Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Conclusion: A Troubled Heart

Do you remember how it felt to move into college? It almost felt like going away to summer camp. You’re put in this tiny room where you’re going to live for an extended period of time with a complete stranger who kind of weirds you out and are directed around for a week-ish of orientation and mixer games until BOOM. Classes start and you feel like you got hit by a truck.

I did that twice.

Yes, friends. I’ve talked about it a little bit, but not in too much detail. In August of 2014, I moved into Hillsdale College. Five days later, I moved out. I was terrified, alone, homesick, and having existential crisis after existential crisis.

(Audrey, calm down. That’s how everyone feels when they move into college…) Well, I guess I just wasn’t prepared. Was it fear that motivated me? Probably. But would I make the same choice again? You bet your bottom dollar.

I wouldn’t trade the experiences I’ve had since I made that fateful decision. In September of 2014, I moved into Cornerstone University. One day later, I started classes. Three years later, I’m starting my senior year. No regrets.

But freshman Audrey, 18 years old and tossed about on buffeting waves of choices and their consequences, wouldn’t say the same. She spent her first fall semester of college crippled by fear and anxiety (like most freshmen, am I right?) She thought about transferring multiple times. She thought about changing her major (she did. I have a semester’s worth of music classes under my belt, in case you were wondering.) She thought she would be married by the time she graduated (HA. She fell prey to the Christian college mentality.)

And somewhere in there, she started to journal. Ish. So here we go:

Journal #5: No name (I wasn’t that creative anymore. It was just a red composition book from Meijer.) October 2014 – July 2016 (I think. It is rather unclear.) 

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The quote at the bottom is from Frankenstein the Musical. Yup. You read that right. There’s a musical. About Frankenstein. And it’s actually pretty legit so don’t judge me. Ok judge me.

So here we are in October of 2014. It’s chilly and Audrey has found a moment to pour out her thoughts. She’s sitting in the lounge of Pickitt Hall (I remember this part but not much else) and finds time between homework to jot something down:

24 October 2014

It’s been a long time since I’ve journaled. The first time was when I got this thin little journal from my aunt (was it my aunt? I think so. There was a sparkly pen with it. It lit up when you wrote something.) (Good memory, kiddo.) It had this cartoon angel on the front (Remember?) I think I was nine? Ten? (Eight.) …I kind of stopped [journaling] in high school because I couldn’t find any time. I should find those journals and read them (What a great idea! Then share them with the Internet, ok?) I was a weird child (yes.) Er, creative. Both. Whichever one. (Both is good.)

For years people have been telling me “You should journal! It will help you organize your thoughts/reduce stress/help you figure out your life!” Well, maybe, but

1) My thoughts are just as messy on paper as they are in my head; 

2) Journaling feels like an obligation and therefore a stress-producer;

3) My life has never been resolved through writing things down. Maybe that will change. It’s cheaper than therapy, anyway. (Cue laughter.)

So what do people usually journal about?…I think [famous writers] have an innate sense that they’re going to be famous so they make sure everything they write is elegant and extemporaneous. Or they are just innately good writers and therefore get famous. (The rest get blogs.)

So there’s your introduction to 18-year-old Audrey at a turning point in her life. You can tell that from October 25’s entry:

How about I start with this: Who am I? Good question. I don’t think I can answer that. I was just thinking how weird it is that we define ourselves by who we are when who we are is constantly changing. Can one be defined by that which always changes? Maybe that’s the answer. Who are we? Constantly changing things. Who am I? That which is never the same. 

Someone get this girl a blog. She’s hopeless. And she’s feeling the weight of 18, apparently:

I’m learning a lot in college. Not just conventional things like what I’m paying to learn, but other things too…For example, I’ve learned that eighteen may possibly be the most insecure age there is (oh honey it gets worse.) That’s why everyone feels they need to be in a relationship or talk about all the great things they’ve done. They’re starting to feel the pressure of adulthod. I know I am. Seeing people who know exactly what they want to major in make me feel like I should know too. People who are in relationships make me feel like I should be in one (story of your life.)

So here’s what we know about Audrey so far: She’s confused and she wants a boyfriend. Is that what I’m getting here? She’s also paranoid. October 27:

I feel as if there’s never a time during the day when I’m not being scrutinized. There’s never a time when I’m completely alone, without fear of someone walking in or watching or staring at me (that’s called living in a dorm.) Just now someone looked at me, smiling and laughing in my direction. Why? What’s wrong with me? 

On October 28 I wonder if I’m attractive. Who doesn’t? Image is still a difficult thing to handle in college. You can still feel the judgment of high school seeping over (I know I did.)

On November 4, 2014, Audrey fell in love. She would stay that way for two and a half years. She met someone, and in her insecurities, latched onto him, thinking he was her only shot. (You can imagine how that went.) But she’s real excited on November 5. Everything seems to be falling into place.

She talks about Hillsdale on November 10. She’s still having dreams about it, but claims that the doubts are gone (they never go away.)

And then a little introversion –

11/15/14

I went to a dance tonight. I always go out thinking I’ll have a great time, but I always stand to the side and watch awkwardly. This was the first time I went with extroverts who wanted to dance. I just wanted to dress up and look pretty. My outgoing friend pulled my arm all night so I would dance. I said I didn’t like the song. “No one does,” she said. That really hit me. Is everyone as uncomfortable as me?

And on 11/22 –

Sometimes I think of myself as an F Scott Fitzgerald character: a narcissistic, restless, overly-romantic youth…I feel displaced. Restless. Confused. Bored, sometimes. Hopeless other times. Scared. Childish. Recently, lovesick for someone I’ve only known for three weeks and only seen three times. But you know me, making a big deal of little things. (that won’t change any time soon!)

So we find our little heroine troubled. She longs for something that she can’t have, but she still has hope. She’s about to enter one of the most stressful times of her life. Winter of 2015 was not a good one. She had an overload of classes, a lovesick heart, and a mind full of anxiety. I remember a lot of painful, bitter tears being shed during that time. Life just did not seem to be coming together for me.

But looking back, I realize how much all of that taught me, and I couldn’t be prouder of myself for enduring that and becoming the woman I am today. She still has a long way to go, but she’s made leaps and bounds in the right direction.

So I’ll conclude this short series with a little tidbit of knowledge from our heroine. Where will she go from here? No one knows. She doesn’t journal anymore (she blogs, which might be a mistake, but we’ll see.)

3/15/15

The heart is the harbor of love. If God is the author of love, then the heart must be God’s harbor. But what if the heart is not full of God, full of love – what is it filled with? That is a dangerous, tempestuous harbor, one that no sailor would find refuge. Let your heart be the refuge of the sailor Love, who tosses wearily from wave to wave in hope of a safe haven. Why not calm the waters of your heart and whisper, “Author of Love, you are welcome here. You who calm every storm, calm my troubled waters.”

a. w.

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How to Succeed in Crushes Without Really Trying

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What’s it like to have a crush in your twenties? It sucks.

I developed a small crush at the beginning of the summer. But you know how “small” crushes go. I mean, there’s a reason it’s called a crush. We were chatting online and I found that our similarities (and our differences) were attracting me to him. I was excited to meet him – y’know how those butterflies can be. But a few weeks after sporadic texting, he dropped the bad news (bad news for me, anyway) – he was into someone else and they were going to start dating.

I felt like any dramatic teenage girl at that moment, completely floored. (I responded with a “that’s ok” but YOU KNOW it wasn’t the truth.) In short, it hurt. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just wasn’t meant to happen.

But do crushes go away once that happens? Aw heck no.

I think it’s safe to say we’ve each had a few crushes in our lifetimes. The stupid elementary school ones, the even worse “I’m-gonna-be-alone-forever” high school ones. College ones are tricky. I’ve had a few flash in the pan crushes, but on a small Christian college campus, everyone knows everyone and they can give you the low-down (“oh he’s got issues,” “he’s dating someone” – usually they are cuz it’s a Christian college campus, haha.)

Having a crush utilizes every corner of the spectrum of human emotions – or at least it seems like it when you feel yourself developing one. Elation, joy, hope, despair, rage, Netflix binging, water faucet tears (don’t leave me hanging, here.) It feels like insanity.

Because it is!

I bet that made you feel a lot better about your current crush, didn’t it?

But for real – insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. You develop crushes on a rolling basis and expect a different result, but the end of the road is usually disappointment – unless you have really good luck.

Before I go further, I’ll tell you that it is totally okay to have a crush on someone. In fact it’s pretty normal. We want to feel wanted by someone we want, so it only makes sense.

It’s when it becomes all-consuming that it gets risky. Take it from someone who’s been there multiple times.

In short (short?) having a crush brings out a nasty little monster called idealization. We think that if we could just be with that person, everything would be swell. Girls especially (men, chime in if you do this too) idealize all day long. We picture cute dates, fun pictures, even weddings (yup, weddings.) Because at this stage we don’t have much to go off of about our crush, because chances are we don’t know them all that well. So our brains fill in the blanks (also called the Halo Effect. Pretty tricky stuff.)

The last big crush I had was in high school. I was pretty dead set on marrying the kid, because I was 15 years old and definitely knew what I wanted. Inevitably, it didn’t work out because it simply wasn’t meant to be – a hard concept to accept, but a good discipline to adopt nonetheless. In fact, that ordeal taught me something, and like I’ve said before, if something teaches you a lesson, it wasn’t a waste.

So here I am, still in the process of getting over a hyper-idealized crush. When you’ve made a crush into an idol or ideal in your mind, it’s a hard thing to shake. So don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t just disappear instantly in a puff of smoke. It’s almost a daily struggle. How do I divert my attention off this? What can I do to lessen this idol? I confess I haven’t gone about it in the best or most mature ways – emotions, am I right? But every step is a step in the right direction.

So take a tip from your friendly neighborhood coffee shop blogger – don’t let a crush crush you. You’re too good for that. Take it a step at a time. I look at it this way – you are a person worthy of being loved and cherished, and if you end up not finding that in the object of your desires, then let it be. You don’t have to get bitter or Taylor-Swift-crying-mascara-tears about it.

“When I find myself in times of crushes, Blogger Audrey comes to me, typing words of wisdom, Let it Be.”

– The Beatles, maybe

a. w.

Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Part 4: Turning Points

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This was called a “Page of Maniacal Laughter.” This is a completely healthy way of dealing with insecurities.

Ah, middle school. How did we survive? Because that’s all that it was – survival. I honestly don’t know how I made it through. I almost don’t want to talk about it, but I feel obligated to at this point. Besides, I think teenage Audrey had a few nuggets of wisdom in that noggin of hers.

I’ll warn you, things get a bit cryptic at this point. I wouldn’t even tell my journal exactly what was going on and, to be honest, I don’t really remember. I do remember, however, that the late years of middle school/early years of high school were when my anxiety was rearing its head the most. That’s evidenced in these passages.

But don’t worry, this series isn’t going to take a suddenly morose turn. Teenage Audrey was hilarious – and if I’m honest, I’m not laughing with her, I’m laughing at her.

Audrey is 13 years old. She still hasn’t discovered makeup, or a good hairstyle (please don’t make me show you a picture of 8th grade graduation.) Theatre has become her passion. Boys are still stupid except for the celebrities she’s never met. Also braces (aka the outer circle of Hell in your mouth.) I don’t remember a moment in middle school where I was comfortable in my own skin. I felt awkward everywhere I went, with everything I did. Because I was. I only felt like I could be myself when I was alone. Or writing in my journal. Let’s jump in.

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No threats! The little lady is growing up. Also, I wrote “Red Crayon” in red crayon. I was meta even back then. I also have no idea why I wrote “Teh” in calligraphy.

Journal #4: “Nattie” (Sometime in 2008-(a weird gap)-sometime in 2012)

This was an interesting journal to investigate. Audrey starts writing at the beginning of 7th grade (I think…I had to take a wild guess because once again she’s not dating her journals…in fact she’s not dating anyone at this point *ba boom tish.*) Then there’s a big gap between the end-ish of 8th grade and SOPHOMORE YEAR of high school. I’m all right with the fact that I didn’t document my freshman year. That one is worth being forgotten, and nothing really happened except that I was still awkward and had the stupidest crush of my life (he’s now married, by the way, which weirds me the heck out.)

One of Audrey’s first entries talks about her fears of entering 7th grade (honey, you have no idea.)

Dear Nattie (also, quick note on the name: the journal’s full name was Natalia, after much debatement, but I called it Nattie for sentimental purposes):

The days never falter, never slow their pace, and thus it is already the end of July. I begin 7th Grade next year. I don’t want to grow up! Remembering all the fun I had in 6th grade (YOU WERE BORED ALL THE TIME KIDDO YOU WROTE ABOUT IT ENDLESSLY), I want to stay there, but alas, the days would bore me if I repeated them all again (plus we had math every day). 

Get a load of this kid. She thinks she’s all eloquent but all she sounds like is too big for her britches. Just imagine a whole journal like that and you’ve got this journal (at least the first half, before the Weird Gap.) Much of the journal goes on like this. I developed themes to talk about, such as different ways to “celebrate” the days of the week  (for example, Thursday was always “Semi-National Clueless Thursday.”)

Then in 7th grade I won an award for something I wrote. The barely-noticed nerd became popular overnight and she had no idea how to handle it. This is how she did:

…And last week, I won the Golden Pen Award (just shoe-horned that in, didn’t even lead with it.) Big wup, right? Right, though I say it and everyone pores over me as if I were the story I wrote. Last week I was interrogated by an interviewer and dumped on with “congratulation”-zes and “good work”-zes, and pats on the back. 

She references it a little bit later in a poem. I’m really confused as to where this poem came from, because I don’t think it’s exactly autobiographical. I don’t remember much of this stuff happening. Let’s take a look.

Falling, A monologue by Audrey Wierenga (I’m gonna remove the spaces for cohesiveness)

My life is NOT a roller coaster. It is a pit (wow) you can either struggle to climb or succeed to fall. I fail a test (80% of my whole stinkin’ grade) I fall. I win an award. I climb. But at the last “congrats”, my friend spreads a rumor about me (I don’t think that ever happened.) I fall. My teacher reads my poem aloud. A little embarrassing, but I still climb. Life is not full of ups and downs. Life is full of climbs and falls (that’s the same concept, kiddo) It’s easy to fall but you’ll hate the results. It’s hard to climb but the work pays off. 

Drama. Queen.

So yeah, anxiety was definitely a thing at this point. I won’t belabor that.

Anyway, most of Audrey’s middle school career goes off without a hitch, other than the perpetual awkwardness, like we discussed. She gets more into theatre (but gets frustrated with small roles after a while, because she’s a drama queen, as we’ve discussed.)

Sorry, I just need to get junk out of my brain. A LOT of junk. Trust me, there’s a LOT of junk up there. I have way to much to think on right now…You know all my friends think I’m weird? One of my friends says I dress badly (not my FRIEND friend, but someone I know.)

I mean, you kinda did. (You still do.)

AND THEN WE ARRIVE AT THE GAP.

Not the store, but an odd gap between journal entries, a void we might call Freshman Year. Because I didn’t pick up a journal once during that time. I pick up again in tenth grade.

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Me as a sophomore. Hey boys.

Well, I’m a SOPHOMORE now! And I have no clue what SOPHOMORE means, accept that I have slightly heightened responsibilities and I’m sort of grown up. 

Ain’t that the truth.

Anyway, here’s an update. She’s sweet and sixteen (or almost) and never been kissed. But she wants to be by someone very specific. Yep, you guessed it. Audrey has a HUGE crush. (Seriously, when I crush on people, I go all in. It’s a bit frightening. I’m sorry if you’ve ever been on the receiving end of my crushing crush-ness.) No more braces, no more same-jacket-to-school-every day. She wears blush and mascara, but she’s still a dork so don’t get your hopes up.

Her journal has become something of a prayer journal from time to time – either that or it gets very spiritually deep. I was a bit surprised reading through these passages. Audrey wrestled with a lot. She was only a few months away from being diagnosed with true anxiety and depression when she wrote this:

Dear Lord, wow, I have a lot to talk about, but I know you can handle it. I just need to find peace. Find it? It’s right here. A few weeks ago I had that major breakdown after going Christmas shopping. I felt sick from the commercialism. It’s flying by me at a mile a minute and I have to put things in perspective. Help me remember why I’m celebrating Christmas.

And lastly, I’m still thinking about him (AWWWW). I don’t want it to become an obsession (it does,) but I’m excited because I’ve met someone who likes the things I like (excited is an understatement. Y’all are head over heels.) So I’m going to ask you to guard his heart. I’m sure high school is hard for him too. Let him know there’s someone rooting for him on the sidelines. And, give me an opportunity to talk to him again. It always warms my heart.

And then on the cusp of a new year:

I want to stop wearing masks. I want to be the child You made me, serving you. Please, set me free. I am restless and defenseless. I have sinned. Please clean me and heal me. 

And finally, on an unknown date, one of the last entries of this journal:

God, I feel like I’m slipping away. Help me refocus and find my way back to you. Keep talking and open my ears. I want to hear what you have to say. Keep my stubbornness and self-pity away. Open my heart so I can see those around me who need your love. Give me the strength to embrace people I usually push away. 

This was the first time during my rereading of these journals that I’ve been surprised. I had totally forgotten I’d written these. I’d forgotten how introspective I was during those times when I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be (a daily discipline.) I’ve got to applaud this young Audrey for doing this. I hope that I can continue to be that discerning of myself in my thoughts and prayers in the future.

I have one more journal for you. I skip the last years of high school as far as journaling goes, so – you guessed it – you’re going to meet college-era Audrey next week!

a. w.

Ceaselessly into the Past: A Look at Journals, Part 3 – The Writer Becomes

Today you will read a story about farts.

When I was around 11 years old, I realized that I really loved writing stories. I mean, I knew that before, but by 11 I knew I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to make a living writing books. Ten years later that dream does not look attainable, but that hasn’t stopped me from working on a book (mostly because I like the sound of “Yeah I’m working on a book right now.”)

Young Audrey (now five-foot-two with three inches to go) is eleven years old and in 6th grade. The urchin has entered middle school. She’s got a little baby fat, has the worst bangs you’ve ever seen, and wears the same sweatshirt to school almost every day (but she showers daily and launders it weekly, so chill.) Recently, Audrey has started reading the Chronicles of Narnia. And she is hardcore into those books. (More on that later.) But for the time being, let’s dive in.

Journal #3: “Scrappy” – Circa 2007-2008 (no exact dates. Young Audrey is making me go all paleantologist on her.) 

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“Word dungeon” is written affectionately on top. Next to all the girly stickers. Also I drew a “scanner” on the claspy thing. Who does that? I guess I did. 

Audrey is much changed since last we checked in with her. Hormones are happening, and angst is increasing. Seriously, this child has some angst issues. She’s also pretentious as heck upon entering sixth grade.

She didn’t have a lot of friends, so to defend herself from rejection, she puts up a front of being smarter than everyone else. In fact, in the second entry, I call the journal “my second best friend in the world (my first best is God).” Isn’t that cute? This entry was at the tail end of fifth grade. I had three friends. I had recently lost the person I thought was my best friend (but hey, friends come and go in elementary school.)

Boys still aren’t a thing in young Audrey’s life. However, she does talk about boys a few times. But then she censored herself. Exhibit A:

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Was I Donald Trump? Also, I’m not talking about how excited I am for a bathroom. A toilet bowl is a kind of waterslide, you uncultured swine.

So I guess you’ll never know who I was madly in love with at that age. (I honestly don’t even remember. Let’s just keep it that way. I can only be so embarrassed by my past self.)

This tiny human could be pretty funny sometimes. Case in point:

“I may have seen a few scary movies and I know they always go down and explore but NO I AM NOT GOING DOWNSTAIRS TO CHECK IT OUT! People in scary movies are idiots. Who would actually go down to explore a noise when they KNOW, after some freaky dude told them, that there was CLEARLY a monster down there. Sheesh! And they always open doors that the freaky dude tells them not to! And something bad ALWAYS happens! Then later they say, in the middle of dire havoc, ‘We shouldn’t have opened that door in the first place!’ Duh, you shouldn’t have! What idiots! Clearly if that freaky dude told you in a creepy tone “DON’T OPEN THIS DOOR!” You probably shouldn’t, and then nothing would ever happen bad!”

Ok, calm down. Also, this. I had a dream where I was reading a newspaper:

“I woke up after I read a headline that said NEWSPAPERS LIE – DON’T READ THEM.”

True. Story.

Like I said, Audrey wasn’t keen on boys. (If you saw the boys in my 6th grade class you wouldn’t blame me.) She admired a few actors a bit more than others because they were good looking (and many of them have aged like a fine wine…sigh…) but here’s a little tidbit Audrey wrote on the day after Christmas, of all days:

My brother tells me that soon I’m going to like boys! Ew! I hate boys, their guts, and their kind. All the ones I used to like are water under the bridge now. He always asks if I like any movie stars. I said no, I appreciate them as actors. That’s it. 

Oh, STOP. You literally just wrote a censored entry about cute boys. Don’t fool yourself. You’re falling and you’re falling hard, little lady. (Like I said, hormones.)

On February 14, 2008, Audrey expressed her disdain for Valentine’s Day. Not much has changed there.

One thing this child talks about a lot is boredom. Apparently, I was bored a lot back then. I’m pretty sure about half the entries I wrote are about being bored. Was my life really not that interesting? Or did I just happen to be bored every time I sat down to write? Or was I just a pretentious little snot who thought she was too important to be bored? Who knows. I’d rather not dive into the psyche of a 11-year-old more than I have to.

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You just can’t make this stuff up. Luckily I started doing theatre a year later, because I was a drama queen already. “Don’t forget sunscreen.”

Now for the reason you’re here. 11-year-old Audrey farted and told a story about it. Her life is so exciting.

It was a placid spring day. I was listening to my teacher’s lecture about feudalism or whatsit. I scooted to the side of my desk and…pffft (It came out louder than expected) Moments later: 

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Such art.
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Names withheld for safety purposes. Although I’m sure they don’t give a rip (get it) anymore.

All I have to say to small Audrey is: WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?!

But for real, things like that were a lot more debilitating at that tender age. If I did the same thing now, I probably would’ve laughed along with them because I’m immature and still think farts are funny. (shrug emoji) But in middle school, like I said, you put up a front. Because you don’t know what else to do because you’re so insecure that you might melt into a puddle of anxiety at any given moment.

I also realize that this might have been early signs of the anxiety that would soon enter into my life. I was “diagnosed” at the age of 16 with anxiety and depression, but I’m sure it started much earlier than that. My mounting insecurities were evidence of that – fear of rejection, anxiety over friends, a drive to overachieve, and so on. (That’s also a Type 3 thing on the Enneagram, which I only found out this week. I should’ve taken that test when I was 10 and maybe middle school would’ve gone a lot better.)

That’s probably why I decided to try out for the middle school play! Stay tuned. 7th grade is on the horizon. And man, is there angst. (And pimples.)

I’ll leave you with this. Every sign-off, middle school Auds would add an “Inanswerable Question” (I now realize this is grammatically incorrect.) See if you can solve this one:

A doorhinge is the square root of…

a. Pi

b. Einstein’s theory of relativity

c. mass/volume

d. cheese

e. d

f. e

g. all of the above

Answer: I literally haven’t the foggiest.

a. w.