Sunday, November 13, 2011

Angst and pizza: a blast from the past

I just reread some of a diary I kept one summer in my late adolescence. It charted every aspect of my then-romance in excruciating detail. And it's full of names of my fellow students, many of whom I don't remember. (Paul who?) Also, it proves I ate a LOT of pizza back then. It's practically the only food I mention.

But there are a few interesting little details about the chemistry course I was taking at the time: "My fingers are stained orange from the stuff we worked with [in lab]." "Today [our teacher] laughed quite horribly at the comment, 'Boiling NaOH would dissolve your entire body, except for the cholesterol.'" "[A fellow student] went around asking everyone their exam scores so he could figure out the class average."

I tried several times to write a short story about that summer, but it never worked. Part of the reason was that it was such a difficult summer, it was hard to get the kind of distance and perspective that would have helped me. Now I have so much distance that I've forgotten many of the details. I do remember that we only had about two fume hoods for the entire class. And that I loved working with the light-bulb-shaped* separatory funnels, even though our instructor told us how he'd once seen a student get sprayed with acid from an improperly vented sep funnel. And that there was one day where badly-written lab instructions caused all of our experiments to go up in (literal) flames. Little did I know that adult me would be far more interested in remembering these classroom details than in the minute dissection of my romance, but I wrote my diary out of my needs at the time. This journal is further proof--as if I needed any--that the child and teen years are not necessarily the best of our lives.**

There are also a few lines that make me chuckle, like the one where I wondered if I could ever make it as a writer. I don't know what I would have considered "making it," but it's one of the few constants from that time in my life to this: I'm still writing.

*shaped like the light bulbs of the time, of course; not like the curly compact fluorescents we have now
**although I wouldn't mind being able to eat that much pizza again


  1. I think it's cool that you've kept your journals from high school. I'm sure they're a treasure trove of information for your work.

    I burned mine when I left home. Didn't want my parents finding out all the stuff I'd hidden from them. They always thought I was the good daughter. I was just better at not getting caught.

  2. Before I started writing my first novel, I went back and read my journals from the teenage year I spent in France. So much I wish I'd written about and so much I wish I hadn't. . .

  3. Mieke: I didn't keep journals steadily, but I have them from a few different times in my life. I would burn this one before inflicting it on anyone else--I think anyone else would find the emotional minutiae exhausting.

    Angelina: When I went to Iceland, I kept a journal in which I tried to record *everything,* because I knew I'd want to write about it and wanted to have as much reference material as possible. I had learned my lesson from the skimpy diary I kept on my France vacation!

  4. LOL I love reading my old diary. Such good fodder for my YA stories, remembering the emotions and the lens I viewed life through. And yeah, there was a lot of pizza in mine, too :-)