Dear Diary: What I Can Learn from My Younger Self

July 21, 2004

The day went well, but I’m low at the moment. It’s a funny thing to feel great one hour, then shy and intimidated the next. I think I forgot… Tomorrow it is. I leave home. I couldn’t even sleep last night—nightmares. I prayed as hard as I could. I ran some errands and went to the library for audio books. But now it’s here and happening. Dealt with some boy drama. Sometimes it would be nice to just close my eyes and shut it all out. Mom’s very scared for me and the big move. This summer has been the start of a new era, and I look back and feel so grateful for each second of it—like listening to Jimmy Buffett’s “License to Chill” CD with the top down in Nana’s car. I’m a big girl, though, and under the pressure to get it all done, I know I can do it. It’s just the doing it part that seems to be taking awhile. I went to Sprint to get phones transferred; Mom gave me her old one: a colored flip phone with voice dial! I’m so grateful for her help. It will just be different having to be dependent on myself. I hope I am good at it. Must look at the fun and exciting part of this big move and go with it, not against it.

I have six or so half-filled journals. Pink with sequined fish, dark leather-bound, and even a floral spiral notebook to keep my past into my present. With the new year, there is a push for reflection and goal setting, so I tried to open up each of them with a kind eye. I envisioned my 21-year-old self, holding a Bacardi and Diet Coke, talking to my 36-year-old self, chillin’ in Soma PJs with a chai tea. Do you ever look back and cringe at the mistakes you made or shake your head at some questionable choices? I do. It was a painful process to read each of the journals and try to decipher if there was anything to learn from. A young woman who was single, childless, and transitioning from being under the care of her parents to living alone in a state where she knew no one. I had just traveled abroad like a nomad, broken up with a boyfriend, and filled my time with anticipating what lie ahead… This coming-of-age moment triggered some intense anxiety and a roller coaster of emotions, which is why I chose to keep journals. What better time to reflect on your memories than times of high emotions?

Honestly, I expected to shake my head at my naïveté, but instead found that I felt empathy for all my younger self was coping with. Within a short, cold weekend, I read years of memories. Sometimes I wrote at night when I couldn’t sleep, other times in the morning after a triumphant night out. While reviewing my past, in hopes of helping my future, I noticed a constant trend to my revelations: I would document what I ate, purchased, and did, then judge myself for these things and promise myself that tomorrow I would do better. My words became fighters in the ring, and it was one blow after another. A cycle developed: unkind words were followed by giving myself a pep-talk; there was room to make mistakes and permission to move on. Even with my unreal expectations, there were glimpses of hope and forgiveness.

The pressure we place on ourselves—as mothers, partners, friends—only grows with our responsibilities. I need to find the positivity and forgiveness I once carried in abundance. Somehow, my younger self found grace in the fear and anxiety of change, and I would like to better practice that in my current role. I don’t make resolutions, and I certainly cannot pick one word to serve as a trigger to alter my behavior, but collectively, I can seek to find balance with my youthful self’s compassion as my age gives me the experience to better cope with change. Reading my journals, it was clear I was on a journey of acceptance. I can learn from my younger self by continuing to challenge myself, but with a kinder voice.

While I’m always eager to read articles about fostering a personal growth mindset, it never occurred to me that I could find that opportunity from my own recorded thoughts. Of course we can—and hopefully do—learn from our mistakes, but perhaps we can also learn by the way we’ve treated ourselves. I’m tired of beating myself up. According to my journals, I’ve been documented doing so for at least 16 years. So I move forward into 2018 with some self-kindness that younger me would have recognized, and continue the journey I started many years before. I encourage all of us to do the same.

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One Response to Dear Diary: What I Can Learn from My Younger Self

  1. Ginny February 9, 2018 at 10:34 am #

    Such an enlightening article Danielle. So honest and uplifting. Always look forward to reading your articles, well written, and excellent subject matter every time. Thank you