I used to keep a diary when I was younger. I’m not really sure why; I think it was partly due to the fact that I very much enjoyed the Adrian Mole books and fancied myself as being a similar sort of person to him in some ways. (I later realised that Adrian was a bit of a twat — or at least became a bit of a twat in the later books — and rescinded my earlier appraisal.) Mostly, though, it was about the fact that I enjoyed writing and found it cathartic, particularly if there were things bothering me.
I remember my first diary. It was a really nice leather-bound book with lovely paper, and it said “Journal” on the side of it. It was a souvenir from somewhere or other; I forget exactly where, but my first entry recounted a trip with my parents to the thrilling-sounding National Stone Centre, and subsequent entries had a touch of the “scrapbook” about them, with bits and pieces stuck in and all manner of things.
Then one day I decided to change things up a bit. I decided to use my diary as something a little more personal. Rather than effectively doing what I would do in a school English class — “today we went to [x] and did [y], it was [z]” — I decided that I would use the diary as a means of expressing the thoughts, feelings and emotions that I felt unable or hesitant to talk about with anyone, be it my friends or relatives.
My mental state throughout my school years was a little turbulent, to say the least. I suffered dreadful bullying at primary school, and this continued in secondary school until I punched my main tormentor in the face just as the school principal was coming around the corner. (I largely got away with it, because frankly he had it coming.) Although the instances of outright bullying calmed down somewhat after this watershed moment, my social awkwardness and inability to understand the concept of being in any way fashionable — a trait I maintain to this day, though it matters a bit less now — meant that I was occasionally still the butt of jokes, even from people who were my friends most of the time. If the cool kids were around and there was the opportunity to make a joke at my expense, people normally took it, and this didn’t do much for my self-confidence.
I learned quite early on in my life that I was the sort of person who was prone to falling for people pretty quickly. My crippling self-doubt meant that I was ecstatic anyone would even give me the time of day, and even more so if said person was a girl. Having little to no understanding of relationships, though, I didn’t really know how to approach girls and try to take things anywhere beyond friendship; this was about the time Friends was airing on TV, so I found myself relating very much to David Schwimmer’s Ross character, and would watch the episode where he and Rachel got together over and over again while fantasising about one day being in that situation myself.
Anyway. The upshot of all this is that I found it difficult to express my feelings about people that I found myself liking. I was embarrassed if anyone found out who I “fancied”, and my friends would often take advantage of my squirming by hijacking the middle pages of my exercise books, scrawling my beloved’s name in huge letters and decorating the page overly flamboyantly. I’d protest, but secretly I actually quite appreciated the fact that they were acknowledging my feelings, and in their own strange, mocking way, I think they were trying to make me feel better, because it almost certainly became clear to them over time that regardless of my feelings towards any of these girls that I fell for during my time at school, I would never, ever do anything about it.
It’s not that I didn’t want to, though, and that’s where the new part of my diary came in. I would use the diary to express myself and try to figure out my feelings about the people that I liked. I’d even — and I realise that this is probably depicting me as a weird sort of creepy psycho — plan out how an “ideal” encounter with my beloved at the time would go. I’d script a conversation — like a play — as if everything was going exactly the way I would want it to, and on one memorable occasion I even drew diagrams of how I’d get my friends to occupy my beloved’s friends so I could get her by herself and talk to her alone. (I actually followed through on this on one occasion of uncharacteristic courage; it didn’t work, though I did get a hug and a “let’s be friends” out of it.)
None of the romances I dreamed of in my diary came to fruition — I had precisely two girlfriends in secondary school, one of whom I became involved with when I was actually trying to get it on with someone else, who cheated on me at the school prom (and is now, so far as I know, married to the dude she cheated on me with, so, err, good job, I guess?) and another with whom I got together during a recording of the BBC’s Songs of Praise at the local animal shelter, kissed precisely once, didn’t see for three days and then got dumped by proxy because she “wanted things to go back to the way they were before”. And, at times, this lack of “action” got to me a bit, particularly as I saw some of my friends getting started with what would turn out to be pretty long-term relationships. But the diary helped. In some ways, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t muster up the courage to go and talk to these people that I was attracted to, because my diary provided me with a means to express myself without having to put myself on the line, without risking humiliation, and without threatening my real-life friendship with the objects of my affections; my greatest fear was telling someone that I liked them, and them promptly never speaking to me ever again after that. In retrospect, this was a silly fear, but it was a big deal to teenage me.
I’m not sure when it happened, but one day I looked back over my diary and I suddenly felt ashamed of myself. It was a fantasy world, I knew; these conversations I’d script, these scenarios I’d describe, these fancies I’d indulge — none of them would ever be real, and that got to me. I also became absolutely terrified at the prospect of my diary ever being found by someone I really didn’t want to read it, so one day while I was alone in the house, I took one last look through that lovely leather-bound journal’s pages, stared at it for a few moments, then took it outside to the dustbin and buried it beneath a number of stinky, empty cans of cat food. I can only assume it ended up on a rubbish dump or landfill site somewhere, but occasionally I wondered if anyone would ever actually find it and read it — and what they would think of the clearly troubled mind that scrawled in its pages on an almost daily basis.
To my knowledge, though, no-one ever did read it. And for that I’m sort of grateful, because it would have been mortifying; but at the same time, I wonder if I might not have been able to make myself a little more understood if people had read it. And I guess that’s partly what this blog is about; it’s not quite the same as my diary and I’m certainly not going to start scripting fantasy conversations between me and people I fancy (largely because I’m married to the person that I love and thus have no need to), but it lets me get the weights off my mind at times, and, since it’s public — the journal left lying open on my desk, as it were — I hope it makes me at least a little more understood to others.
And if not, well, you can have a good old giggle at how messed up I am, huh. Either way, thanks for reading.