05.02.12 Truth & Wisdom
When I was 14, my Mom read my diary and discovered I had already had sex at the age of 13; needless to say, all hell broke loose. I don’t use the word hell loosely since, although I’m not a practicing Catholic, the tenets I was raised under still lay claim to my mind. The worst part about the whole thing, besides using my body to make a boy ‘like’ me, my Mom telling my Dad or being made to confess face-to-face to the parish priest (I always preferred speaking to the vague silhouette behind the confessional screen) was that days before the ‘discovery’, something in my spirit told me to rip out the offending pages and hide them. Genius that I was at the time, I tore out the pages stuffed them in a sock and shoved that sock to the nether regions of my drawer.
Well, apparently my Mom was praying fervently for her eldest wayward daughter and no lie, said God led her to my hiding place. I have to say – the day she confronted me about my non-virgin status still stands as the worst day of my teens, so much so that for years, I didn’t keep a diary. This paranoia followed me through the college years, until I confessed my long ago shame to one of my poetry professors when she asked why I self-edited my first drafts so much. That conversation with her freed me to revisit journal writing. Fast-forward to full-fledged adulthood and I am so grateful that I began to write again, because journals capture what was on your mind at a specific period of time in your life and as you grow up, revisiting them proves to be so beneficial for self-reflection.
Recently I decided to read random sections of my journals, which span from the late 1990s until last year, because I was feeling that all-too familiar helpless, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ inertia and wanted to see if perhaps there was a Goonies-like treasure trove of information to help guide me. What I discovered was a familiar theme: doubt, fear and body-bashing… how boring! All these years, I’ve had the same thoughts about myself; shoot, even now I feel the same way often, which really bothers me. My friend and I always refer back to a picture of us poolside in bikinis circa 1997; we are in our early twenties, gorgeous with cute little bodies that we had the nerve to hide in towels while crossing the hot cement of the hotel pool area – those towels stayed clutched in our grip until our stomachs were submerged. I’m pissed at myself for wasting time on something that now seems so ridiculous, especially because I look at that picture and wish I knew then what I know now, which is that I looked fantastic and not to judge myself so harshly.
Beyond the body-bashing, my journals also reveal my desire to write, which I’m surprised to discover I’ve wanted to do since I left college. I’ve spent so much time agonizing over what to do with my life, not realizing the answer was a journal entry away. Over the years, my friends and I have had many a late night conversation commiserating over our shared lack of ‘passion’ in our various jobs, but meanwhile the truth lays naked, coiling across the pages of long untouched journals: this one a dried leaf covered book with a cinnamon stick shaped clasp wrapped in string, a Christmas present from my cousin’s travel overseas; a Feng Shui journal peppered with thoughtful entries from the author to ‘jog’ the writing process, given to me by best friend upon my departure from LA years ago; another I bought because I liked the lined paper and the mystical-looking fairy on the cover; and finally, a red-covered spiral-bound classroom notebook.
Each of these journals, although visually diverse, consistently reveals a woman lacking self-confidence, which is a little painful to admit. I didn’t set out to rediscover myself via my own journal pages, but this initially random exercise in self-review became the mirror with which to regard my true self. While leafing through my past, I listened to my iPod on shuffle and visualized my younger selves. Why had and have I allowed myself to be ruled by fear? What happened to my self-esteem? I remember fighting hard to stay in college because outside of student loans I paid for my own education. I recall driving cross-country to LA post-college with a friend not knowing how I was going to ‘make it’ but confident I’d succeed. No lie, as I was having these thoughts, Madonna’s ‘What It Feels Like for a Girl’ hit my ears and I just listened to the words, blown away by how succinctly she sums up the battle I have a woman, between taking charge and being vulnerable.
Her song made me nostalgic for the freedom of my youth: eating Sweet Tarts and Nerds every day with no anxiety about weight, running and ripping under the sun all day feeling no pain, sitting around in my pajamas – bath taken- watching The Cosby Show, whispering from my lower bunk to my sister in the upper bunk into the night…the list could go on. This song took me back to my younger, fearless self and I want her back! I’m guessing one way to get her back is to get active, working in an office and sitting at my desk during lunch has led to quite the sedentary lifestyle, but all is not lost.
As I near 40, I muse about all the fabulous outspoken 40 or 50-something-year-old women I know, viewing them as models of fearlessness. I’m guessing they weren’t always so confident, but their spirit inspires me to try harder. I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I will gladly dump the ignorance of my 20s and the anxiety of my 30s to make way for the fabulous adventure filled 40s…I’ll raise a glass to that!
Cija (pronounced Kia) Jefferson is an education advocate by day and writer by night. She currently lives in Baltimore. She received her B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY where she focused her studies on history, sociology, and literature with a splash of theatre and poetry. You can visit her blog at cijasquips.tumblr.com.
Featured image via Barnaby on Flickr