10/28. I kept a journal in high school while going through my first schizophrenic episode. Here are a couple of entries:
2/20/92 Unreality continues. I am being punished. I belong nowhere. I walk in total darkness with horrid creatures grabbing out and touching me. Even my body has left me. At times I have no control over it. I am at one place, and my body at another. Rarely do we come together. Also, objects have died. They are alive - until I come. When I come into a room they die. Punishment.
2/26/92 The school has hypnotized the kids. They sometimes speak a funny language. Its in the food. At Norman even. Near the hotel there was a big look-out tower. They were up there watching me, I know. Even the book confirms that. Also many people coughed after 1st hour. Eyes play tricks in bathroom - things shrink. Small bathroom, cupboard. Body disconnects. Cant help it. Shhh. Keep quiet. What a strange girl. Help!
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11/28. I am 26 and have kept a daily diary since age 8. I never want to read any of it ever again, so no favorite pages. Once I opened up to about age 13 and it was so embarrassing and dramatic. So many emotions! And so much he said, she said, and "I was like."
12/28. I've been journaling (and by journaling I mean writing in a word doc - because ain't nobody got time to write) everyday for the past 4-5 years about two highlights of my day and then I rate my day in terms of how "happy" I was that day. Even when I've had really bad days I always try to find something positive to write - maybe something like my friend messaging me or hearing a nice song on the radio. In this way, it forces me to find happiness in everyday. Sometimes its really hard to find something and it's really hard to stay disciplined to write in it everyday, but its done loads for my happiness.
At the end of every year, I read through my entries for each day and then copy it into an excel spreadsheet. A column for the date, the entry, and then the 'happiness rating'. This gives me the option to sort it by either the date or by 'happiness rating' and lets me find the happiest memories of that year, a highlight reel, if you will. Whenever I'm feeling sad, I like to reread past entries and it helps me feel better. When I reread the happiest memories, sometimes I feel like I'm able to go back to that day and relive it.
13/28. I started writing once I began dating a girl because it kind of felt special and so different than anything that I had experienced in my life prior (which turned out to be true because we're now married). This whole thing has still continued and now amassed to thousands of pages ranging from the everyday mundane (chronicles of grocery shopping) to heartbreak and joy (3 miscarriages followed by conceiving our daughter 2 weeks before IVF treatment). As cringey as my writings can be at times I still love opening a random page to read overdramatic rantings of our past disagreements only to have now forgotten about them completely or remember in vivid detail tiny tiny events that at the time just seemed like an ordinary day. It's eye-opening to realize that the unhappy times are really far and few and happiness is all up to you and that it's so important to make it a goal to forgive and let go. I suppose my favorite writings are the ones where I try to emulate styles of other writers whether it be Faulkner's stream of consciousness, Hemingway's clipped narrative, or channeling the annotated verbosity of David Foster Wallace.
My wife knows nothing about this and I thought I'd tell her one day. I'm really hoping that someday we can go back to Paris where we had our honeymoon and show it to her, read it together and get her perspective. But I'm so worried that the sheer amount of writings will just be a turn off. Well....if anything all this writing is extremely therapeutic for me and it's just something I feel so compelled to do because there's nothing more meaningful in my life than my wife and daughter.
14/28. I've kept a daily journal since I was 10. My favourite thing is to go back and read my first impressions of people who I'm now best friends with, it's amazing to see how your opinion of someone can change so much.
15/28. Recently went back and read some of my old journals from before I knew what depression, anxiety, and PTSD was. I was a mess. I sabotaged myself, and unknowingly hurt the people around me.
And it feels amazing looking back after fifteen years of hard work on myself and know that I have indeed changed for the better. I have healthy friendships and relationships, and I've traveled the world. I am less than a year away from graduating with a graduate degree in a growing and marketable field, and I am in love with a kind and amazing man.
I am a human being capable of change.
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16/28. I am 45 and recently started shredding all my old journals. I am scared of someone finding them when I am gone. When I browse through them, I cringe. The teen years were full of so much teen angst. My 20's were full of alcohol, bad decisions and an alarming amount of being really mad at television shows. My 30's were kind of cool but I feel like my writing is guarded. They are written as if I was planning for someone to find them. My 40s, I stopped writing my thoughts and began journaling future plans, mostly revolving around traveling. Those I am keeping.
Out of everything that I have read through, there is one relationship that involved a huge life's decision that I have always felt I chose wrong about. I remember the big story about it, but reading the little minute details was really weird for me because there were so many small things about it I had completely forgotten about. Reading it through the immaturity I wrote it during, really made me wish I could redo that relationship as the person I am now.
17/28. I have kept a journal practically everyday since 6th grade. I have to say those middle school journal entries are complete gold. My absolute favorite entry from this period was the day I broke up with my "girlfriend" of 7 years (Kindergarten-6th grade).
I fell under the extreme impression that I wanted to become a priest (I'm Catholic). To do this you can't be married so I was forced to make the call and break up with my girlfriend.
I did this in the classiest of ways by sending her a letter, handwritten, with different colored markers. The letter was a heartfelt and emotional deliverance of my decision to join the priesthood and the consequences that follow this. A couple days later she sends a letter back explaining how she completely understands and will support me all the way.
I still have the letter in my journals and it makes me smile to think back on how stupid I was to end that relationship. She's hot now and goes to the same school as me. Missed a big opportunity there but you live and learn I guess.
18/28. 50+ guy here. Have journal-ed off and on since .... well, very young. But when I first got married I came home one day and found my new bride elbow deep in all my journals, laughing a little, confused a little, and even upset somewhat. Not understanding the good ole "what's mine is yours" very well, I felt violated and quickly gathered up everything and hid them at work (locked and secure facility). From that day on, I started keeping an e-journal which is now on the cloud. Now, some 25 years later, I still haven't gone back to look at those earlier years. They're safe - just haven't dug them up since then. Now that I think about it, I couldn't care less if my wife read them now. I was kind of being a jerk back then.
19/28. I kept a journal avidly from ages 14-16 that I recently re-found after being convinced for years that Id thrown it out. While there are a few pages Im really proud of (its a good way to remind myself of my accomplishments and how they felt), a lot of it is difficult to read in hindsight because now I can see how much of a terrible little shit I was for most of my early and mid teens. Imagine your worst, most cringe-inducing teen pictures on Facebook or Myspace. I have almost 500,000 words of that. So keeping a journal isnt all fun and nostalgia.
20/28. my grandpa (currently in his mid 80s) kept a journal when he and my grandma moved from the States to Holland in the 60s.
The journals are amazing to read through. All kinds of cool little anecdotes about my dad (~4 y.o. at the time). A few about my uncle getting into fights at school.
The funniest ones are naturally about drinking - So many entries on Sundays starting with lines like, "Woke up with a headache this morning, decided to sleep in instead of going to church."
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21/28. I always go back to the day my son was born and my dad and I sat down on the porch and smoked cigars together. It was a great day on so many accounts. I re-read it often, but I don't need too; it's a memory I'll always cherish.
Dad has been gone for 18 years now.
22/28. I have journaled pretty consistently since age 17. Mostly you can just see how I feel about myself in how I talk about major events. I was in an extremely unhealthy friendship for a long time and it's insane how much I talk and obsess over the relationship. When it fell apart you can just see the self loathing and depression I fell into.
What's important though that you can see in journals is how life does go on. It sounds like a cliche but when I read the pages devoted to my boyfriend telling his parents that I smoked pot (which at the time felt like the end of the world) it reminds me that no matter what's happening now, it'll end.
23/28. After my grandpa died a few years ago, I was given his journal he had as a teen. He wrote in it every single day for a year. My favorite part that I read was when he talked about meeting my grandma and taking her out on dates. I cherish that journal.
24/28. I did not journal as a teen, but I did when I was pregnant with my kid until she was about 2 or 3. Lots of commentary about the election at the time and about 9/11. Both my kids had school projects where teachers asked them to ask their parents what they remember of it. Both times I pulled out the journal and they read it and shared parts with the teacher and class. Makes me glad I did it.
25/28. I've kept a series of journals (began as a freshman in college -- 18 -- and I'm almost 63) and seldom go back to read them, although I'll flip back a page or three in the current journal if I've just finished an entry and don't feel like picking up a book or whatever. I remember going back twice -- once to find out if I'd written about taking a friend out to scatter her husband's ashes when her son was trying to find the spot so he could scatter his mom's ashes in the same spot (nope) and once probably 20 years ago when I was cleaning up the basement and filing all the old paperwork and happen to see the old ones in their file cabinets. It was kind of a bittersweet trip, that one, going back to my first entry when I was still pissed off at my sister (we've become pretty good friends, but that didn't happen until we were both in our mid- to late 20s), through my misadventures dating to realizing I was in love with the guy I eventually married (going on 34 years), pregnancies and jerk bosses ... what was really interesting was listening to my "voice" change through the years and my attitude about life. I even pinpointed the time I went from "what's wrong with me" to "I'm surrounded by idiots" -- just about age 25. I haven't looked at the old journals in bulk since then. I've pretty much decided to leave them to my grandchildren, if I have any, since they'd probably embarrass my kids!
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26/28. I never go back and read them, and in fact destroyed all my handwritten ones (now I use a computer). They are too painful to read. Not because they're angsty or overly depressing, it's just that they are incredibly boring. I've used a journal most of my adult life more as a way to think things through; to get the internal dialog out of my head. It's like when you talk things over with a friend you can get a new perspective. I find that writing my thoughts helps me clarify them.
There is an exception though and that is travel journals. I have done two international trips where I took small notebooks and kept a journal. I like reading them more than looking at the photos from those trips.
27/28. I don't keep a journal, diary or any personal record since my little brother held a public reading of my eighth-grade diary for all the boys in the neighborhood.
28/28. I'm 52. I don't keep a journal. Never have. But I wish I had. Life changes so much, and it's so different 30 or 40 years down the road. I'd like to know what my younger self was thinking. I'd like to think I know what I was thinking but I think what I think I was thinking isn't really what I was thinking, I think. Anyway, to you youngsters, start writing!
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