This Is What Happens When Adults Read Their Teenage Diaries For The First Time
1. "I want the diary to know that I am just fine!"
Age in entries: About 14
"I kept a diary from the age of 13 to around 20, with fallow years in my late teens when I discovered MSN messenger and Myspace instead.
"Looking back through this particular diary, I am taken aback by how relentlessly cheerful I am with it. I want the diary to know that I am just fine! I am LIVING LIFE, diary! That sailing camp where I made no friends? Just another life experience, dear diary. That boy who didn't notice me? Not to worry, diary! We will live to fight another day!
"I had forgotten how much I documented literally everything, from clothes I bought (sticking in receipts, drawing pictures of the items, writing down how much they cost) to days out with friends (sugar packets from cafes stuck in, cinema stubs doodled around). I think there was a sense of wanting to make my life *worth* documenting, of creating a kind of shrine to my friends and my experiences. (Interestingly, it's something that Tavi Gevinson mentioned about her teenage bedroom too.)
"If I could go back and chat to me, at this time, what would I say? Probably something like, 'Yes, Orlando Bloom is very handsome, but dream bigger than wanting a kettle for your bedroom.'"
– Ailbhe Malone
2. "I am mainly struck by how melodramatic I am."
"I've kept a diary ever since I can remember and still do. These diary extracts were taken from the diary I kept aged 15 to 17. I used my diary mainly as I still do now, when I can't stop thinking about something – if I write it down or draw it out I feel much calmer.
"Rereading my diary from this time, I am mainly struck by how melodramatic I am. Someone else reading this would think I was quite unhappy most of the time, but I remember being exceptionally happy.
"I have included extracts that I think of as amusing, but there are plenty of others I still can't share as they still hit too close to home. There is a lot of naked self-portraits with circled insecurities, and accounts of feeling like my world has ended because someone didn't reply to my text."
– Flo Perry
3. "Every part of my diary matters. Every single page."
Age in entries: 14
"I kept a diary every single day for five years, written in lined A4 books I bought from Woolworths for 99p.
"The lack of detail in these diary entries doesn't make it easy to get an understanding of my teenage life (the only conclusion I get reading back is 'I didn’t get on that well with my parents but now they are OK'), but it’s the fact that I’ve got this connection with my past that matters. The fact that I wrote these entries for 20 minutes every single night without fail nearly every single day of the year. The fact that I thought, 'Yes, Scott will care that I didn’t like this episode of Grand Designs in 10 years time when he reads this back,' and that I hid these diaries in the attic like I would do with a packet of fags at that age (I thought I was a heavy smoker, but in fact I only smoked three fags in six months and didn’t inhale).
"Every part of my diary matters. Every single page. If I ever lose it, or do something stupid like spill tea on it (which I know one day I inevitably will), I will be devastated. If you read my diary you’d probably think that it is shit. And you are right. It is shit. But it is my shit."
– Scott Bryan
4. "I am unbelievably grateful that I'm not a teenager any more."
Age in entries: 13–14
"My diary has a name; she is called Sereccy, because, at 13, I think I thought writing 'Dear Diary' was lame and I was really impressed with the sophisticated anagram of 'secrecy' I had devised (in later years, I realised I had just moved the first 'c' down a few letters).
"I've had the same diary since I was 13. I'm terrible at writing in it – I forget for months at a time then return and try to sum up the previous few months in list form, except the lists are usually just a boy's name in capital letters and then a rambling description of exactly what was going on with them at that particular time.
"So there'll be a five-month gap between entries, and the first one will be my utter declaration of love to my new boyfriend, and the next will be a subdued, 'Well, we broke up after three and a half weeks but that's probably for the best anyway now I'm in love with this boy except he likes this girl who is totally not over her ex but...'
"I'm glad I kept it though, even if just to make me unbelievably grateful that I'm not a teenager any more. It seems exhausting; so many exclamation marks and triple-underlined words and capital letters."
– Jo Barrow
5. "I went to an incredibly bitchy all-girls school, which meant I changed friendship group on an almost weekly basis."
Age in entries: 14
“I kept a diary every day until I was 17, because I was scared that if I experienced a new feeling and it never happened again, I would forget what it was like. I still keep a diary, but I write far more infrequently.
“Looking back through this particular diary made me want to go back in time to give 14-year-old me a big cuddle. I went to an incredibly bitchy all-girls school, which means I changed friendship group on an almost weekly basis. The April entries I've shared came right after the cool girls, who had been my best friends, decided they didn't want to hang out with me any more. The May entries are from around the time I settled in with a slightly less cool, but equally bitchy, new friendship group.
“Of course, the other problem with going to a girls school was the lack of boys. I first became friends with boys when I was 16, and until then I wrote, in painstaking detail, about mundane conversations I'd had with strangers on MSN. When I finally had my first kiss, I documented it from four different viewpoints: mine, his, his girlfriend's, and a boy who I thought was in love with me but probably wasn't.
"This diary was written two years before my parents divorced. So in between the 'AHHHH MA GAAAD EVERYONE HATES ME' and 'Whyyyyyy do no boys fancy me?' entries, there are some really sad questions about why my dad didn't come home for his birthday, or answer his phone, or show up at my parents' evening. I didn't know it back then, but 2005 was probably the last time we'd ever really speak.
“But by far and away the most interesting thing about this diary is the fact that the grape-scented gel pen I wrote in still smells amazing."
– Tabatha Leggett
6. "I had just come out yet somehow wrote the dullest diary entry ever."
Age in entries: 14
"The date – 16 December 1991 – has always stuck in my mind. I was a depressed, spotty, 14-year-old when I came out as gay to my three best female friends during break at a comprehensive school in Guildford. It was prompted in part by Freddie Mercury telling the world he was dying of AIDS two weeks earlier. I thought, ‘Well, if he can tell the world something like that, I can at least tell one person I’m gay.’
"I had just come out yet somehow wrote the dullest diary entry ever. But what hits me is the final line, and how prescient it is: ‘I know that what I did was right and it was the first step towards happiness.’ It absolutely was and I have spent my life trying to convey this to as many people as possible: come out, come out, come out.
"The closet is a dark, dreadful place. It’s so much better out than in. Even if you can’t manage to write a decent diary entry about it."
– Patrick Strudwick
7. "It gave me insight into how much RAGE I had as a young woman!"
Age in entries: 10–11
"When I found this diary a year or so ago, I cried laughing. It's the most dramatic, ridiculous thing I've ever read – however, it also gave me a bit of insight into how much RAGE I had as a young woman. I was very mild-mannered, still a very good student at this age, and I'm sure my parents or teachers would have been totally shocked if they were to see me writing like this.
"I bought this diary in 1995 at a drugstore in Klamath Falls, Oregon, while visiting family. It covers the mundane ('Today I went to a sleepover and we watched Twister!'), to fights I had with my sister that got me into trouble with my dad. At its most entertaining, it's angry rants about people that have pissed me off at school.
"The following entries are all rants about my classmates. The first is seemingly an open letter I wrote to my 'best friend' at this time in my life. I remember she was basically just a bully who I for some reason was still friends with, and I was particularly pissed off that she was better than I was at playing softball.
"The last powerful entry is something I wrote about a different girl who had bullied me throughout all of elementary school, and this was my reaction when the boy I was going out with dumped me for her. I was just a little upset.
"If I could go back and talk to my 10-year-old self, I'd tell her to stop just being angry in her diary, and to get angry in real life. Stand up for yourself. Voice your opinions...but maybe don't scream 'MAY THE DEVIL PISS ON YOU' at anyone in the middle of class."
– Cate Sevilla