Last night I made the decision to fish out my old journals and peruse them. Wow. It is hard enough reconciling who you think you are from the limited memories that haven’t been swept from your mind in the tired haze of parenthood, but reading the words that ‘younger you’ wrote more than 10 years ago… that’s pretty hard to ignore.
Some of it is hilarious in its naivety but also sobering in what it reveals about the former ‘me’. I was pretty much the world’s worst flirt it would seem, as page after page is dedicated to the interactions I pursued with the males in my life. Elation at being noticed, complimented, pursued… then the flip side of being devastated, frustrated, depressed when those interactions didn’t go to plan, or when teenage relationships couldn’t stand up to the lofty ideals I had levied upon them.
As I progressed through high school to university, it didn’t get any rosier…. my insatiable need to be noticed and adored broke out at every opportunity. Even when in the midst of a (fairly taxing) committed relationship, the pages of my journal spoke excitedly of (platonic) liaisons with other guys and of the self-worth I gleaned from these experiences. Damningly, I wasn’t completely unaware of my flaws, even to the point that I embraced the descriptor of ‘flirt’ and feigned puzzlement when the other parties attempted to bring things to the next level. Unfortunately, I would have left a trail of confused hearts in my flippant wake, failing to appreciate the depth of character beyond the flirtatious reception I enjoyed. Should any of those (assumedly now whole) hearts be reading this, I am unreservedly sorry for my glib behaviour.
When the aforementioned relationship ceased amidst a web of mismatched expectations, values and callings, the resulting fall-out moved me to passionately declare the next six months to be a ‘guy free zone’. What I really meant by that was that I wanted to be free to be single again, and not to feel the pressure of having to consider marriage at my tender age of 18. But then I met Dave.
It couldn’t have been better timing for his entry… and my reform. Three days after we first began to hang out (as friends) he ‘laid his cards on the table’ and declared I matched his ideal woman list. Due to my self-imposed guy fast, however, we were forced to pursue friendship instead. This arrangement delivered on all the ‘thrill of the chase’ moments without the pressure of escalating relational pressure. It was four months of freedom to flirt and figure out whether we were indeed an ideal match. At 1am on December 1, 2003, we made it official and have never looked back since.
Looking back at the shallow mess that I was, and the change in my journalling after we started hanging out, it is clear to me that I was able to leave behind a lot of the traits that had been crafted to mask insecurity and fear of rejection. I felt perpetually unable to delve deeper past the initial coy discovery stage, and would become paralysed with fear that someone would see the ‘real’ me, and walk away. Thankfully, with Dave I found the safe place to break out of that mentality, and be brave enough to let him in to witness all the mess and chaos that writhed inches below the polished exterior.
It’s been over 10 years that we have been married now, and I still feel pretty lucky to have scored Dave. His drive to continually push himself to create new things and improve struggling ones jolts me out of my pull to maintain routine and bury my head in the day to day tasks. His ‘hobbies’ are reading philosophy texts and wrapping his head around the intricacies of virtue ethics and the power of communities in shaping values. In some ways, though, my own vision and passion for music and creativity that was poured onto the pages has dimmed, and I’m convicted by that. I’ve allowed myself to settle into a one-dimensional support role, part of which is necessary to the season in which we are in, but also because it is safer and less scary than facing my own battles. In other ways, perhaps the passion has morphed into other areas, such as cooking and hospitality, which energises and inspires me and plays an important role in our community.
I still have a lot of processing to do, but I’m enjoying the prospect of figuring out the ‘narrative identity’ – the story that I tell myself about my own life – that will be so powerful in shaping my future thoughts and actions. Perhaps there might even be a book or two in it… I guess only ‘future me’ knows…