Today I had to grab something from the attic and while I was up there I stumbled upon one of the journals I kept when I was in high school. I was fourteen when I started the journal and sixteen when I wrote my last entry. My handwriting was horrific, spelling was that of a ten-year-old and I was more than a tiny bit boy crazy but overall it was a great (if not embarrassing) read.
I still declare the majority of this journal TOP SECRET under penalty of death…or a very stern scolding, but there was one part of the book I wanted to share. Before you read this you should know that I wasn’t allowed to date until I was sixteen-years-old and though no boys were pounding down my door, the hopeless romantic in me was brimming with expectation for that magical day when I could finally head out on a date with an a real live boy.
*****ACTUAL JOURNAL ENTRY WORD FOR WORD******
February 10th, 1996
Malana is over and we have decided to plan out my first date (which, by the way, is in 134 days…I HOPE!!!). Well, here goes nothing…
1st we find a guy…for our purposes we’ll call him BRANDON (this name is made up!). We leave for our date at 7:00 pm SHARP!! He picks me up and meets my parents. Brandon sweeps me off my feet with his “charming” personality. Hopefully, he can drive so we scoot on over with Mona, Malana, Agnes and their dates.
We all arrive at a field right before dark. A blanket is placed on the ground and a dinner (potluck of course) is placed in front of us all. We start a campfire where we roast hot dogs and marshmallows. We have to make sure to bring jars to catch fireflies but, of course, we will let them loose at the end of the night.
Chat. Chat. Chat…sing songs, make jokes, just converse! Come up with ideas for other dates. Just talk into the late hours….and if it is a clear night we can look at the stars and point out constellations. If it turns rainy we would run in the rain (if he’s insane enough…you know—like me! Then he’d be perfect for me). We will bring water balloons and have nighttime water balloon fight. Ah! How romantic!
Well, I’ll use this as a reference in the future. I hope my first date is as fun as it sounds. I wonder who it will be!!! I’m very excited. It is only 132 more days! Yes! Well, gonna go.
****** END TRANSCRIPTION******
Oh.My.Gosh.Guys. I died when I read this. First of all—my second son’s name is Brandon–I guess I really liked that name. Second—I’ve never been so passionate about punctuality. Gosh. All those exclamation points after the SHARP!!! Third–I am pretty sure I had no idea what “potluck” meant or the actual definition of “romantic”. Finally, how did the number of days till I turned sixteen go down by TWO DAYS in the time it took me to write that journal entry? Ha.
So 134…or 132…or, however, many days later I turned 16 and I did go on my first date. I am happy to report that I also recorded this momentous event in my journal.
*****ACTUAL JOURNAL ENTRY WORD FOR WORD******
August 21, 1996
I went on my first date and it was horrific. Okay, for the record my first date was Mike xxxxx xxxxx. 17. Blond hair. Blue eyes and really scrawny and super immature. I just went on a double date w/ Mona (her date was Zach xxxx xxxx-18) and some guy tagged along. His name was Ed-26. He decided to “accompany” his “friends” on this glorious date. Okay, this guy acted like he was in the 7th grade. He told me that when he asked me out he thought I was blonde and skinnier. Nice. Just what a girl wants to hear.
We played pool, I paid, and then cut the date short went home when he wanted me to go back to his house to go swimming “in the moonlight”. Yuck. At the end, he asked me if “next time” I’d act “NORMAL”! Argh! What’s with that? I was acting normal (which, of course, was a little spastic but still fun—I promise!) It was just lousy. I guess all I can hope for is a better second date with someone else…
Sigh. Poor little me. My dreams of a perfect first date sure blew up in my face, didn’t they? I remember feeling so let down, so disappointed that something I’d built up in my mind for so long turned out so horrible. I’d never get another first date and this random guy I met at someone’s youth group went and messed it up. My letdown after this date was a definite battle between dream vs reality.
And that’s why I became a writer. Well, okay, maybe not THAT specific moment but, in general, the ongoing conflict in my mind between dreams and reality kindled my creative fire. I was a dreamer, I still am, I probably always will be. That overzealous, somewhat awkward and extremely exuberant 16-year-old definitely helped me understand why I want to write stories with some beauty in them. And that horrible date? That taught me that often times in real life, your dreams are peppered with harsh realities so my stories should be too.
I never did have that magical “first date”. I don’t even remember what my second date was or even who it was with. Even though I giggle and blush and roll my eyes as I read these old pages, I still love the girl that wrote those journal entries. It was her willingness to imagine perfection and then live through imperfection that brought me to where I am today. Nearly twenty years later I still make up those stories, I still write them down, but now I get to share them. I can only hope that if she could look at me now that she’d be proud of who she became.