Before I was a blogger, I was a dedicated journal writer. The photo above is a “collage” of my actual journals – I successfully logged and analyzed about ten years of my life (or some version of it), beginning the spring of my freshman year of college. Occasionally, I look back to see where I was at a certain place in time. Sometimes I read prior entries when I need a laugh or to simply put things in perspective.

And now for some highlights:

* My first entry – February 10, 1997.  What started off as a deep, “this is the kind of stuff you should write about in journals” type entry about love and finding your perfect match, includes the line, “It’s weird, when I met (name redacted to protect the not-so-innocent), it wasn’t even a matter that I was thinking I wanted to be around him because he’s hot. Something else, that I can’t explain, makes me want to spend time with him.” Wow. So insightful.

* May 24, 1997 – I was setting big and important goals: 1. Tan every day. 2. Finish all my homework. 3. Study hard for finals. (Yes. That is the exact order they were listed in.)
May 25, 1997 – Goal-setting continues. Revised list of summer goals: be tan, get a 3.0, make mom & dad proud, get an ID, work hard, save a lot of money. (Being tan was clearly very important to me. I also liked that I prefaced getting a good fake ID with making mom and dad proud.)

* It’s funny looking back how my “recap” of the night that I met the first guy I was ever in love with, reads no differently than one about any of the other 8,000 people I met in bars that year.

* BUT I think that having my thoughts and feelings on paper during the time I fell in love for the first time could be one of the greatest things I could ask for. I could never truly remember everything that I felt at that time with so much honesty. I read what I wrote and remember how happy I was – how magical everything seemed. “Everything just seems so right when you’re in love.”

* I knew that relationship was falling apart for probably more than half of it. Yet I always found a way to rationalize it. When I was making my New Year’s resolutions, I knew that I needed to become stronger and more independent. I knew that I needed to find the strength to fix things with him or end them. I needed to work out more. And start tanning again. (I’m not kidding. Living in Georgia seriously made me obsessed with tanning. And anyone who knows me, knows I am probably the palest non-albino alive.)

* January 11, 1999 – “Every semester I end up in a class with some random guy I’ve kissed.” In a school of 30,000 people, you’d think that would be a challenging feat to accomplish.

* There can never be enough song quotes when you want to write about a breakup. And if The Cure is your favorite band, too, you might as well just copy all of the liner notes. I also quoted a lot of “Party of Five” episodes at that time.

* I had a “want list” in 1999. There were five things on it: a Jeep Wrangler, an Eero Aarnio ball chair (if you’ve seen “Dazed & Confused,” you’ve seen one), a surfboard, a couch and a computer.

* I wrote an entry entitled “Of Brian, Betsy, having what you want and feeling like you’re going to puke on your shoes.” I actually described someone as “She’s not skinny, but not fat and ok looking.” The long story short – she was the new girlfriend of a guy I had dated about three years prior. I was sitting next to her on the ferry and he was waiting for her when the ferry docked. Hello, awkward moment.

* I may have spent the entire summer of 1999 drunk. It is entirely possible. Yes, I am kidding. But I did go out every single night, I think. I wonder how I got up for work everyday. I should trade in my current gig and be a lifeguard again.

* I was listing the reasons that I liked a guy that I had kissed. One of them (number 4) was “he smells real good.” Another great quote (unrelated to him) a few pages later – “Beta Theta Pi breeds idiocy.”

* The best Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had was in 2000. I was dating someone, but since he was living in Texas, I went to dinner with my friends.

* March 15, 2000 – “If I wrote a book, I would call it ‘Jen Has No Willpower'” Not gonna lie – reading that kind of just made me laugh.

* I wrote a really detailed entry after watching “St. Elmo’s Fire” for the first time. Evidently it really mirrored my life at the time?

* I made $27,000 a year in 2000 at my first job. I wrote one sentence when I got my job offer. It took me 18 days until I commented that my job drove me crazy.

* I went on the worst interview I have ever had in my entire life in December of 2000. I want to thank the fine people at Octagon for inspiring me “to run far away from corporate nonsense.” I actually wanted to work in retail then. I must have been insane. I obviously put something out in the universe because the next day, I got a call for (what I thought at the time) was my dream job, exactly where I wanted to live.

* June 5, 2001 – “The sports anchor for channel 4 is pretty hot. He said we’d go fishing one day.” Was that his opening line? What the hell was the context of this?

* I couldn’t have known how big the September 11 attacks were the day they happened. I am nothing short of ashamed of how self absorbed I appear in what I wrote that day.

* I have a two page e-mail from someone who I hurt because I was selfish. Looking back, I am still amazed that he chose to look past that and see who I really was.

* I worked as a retail manager for about a year. I think this part summed it up pretty solidly, “My God, WORK SUCKS! Shelby came by today and interviewed some women, one of which was a total freaking lunatic. I completely hope they do not hire her. I seriously could not spend entire days with her.” I don’t remember who she was. Chances are they hired her.

* December 21, 2003 – “I stopped over Ian’s house to return his random French hip-hop CD that he left at my house.” Begs the obvious question – why was I hanging out with anyone who liked French hip-hop music?

Yes, in between these mostly ridiculous posts, I did a lot of soul searching and tackled some serious aspects of my life. I watched myself take two steps forward and more often than not, three steps back. I made the same mistakes more times than I should have. I made new mistakes. I fell in love a few times and had my heart broken more than a few times. I met a number of people who impacted my ways in positive and amazing ways. I met people who I wish I had never met, nor given the time of day. I lived in four states. I worked about 73 different jobs.

But most of all, I watched myself grow. I told myself when I started keeping journals that if I ever had a daughter, I would give them to her one day to read. While that is probably never the approach I would take now, I am glad that I was so devoted to documenting my life during that time.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” – e. e. cummings