Over the last month, I’ve been aggressively de-cluttering. This has led to me uncovering old journals, letters, notes to myself, scribbles here and there, and tiny snippets of who I was years ago. There were a couple things that took me by surprise while reading through all these things. First, as a twenty-one-year-old I was unbelievably self-confident. Second, I was bursting at the seams with passion, drive, and purpose. Reading through those journals, I don’t recognize my thoughts, my voice, my absolute certainty in all that I wrote. I have no recollection of ever feeling so sure of myself.
There were some parts (most parts) that made me either cringe or laugh or both. Here’s a particularly humiliating yet hilarious excerpt:
I’m sad b/c I’m not watching Vampire Diaries tonight. It’s such a guilty pleasure. I know it’s only here because of the latest vampire fetish going on in popular media, instigated by Twilight and True Blood, but I liked vampires way before any of this. It bums me out b/c by the time I’ve made a name for myself, they will probably be on the decline in popularity which means I’d have to wait a few more years before revisiting my vampire musical.
Yes, you read that correctly. At one time, I dreamed of writing a vampire musical. And not a campy one. A serious one. Oh, Courtney, Courtney, Courtney. You strange and wonderful girl. (In all seriousness, I need to watch The Originals. I heard that show is awesome!) And let’s not ignore the “by the time I’ve made a name for myself” comment. I was obsessed with being famous, and that obsession is all over my journal. Despite the ridiculousness, as I read on, it hit me how much my internal monologue has changed over the last ten years, not necessarily for the better. I’m not as in touch with my gut as I was back then. My point of view on people, the world, myself wasn’t nearly as clouded by self-doubt or anxiety. There was a lot of naiveté but also a lot of optimism and joy. My pure belief in self was astounding.
Like in that excerpt, for example. There was zero doubt that the vampire musical was happening. Not one speckle. I want to feel that sure of myself again!
So for our last week to reflect on shine, I’ve gathered some wisdom from my own journals. It feels a bit like fate that I found these journals around the same time that Joanna supplied us with this amazing quote by Anaïs Nin, a woman famous for her deeply introspective and insightful journals. I’m no Anaïs Nin (not by a long shot), but after reading my own journals, here are the top five lessons I’ll keep in the forefront of my mind as I go forward in life.
1. Stay true to your nature.
I read a passage where one of my closest friends told me, “Courtney, you are an amazing solitary creature.” Her words struck me when she first spoke them to me, and they struck me again upon reading them eight years later. They struck because they are absolutely true. On a pretty regular basis, I need hardcore downtime at home with no obligations and no plans. That’s just who I am. When we know ourselves and when we know our own wants and needs, we can take care of ourselves. The more we listen to our minds, bodies, and hearts in these matters, the happier and more content we’ll be. If you need to tell everyone to leave you alone and spend an entire afternoon doing needlepoint, then you gotta do just that and not worry about hurting anyone’s feelings.
2. Trust your instincts about other people, especially creeps.
Apparently, one of my favorite pastimes used to be trying to figure out the psyches and motivations of the people around me. I was so confident in my assessments, and even though I might not have been one hundred percent correct every single time, I can appreciate my confidence. There was one passage that stuck out to me, though. I wrote, “My manager is a f*cking pervert. He told me he’d never marry the girl he’s dating. And that all he wanted to do was f*ck the shit out of her.” I was eighteen when I wrote that, working in the box office at a movie theater. I remember that day, standing there and sullenly staring out the window as this guy went on and on, spewing out horrible things about women, just the two of us in that tiny glass box. I remember thinking he was disgusting but believing at the time that all guys said stuff like that about their girlfriends. I wanted to tell someone, but I didn’t know who I would tell, or if he would even get in trouble for saying those things. But, eighteen-year-old Courtney, your instincts were spot on. You should’ve reported that creep and got him fired.
3. It’s fun to be an unabashed fangirl!
One of the more hilarious things I found was a fan letter to one of my favorite band of all time, My Chemical Romance. This was another relic I had no recollection of ever writing. But it looks like my handwriting and it has my signature on it, so it must be authentic. Thank heavens I never actually sent it. I will never reveal its contents, but just know that I put it all out on the line—no shame, no reservations, no holding back a single ounce of my passion for their music. It’s fun to be a fangirl. Who cares if someone else thinks it’s silly or frivolous or that I should be ashamed of my taste. In my letter I wrote, “You changed my life. You made me a better person.” If art in any form—music, film, writing, sports—changes our lives and makes us better people, we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. We should shout our love from the rooftops. Maybe there’s someone else out there who needs their life changed, too.
4. Never be afraid to put your entire heart into something.
Still thinking about the fan letter here… When I finished reading all eight, handwritten pages of the letter, I actually got a little choked up. I’d completely forgotten how freeing it could be to put my entire heart into something. These days I don’t really consider myself “passionate” about anything. Something holds me back from that description. I really want that to change. Passion is vital. Passion is life. And I need more of it.
5. I have a purpose, and that purpose gives my life meaning.
I’m so lucky to have discovered my purpose at a young age. As a fifteen-year-old I knew what my purpose was—to become a writer and change people’s lives for the better. This hasn’t changed in the fourteen years since I discovered that purpose. At twenty, I wrote the following in my journal: “Despite all the support from friends and family and loved ones, sometimes the biggest obstacle of all is ourselves.” Well, Courtney, old girl, you were right. It’s so easy to get in the way of ourselves, but if we return, if we come back again and again, if we lose sight for years at a time only to find ourselves swimming toward our purpose once more, it will give our lives meaning. It will direct us and guide us and keep us true. At the end of the day, my happiness comes from this—knowing my purpose and giving my heart over to it fully.
For the most part, I feel like I’m in a good place, that I’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons in my twenties, but also that I’m excited to move into the next phase of my life. Looking back through those journals, I understand that I’ve tightened up, lost some of my brazen confidence, and held myself back from fully committing to the things I love. I’ll be taking Anaïs Nin’s quote to heart as I continue to de-clutter and rediscover what I’m truly meant to do in this life. I’m ready for the risk.
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