Flipping the pages

Looking back at the journal entries from my childhood

Jayanti Jha

I’ve kept a journal since first grade, and let’s just say, there’s some pretty juicy stuff in there. I’ve spilled what I thought the letters in DECA stood for (Dolphins Eat Cute Apes) when my sister attended her first conference, crafted haikus about my love for Olympic gymnastics and documented every meal I ate at 5th grade science camp. And you can’t forget my thorough investigation of every writing utensil in my home and the ranking system I used to figure out which one reigned supreme — the winner being one with a ball on top that lights up, which I got on a third grade field trip, in case you were dying to know.

So no, my journal is not a gratitude journal or a daily mood tracker. It is where I put my unfiltered thoughts when they sporadically came to me. From when I moved schools in first grade — “I miss my old teacher. This one got mad at me when I colored my snowman with the wrong colors.”— to my freshman year goals for high school — “I hope I find my place at Monta Vista.” — this journal has all the hot goss.

A few days ago, I opened my journal for the first time after an eventful semester, whipped out the pen that I had deemed the best many years ago and decided to write in it. But unlike my past, pen-rating self, I didn’t know where to start — there was too much to say, too many thoughts to rehash, too many updates from an eventful senior year for my poor journal to handle. There was an easy solution though, one that didn’t require much thought or reflection — only laughter and entertainment.

So, I put my pen down and began perusing the pages.

But most of all, flipping through these entries made me nostalgic. I’ve always been a sentimental person, and I often find myself looking back on days that were not as glamorous as they now appear to be in my head. If I ponder hard enough, I can even glass-half-full my dehydration during 110-degree weather days out on the field hockey turf or when I would wake up hours before school to study for tests later that day. I’ve even started to anticipate nostalgia about the present: I can already imagine reminiscing about sitting in my friends’ cars to grab donuts at midnight, laughing with my Statistics table groups and eating my mom’s homemade Indian food every night.

But at the same time, flipping through this journal grounded me — it took me out of my head and reminded me that sometimes, the past wasn’t all that. The entries about the peak of my life when I was the queen of the playground bars were entertaining, but I also skimmed through my unnecessary anxieties about entering high school freshman year — ”I hope I make friends. I hope I do well on the field hockey team. I hope I can find balance. I hope I’m not too stressed.”

I saw those documented moments of anxiety I felt throughout high school, but now I felt proud for how I had tackled some — not all, that’s for sure — with determination and drive.

Every, “She made me so mad,” finished with “We talked about it, and we got a lot closer,” and every, “I can’t believe how hard I studied and still got a bad grade” finished with, “The next test was breezy. I’m so dramatic.” Even when I end up cringing at what I said to my mom or how I reacted to feedback on the lit essay I had worked so hard on, I look back on both types of entries and experiences fondly and with pride. They remind me that my hypotheses about what my life would look like in the future were all deemed true, and those bad moments really did end up being temporary.

After reading through my old entries and the ups and downs of the past 11 years, I realized I wasn’t afraid to pick up the pen anymore: I was excited for what the future held, even the challenges, and ready to put down the past.

So as I head to college, with doubts and fears but so much excitement that it feels impossible to put my feelings on paper, I’m going to close the old pages in my journal and live in the present, filling up the pages with the new memories I’m going to make, the new fears I’m going to have and the new goals I’m going to set.

Throughout high school and with my trusty journal by my side, I’ve learned that feeling overwhelmed with memories, fears, goals and doubts and not knowing where to start writing is a blessing — it means you’re doing something right. Making memories that you just know you’re going to reminisce about in the future is a privilege.

And I’m incredibly excited to have even more entries to fill up my journal with, more entries to re-read, more fears to ridicule and more experiences to be nostalgic for one day.