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Saturday, 3 September 2016

Reminiscing With My Younger Self

An entry from my diary...
Today's topic doesn't really have to do with sewing. With the coming of fall and most people returning to a "routine", I'm feeling nostalgic and thought I'd share a recent trip down memory lane.

The diary page that you see here was written when I was 27 (which honestly feels like a lifetime ago). The entry makes reference to the fact that I'd been keeping a diary since the age of 10. It was something that I continued to do — more and more sporadically, mind you — for another eleven years.

For about an eighteen month period after I bought my first computer, I also kept a digital diary, but stopped after losing quite a bit of data due to a hard drive failure. Even though I could type faster than I could write, I appreciated the advantage of writing on paper in a book: it offered more options for reading. (Ever tried taking your monitor to bed? This was, after all, back in the early days of micro computing; no tablets, no eReaders, no stupidly large smart phones.)

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Did you ever wish that you could go back in time and perhaps give your younger self some valuable advice on life and living?

Of course, that's impossible, but having access to diaries that were written when you were a child allows you to go back in time virtually and listen to yourself. Like it says in my entry above, sometimes in doing so, you read about things that have been forgotten. It's extremely fascinating to "hear" yourself describe things that now seem new again.

On the other hand, it was distressing to read this: "had an unfortunate incident at work last week that I won't bother to go into detail about... but as a result, it's totally changed the way I see X and I don't know if that relationship can ever be repaired". I have no memory of what that incident was, despite the fact that when it happened, quite obviously, "younger me" did not think I would ever forget about it and therefore decided not to commit any details to paper. It's frustrating not to know the plot of a story in which I was a central player!

Perhaps it's most heart-warming to hear one's "in the moment" enthusiasm over events that haven't been forgotten but that are almost light years ago. Here is one such moment that actually involves sewing...

Must have been a fast sewer when I was fourteen years old...
(For a couple of years in my early teens, I wrote "backhanded"... just for fun!)

When I started this blog, it was — in small part — an attempt to return to active journalling. (As I've noted in the past, blogging is just journalling until someone stops by to read!) There are times in my life when I live to write. It's why this blog is "wordier" than most; you can tell that I pay no mind to the typical advice to keep blog posts short!

Over two years in, I would say that I still blog mostly for me; as in, I'm not picking and choosing what to write in hopes of appealing to other people's tastes.

September is National Sewing Month!

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First proclaimed by Ronald Reagan (!) in 1982, National Sewing Month is meant to celebrate the importance of home sewing to the economy. I like it for the fact that AllFreeSewing typically has a big prize up for grabs — this year it's the Bernina 215 Simply Red (Canadian and US residents can enter once a day through Oct 2) — as well as all sorts of interesting stuff on their blog all month long.

Given that this is a publicly accessible blog, I have a lot fewer choices in terms of what I want to write about, of course. The subject here — for the most part — centres on sewing and my personal design journey. Playing outside with my friend Shelly, mooning over various teenage crushes, dealing with the heartbreaking angst of a first love, despairing over the parents' inability to treat me as an adult, or coping with the many challenges of the working world are less likely to be topics for public consumption.

But I've written about all of those and more in my diaries, and it's quite an experience to go back and reminisce. (And commiserate. It's remarkably satisfying to commiserate with oneself!) Memories are so much more magnified and clear when I read about them in the "present tense". Let me give you an example and share a little of myself in the process.

Three of my sixteen diaries; a few have locks... the one on top is my very first one!

In the early 1980s, I was a big fan of Another World (and head over heels for Richard Bekins). That time period was one of the golden ages for soap operas in North America. Even people who didn't watch soaps knew the names of popular characters. (Did you know that you can access AW episodes on YouTube? I recently found that out and really went back in time. It was so strange and weird to see Jamie and Sandy and Cecile and Mac and Rachel and not remember how the big hostage taking drama from the summer of 1981 turned out, yet I was able to recall actual dialogue from other scenes.) For many months, my diary entries were summaries of the day's storyline as it affected my favourite characters!

Eventually though, like with all of my obsessions, it petered out. :-)

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Today's parents snap pics of their kids very second of the day, it seems. Then there are the videos. Frankly, it happens ad nauseum. Recording endless minutiae overshadows the important stuff. I'm willing to bet that these kids will grow up with such a constant digital reflection that they won't appreciate any of it.

When I was a kid, we only had photos... the old fashioned kind. (We weren't rich enough to have an 8mm home movie camera.) The film had to be sent away to be developed and nothing about the whole process was cheap. Therefore, we only took photos on special occasions. But the albums that those photos now occupy tell the story of my life in a meaningful way. Now, in a way that I never expected would happen, my diaries have also become a valuable part of my personal record.

Starting a diary early in life is the equivalent of giving yourself a reward that will last to the end of your days. I certainly hope that keeping an old-fashioned written journal is not a dying art. You can't appreciate the variations in handwriting, the different pens and ink (and the smudges), or even the smell of the pages when you "write" on an electronic device. Those are all layers that add to the experience of being transported back in time.

You know what I'd say to my younger self if I could? Thank you for having done this.

Did you ever keep a diary? For how long?


  1. I never kept a diary, but wish I would have. I think we are about the same age. I followed All My Children since I was in high school.Anyway, I did have pen pals, and kept a lot of the letters, and those are like my diaries as I read the things people wrote to me in reference to my and their lives.

    1. Oh, actual letters from people... those were the days before the unfortunate age of instant communication! I never kept most of the mail that went back and forth between me and my pen pals (there was a LOT) but yes, I can see how letters can take you back in time, too. Thanks for adding your thoughts!

  2. I kept a diary for several years during my "tweens" and into high school. I found them a few years back, read about an hour's worth, felt sick to my stomach, and threw them out. I did not have a pleasant childhood or "tweenhood", so these written memories were not a cherished thing to come back to. I do understand from your views, Rochelle, how they could be cherished and fondly reminiscent. When I was teaching school (4th, 6th and 7th grades), I always had my students keep journals. It was part of my curriculum and each week, I'd give them journal starters to fire up their thoughts. I asked them to keep those journals forever, so they'd have a few written snapshots of their lives when they were older. Something like this is what I wish I had now! Great post, Rochelle.

  3. I have never kept a diary, but I can see how yours would bring back many memories, some long since forgotten. I did have a couple of pen pals, but those letters disappeared many moons ago. Photos are my way of connecting with the past. Thankfully I have quite a lot, thanks to Dad loving photography and having a good camera, but yes, an expensive process, buying film and having it developed as either slides or photos. My uncle had a movie camera, so I have a couple of movies with us kids - absolutely fascinating to watch.


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