Notes From A Teenage Diary

I kept a regular, hand-written diary for most of my late teens. I ended up with enough notebooks to fill two shoe boxes, each page crammed with my innermost thoughts and feelings. I never let anyone read those diaries.

Last year, before I left for Spain, I pulled them out of a high cupboard at my parents’ house, took them out to the yard, and set them alight. As I once wrote here on the blog

Why burn an old diary? I feel that we’re often held captive by such things. They can keep us trapped in the past, identifying with old, stale versions of ourselves. The reality is that we’re free to reinvent our lives at any moment.

Your present situation is the result of your past thoughts and actions. Your future situation will be the result of your present thoughts and actions. You get to choose your present thoughts and actions, therefore you get to choose your future. I recommend choosing a future that’s even better than your past. Letting go of old memories will help you get there.

All well and good, except I didn’t fully let go.

The night before the fire, I spent several hours reading through my diaries, reliving a good chunk of my teenage years. Knowing what I was about to do to those pages, sentimentality got the better of me and I snapped a few select pics.

Transcribed from those images are the following entries.

December 31, 1999

Both players were moist with perspiration. The taller kid stopped with the ball just past the free throw line. The other slouched over for a moment with his hands on his knees, catching his breath.

The taller kid turned to face his opponent. He threw a light bounce pass as the second kid stepped closer and began to face up. He laid the ball back to the first kid to the sounds of faint cracking and banging.

Both players stood a little straighter, wondering at the cause of this interruption. Their eyes looked skyward in search of the answer, but their gaze was met with nothing but the familiar, dull and dusky rafters of their famous battleground. The rivals settled back into their respective stances as they realised that the fireworks were to blame. The taller kid switched the ball to his left hand and offered his right palm.

“Happy New Year, Cuz.”

“Happy New Year,” came the reply, as the players, kids, opponents, rivals, cousins, and best friends, slapped hands.

Game on!

January 28, 2001

I just realised how most of the time, when I write about you in these pages, it’s negative. Reading an article about Bobby Phills recently (his anniversary was 16 days ago), I came across the lines, “Sometimes praise is worthy, even when late”, and, “I wish I’d praised and glorified him while he was still alive.”

I think it’s human nature. One would be at a loss to find a much truer word that was ever spoken than, “You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.”

Because, my friend, imagining last night what it would be like without you, I realised how much you mean to me. For others reading this, I pity you. I truly do. Because I doubt you have ever had, or ever will have, a better friend or a truer brother than I have found in Ciarán1.

We stayed up talking until 5 a.m. on Friday morning. That’s more amazing when you hear that we went to bed at 12. We just talked for 5 hours! About her, about him, about this person, about that person, about the better things in life, about bolox, about bullshit, about love, about basketball, about friendship, about life. Just about everything. We laughed, we joked. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.

What would the world be like if I lost him? I hope I never have to find out.

February 9, 2001

What do I want? I want Her. I can’t explain Her. I’d try, but how do you explain perfection? I know She’s out there, and I know I’ll find Her one day.

What a day that will be. We’ll watch a movie. Snuggle on the couch in front of a lazy fire. Two candles on the mantle. It will be cold outside, but my heart will be melting. She’ll fall asleep before the credits roll. And though tired, I stay awake to watch her sleep. Brush her soft hair with my fingers, so soft, like her skin, glowing in the candle light. Her feathery breathing, mesmirising me.

And I’ll feel like crying, I’m sure. I’ll remember how lonely I once was, when I wrote this, how long the journey has been since. That will be the happiest day of my life.

And right now, I envy myself in that thought, because I wish I was there with her now. But I’m sure when the time comes, I’ll look back at myself now, and I’ll whisper, “It’ll happen kid, it’ll happen.”

I believe you.

Show 1 footnote

  1. If you’d like to know my cousin a bit better, you can check out his recently-launched blog here.
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    1. Thinking and writing like that as a teenager, no wonder you become what you are now.

      That’s was so sweet I had the impulse to hug your teenage self 😀

    2. OK now you’ve convinced me, you need to write a book. You’re a talented descriptive writer and your style is very compelling. Your novel would be a real page turner and you have a lot more experience than most to draw on. You write for a living anyway. Do it buddy – write a book!

    3. All that romance, and now look at you, trying to hook up with random girls in Kathmandu. So much for the innocence of youth.

    4. Why burn memories? You can’t change them, you can’t ignore them. I also destroy my old diaries, for some I’m happy but others I would read again now. I think people should built from what they have, not burn down and sprout from the ashes.

    5. Oh Niall, that last one nearly made me cry! You were a beautiful writer even then – as Maria said, it’s no wonder you’ve come so far! When you find Her I hope every word of it comes true…

      I kept a diary, over various notebooks and journals, from the age of eleven through to about nineteen or so, but like you, I ended up destroying them. I read through them all one last time, shredding each page as I went, picking out any photos I’d stuck in, absorbing what I’d written, then letting go. It was so cathartic!

      These diaries were sometimes wonderful, full of holidays, peaceful moments and happy times, but at times they were bloody awful. I wrote some awful things when I’d had a fight with my mum or sister. I’d written about being bullied at school, and scrawled pages and pages of bitterness and misery and fear through my darkest bipolar episodes to try to get all that pain out. It did the job, sort of, but by the time I turned 21 or so, I knew I never wanted the temptation to read through them again. So they’re gone, and I feel so much LIGHTER, it’s unbelievable! Now I can carry on without that sickly horrible feeling that the past is following me around in tangible form…

    6. I absolutely love your comment.. I don’t believe in the one anymore, now I believe in one(S).. much healthier.”
      So simple, yet so powerful.. and so incredibly true.

      And, let’s be honest until you find the right one there are many fractions of ‘one’s’ out there. Lol, like maybe a .5one … or 3/4 one. Joy to those who realize the beauty and freedom of the single life.