When I was a child (of around eight) I attempted to keep handwritten journals, with several pages carefully torn out if they contained any spelling or grammatical errors. While an unfortunate neurosis, this particular fixation on perfection was one I eventually overcame.
More poignantly, rummaging through an old journal I discovered under my bed, I remembered that I consistently wrote myself a life and friends I never had in reality. My thoughts and contemplations were true, but the events were not. We went on a road trip today, I wrote on one occasion. It was so beautiful. I saw a bird building its nest, and it had a long white wispy tail that glistened like snow in the sunlight. When it took flight it vanished into a different realm, hidden from us. (Forget the road trip and the bird; I had never even actually seen snow in sunlight.) I really wanted to believe it, had tried to convince myself. What child doesn’t wish for hidden powers? Particularly when she spent the year yearning for school, because in the long summer afternoons when children played she would be confined to her room? What wrenched my own heart were the more realistic lies: My friends and I went to the movies followed by an entire dialogue chronicling nonexistent friends and mischievous episodes that never took place, the kind one reads in books. This was forced (I was much more prone to writing thoughts in journals than events) and I eventually ceased the practice, fearing that if I picked up the journal in my older / forgetful years I would believe the realistic fiction, having forgotten, and deceive myself into rendering a falsehood to be truth. I deeply valued the truth.
Your younger self was merely a passionate dreamer, I wrote for a future me, swallowing hard on the truth, sentimental, overly melancholy, never strenuous enough to have accomplished anything, or to have ever awoken. She was never particularly easily sociable; contrarily, she’s initially introverted. She never acquired a significant number of friends, but was very close to the few she had. She had a gentle heart; she tells herself she is brave.
At this the wave of a sob partially rose somewhere within me.
Cataloging every aspect of my identity and beliefs somehow made me feel more grounded, as though recording the definition of myself established me to existence. At point one I even took to noting my physical appearance in paranoia, as to connect myself into the world. Yet I’ve noticed that for a large portion I only ever wrote of the past or the nostalgically of the future–nostalgically of the future—and rarely recorded myself in the present, evidently the moment when I existed the least.
Maintaining a sense of selfhood was a trivial practice; I’ve noticed the only true continuity I can ascertain within myself is a perpetual sense of general displacement, that I’m not grounded by anything but the anchoring fact of existence, like a sentient spirit that would otherwise drift away. I’ve come to terms with this. It is not an unhappy state, but a neutral one.