Saturday, May 2, 2015

The power of a diary

In 6th grade, I had one of those Epic Teachers, you know the kind who just really made a difference in your life? The kind whose smile sticks with you? Who's kind words buoyed you through childhood?

My 6th grade teacher's name was Mrs. Carroll. In my childhood, she was one of the first teachers to really see me, to see what I was capable of. I was a little bit of an oddball in a class of 40 Catholic grade schoolers. I knew so much and could do so much more than I showed in school, and Mrs. Carroll was onto me. But not in the "call on Karen in class and embarrass her in front of everyone" kind of way. Rather she'd quietly talk to me, invite me (and a few others) to stay late and help her clean the classroom (6th grade entertainment options for suburban Catholic schoolchildren were limited...) She took the time to know me. With 40 of us, many teachers simply couldn't. Or many would see I could do more and attempt to get me to show it. In grand fashion. Which never suited little introverted me (who always felt weird, not knowing how normal my preferences for quiet and books were for an introvert.) 

In one of those after-school chats she shared something really interesting. She told us that she had kept her journals and diaries from her teen years. She kept them so that when her kids, who were entering their teens at that time, whined at her, "Moooo-ooom, you just don't understand!" she could pitch them some journals and say, "Yes I do."

For whatever reason, out of all the many things we talked about, this one point has stuck with me through the years. And here I suddenly (time warp) find myself parenting an 11 year old and a 13 year old and ... omg. My diaries. 
I was particularly addicted to My Melody (in the Hello Kitty universe.) 

I was never a perfect diarist, but I did keep journals and diaries on and off from mid-elementary through to today. I have an entire box of them, and a digital file set from my early days parenting. (I may save those until my children are old enough, for ex parents themselves, to understand the context of the difficult days parenting small children... ;) )

Because of this, when I read this article by Heidi Stevens in the Chicago Tribune this week, I was enraptured. An entire BOOK composed of people's adolescent journal entries, along with essays from them today, putting those journal entries into context, adding the lessons learned, the growth that happened after, etc. 

What an amazing thing. I am off to scour the internet for my own copy of My Diary Unlocked: Stories of Teen Girls Heal the Inner Adolescent of Our Soul.

And maybe, just maybe, to hand my 6th/7th grade journal to my daughter who is finishing 6th grade...

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