When We Were Young


When I was young, I wanted three things:

First, I wanted to be older. Desperately. I was the youngest of four children and most of my young life was spent being shoved, sat on or otherwise tormented by three lively older brothers.

Second, I wanted to escape. As far back as I can remember, I wanted something different. I felt different. I used to sit in the back of our family car thinking how awful it must be to live in a house just like every other house, having thoughts just the same as everyone else’s thoughts. Possibly, I just read too many Famous Five books.

Third, I wanted to be a writer. I had decided on this ambition at six years of age, and my Dad used to bring home blank tabloid newspapers from the local fish and chip shops, so I could make my own newspapers.

After having told my family of my planned career in publishing, a family friend bought me a diary when I was seven years old, with the words, “Every writer keeps a diary.”

So I did.

And now I have a trunk filled with diaries charting my life from the age of seven to my mid-twenties, when I met my future husband. One of my last ever diary entries was, “God, I can’t see this one lasting much longer.”

My diaries are an amazing thing to have, in some ways. They’re filled with stories about the big things and the little things. There are crushes and crises, but also everyday tales of swimming galas, homework, shopping trips. My younger diaries are filled with words, but also cartoons and pictures and top 10 lists of books and films and boys I loved.

I don’t have to grasp for the memory of my first crush. It’s right there in my 1985 diary. His name was Bob and he was the canoeing instructor at summer camp. He wore a black vest and when they played Lionel Richie’s Dancing on the Ceiling at the end of camp disco, my stomach turned somersaults.

Of course, every mistake and bad decision is there, too. Truanting from school, stealing my older brother’s cigarettes, drinking vodka under the pier with my friends so we didn’t have to buy drinks when we sneaked into nightclubs. Having my hair cut into spikes without Mum’s permission.

But the diaries remind me that some things turned out just the way I hoped. When I was 13, I wrote this in my diary: 

“I can’t wait to be older. I want to live in a flat in Soho and drive an army jeep, and write articles in  magazines.  Mum has promised to buy me a typewriter so I can start typing up some of my stories, and Jen and I are working on a radio programme in the edit suite at school.  I told Sophie today that I want to write for a proper newspaper when I’m older and she just went on about how hard it is to get into media studies. Charming! Just cos she thinks she’s the next editor of Smash Hits. Mr Smith (swoon) says he thinks I am intelligent and idiosyncratic and would be perfect at working in the media.”

Sadly, I never got the jeep or the flat in Soho, and I’m choosing to gloss over the fact that I clearly had no idea what idiosyncratic meant – but I think overall my younger self would be delighted to know that I have indeed managed to scrape a living writing articles for ‘proper’ newspapers.

[Thanks to Kate at The Five F's for the tag. I'm now tagging Sandy Calico, Clareybabble and Jen at the Mad House for the meme. What did you want to be when you were young, and did it turn out as you expected?]


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 25th August 2010 / 12:47 am

    How fabulous that you kept a diary for so many years and have held on to them all! Now that’s what I call real treasure! Fancy growing up with all those big brothers! Hope they looked out for you when you were a teenager. I was always envious of friends with older brothers, but having read your post I’m not sure why! Glad you finally ‘escaped’ and fulfilled your aspirations.

  2. 25th August 2010 / 10:59 am

    Thanks back to you, Sally for continuing the meme. I love the idea of keeping diaries like that. I guess that’s kind of what a blog is now. Perhaps I should have kept one when younger tho I can imagine myself cringing reading them back now.

  3. 25th August 2010 / 7:44 pm

    Hmm, what did I want to be when I was younger? A vet… that didn’t happen!
    I loev that you’ve got diaries from so far back. I tried to keep one now and then, but never really got that far. I don’t seem to have the sticking power it would seem… the fact that I’ve been blogging for what will be 3 years in november is still a total shock for me, and an achievement that I’m actually quite proud of. 🙂

  4. 25th August 2010 / 9:56 pm

    I love diaries, and always kept one when I was younger. I love looking through them all and seeing what I used to think about things. The last one I wrote, was when I met Mr L and talked about how amazed I was that he called. Earlier than he said he would call! Was a new thing for me.
    What a great tale you have there though. xx

  5. 25th August 2010 / 10:56 pm

    Amazing you used to keep a diary when you were so young. I used to write/illustrate little stories. I started keeping a diary when I was a teenager. Could never read them now – too cringey. Usually about boy after boy breaking my heart :).
    I think I wanted to be a zoologist, marine biologist or archaeologist when I was young. Then I wanted to be a journalist or tv producer, I ended up in Marketing! It’s only recently I’ve actually had a career change into journalism. Wish I’d done it years ago.

  6. 26th August 2010 / 3:07 am

    I wish I had some of my diaries to look back on. We used so much when I was a kid that they got lost somewhere along the way. Which kinda makes me wonder where they are now and if someone’s having a right good laugh at my secret thoughts!

  7. 26th August 2010 / 3:08 am

    That’s supposed to say “used to move so much.” Tut!

  8. Sally
    26th August 2010 / 9:19 am

    Older brothers are, it has to be said, a HUGE bonus when you’re a teenager.

  9. Sally
    26th August 2010 / 9:19 am

    Sometimes I want to jump into my diary and shake that girl by the shoulders – the things you can obsess about for weeks when you’re a teenager!!

  10. Sally
    26th August 2010 / 9:20 am

    I think my blog may well end up being like my diaries – something we can look back on together and remember things we’d otherwise have forgotten.

  11. Sally
    26th August 2010 / 9:20 am

    Aahh. Mine when I was 14 was full of tales of how I loved The Chap but he’d never look twice at me.

  12. Sally
    26th August 2010 / 9:22 am

    Is it very young? The handwriting is atrocious obviously! What’s nice about teen diaries is there’s a lot of boys (although I went to a girls’ school so not LOADS) but I love reading how obsessed I got with friendship circles and TV and other things. I’m hoping it will remind me of what it’s really like when Flea gets to that age.
    I did want to be a forest ranger for a couple of years – that dream died a death halfway through my Geography A-Level! But how cool that you’ve now achieved your career dream – well done!

  13. Sally
    26th August 2010 / 9:23 am

    Oh God, what a horrible thought!! Mine would be hysterical to another reader. I snort at my younger self on a fairly regular basis.

  14. 1st September 2010 / 7:02 pm

    I loved keeping diaries as a child an I really love reading back on them now – they are ridiculous. I always wanted to write, but also it seemed I wanted to be a PA for a top Hollywood film director, a motor mechanic and a punk rocker and at one point I just wanted to live on an island somewhere and braid people’s hair for a living. That “escape” mentality is definitely something I learnt from reading many Enid Blyton books in the back seat of my parent’s car on driving holidays… I would still like to live in an unusual house but alas ours looks much like the other 200 exact replicas on our street. One day…