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.

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