My Heart Breaks For The 17-Year-Old Girl I See In My Diary


Those words and the future that I once coveted no longer matter.

I started writing in a journal when I was 8 years old. On the pastel pages of that turquoise diary with ice cream cones, rainbows and balloons on the cover, I wrote about vitally important issues such as my dog, sleepovers and New Kids on the Block.

As I grew older, the journals grew, too. They grew thicker and the content on those college-lined pages matured. I still wrote about my dog, but I also wrote about Leonardo DiCaprio, underage shenanigans, loss of loved ones, heartache and boys. Oh, how I wrote about boys. Like most teenage girls, I'd been "in love" a hundred times. If a cute guy smiled at me in the hallway or offered me a Starburst in study hall, he was suddenly "the love of my life". His name would appear in my thick 5-Star notebook, surrounded by hearts, but it would be replaced a few days later when another boy grinned at me in gym. 

It wasn't until I was a highschool senior that I really fell "in love". His name first appeared in my journal after we watched Dawson's Creek on a couch at a friend's house. He had the most beautiful blue eyes I'd ever seen; he smelled good; he only made fun of Dawson a handful of times, and he said I was pretty. That was enough for me. I fell fast. And I fell hard. I doodled his last name as my own. I taped Polaroid photos of the two of us on the white pages and surrounded them with words that I didn’t know were in me. I twisted the spiral telephone cord around my fingers as we talked until the morning hours. I loved this kid. I really, truly loved him. And he said he loved me. He was already out of highschool, but I obsessively pictured the quaint country home that we'd share once I graduated, too. I'd go to college. We'd get married and then raise two of the most beautiful children that Hollywood had ever seen. They'd begin their careers as Gap models. 

The words I scribbled in those journals were happy and hopeful. It was if I had my whole life figured out. I knew who I was going to marry, and I mapped out my entire future on those pages. I considered myself lucky to have found true love at such a young age. I considered myself smart to have everything figured out at 17. Until I learned that my first true love—who I pictured each night before I went to sleep as my future husband and the father of those beautiful imaginary children—loved not only me but someone else too. He'd been seeing us both for months, lying about his work schedule and whereabouts. When I confronted him, he brazenly admitted that he was dating her, but he played the poor victim because he was "torn" between us both.

"How could he do this to me? How could someone who professes to love me so much feel the same way about her? How can one person love two people? I’ll never understand," my 17-year old baby hands furiously scribbled in hot pink ink. But somehow, like Charles Manson or some sadistic cult leader, he brainwashed my stupid baby mind into sticking around. He convinced me that being "the other woman" was good enough. He filled me with false hope that I would eventually win him in the end. "I'd rather have him part of the time than not at all," I wrote.

As I now read the desperate and dejected words on those pages, my heart aches for that stupid 17-year-old girl who struggled with such low self-esteem that she thought being second best was good enough. For nearly a year, that so-called relationship was the only factor in whether she had a good or bad day. It influenced every journal entry. She cried each time he boldly confessed that he had spent time with the other girl. She hated her friends and even her family for scoffing at her stupid decision to wait on him to figure out who he really wanted. She gleamed at the opportunity to see him for an hour on a Thursday night while the other girl worked. She couldn't sleep unless she'd spoken to him on the phone before bed. She spent the entire summer after highschool graduation consumed by him and his actions. She begged God to let him choose her. And she wrote about it all.

The other girl had no idea that he was still speaking to me, even after they'd moved in together. I threatened to tell her, but I did't want to make him angry. What a pathetic idiot I was. The pages in my journal grew more and more dark and miserable as I wept because her toothbrush was resting next to his. I was no longer the leading lady in that future that I'd envisioned. I truly believed my life was over at the incredibly young age of 18 (all because of a stupid boy), and I believed that the man God had placed on this earth for me had somehow been stolen. I was such a fool.

I went to college and tried to forget my heartache, but I continued to struggle with legitimate depression for nearly a year after we quit communicating. And the day I heard that he'd proposed to her, that his decision was made known to the world, the ink ran where I sobbed onto the pages of my journal. A few months after they tied the knot, I began writing hopeful words in my journal again. I started enjoying school and work and hanging out with my friends. And then I came home one January night and penned in the composition book, "I just met the most wonderful guy."

I didn't write in my journal as much after I met that wonderful guy. I didn't have to. I didn't have to write about heartache or loss or use those college-ruled pages as a place of release. I didn't have to compete with anyone for his love. He restored my self-esteem, my trust and, together, we mapped out a very different future than the one I had imagined years before. And even though our beautiful children aren't Gap models, they could be. I've held onto all of my journals. I'm not entirely sure why. I guess I've kept them around in case I ever want to reread and reflect on the happiness of my youth. But so many pages of my senior diary tell the story of a dark and dismal time that I never want to revisit. Although my children will probably go through the highschool heartache of breaking up and lost love, I don't want them to read how stupidly and badly I spiraled into darkness and genuine depression over a person who didn't deserve me. I don't want them to think that's even an option.

So tonight, when I'm sitting around the fire pit in our backyard with my husband (the man God really did place on earth for me), and our children (who are more beautiful and perfect than the imaginary ones of my youth), I think I'll toss in those composition books. Because, thank God, those words and the future that I once coveted no longer matter.


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