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?]