My past childhood needs some attention.
Over the past two years, I’ve fallen madly in love with a show/podcast — Mortified. I love it. I watched the documentary on Netflix first, which introduced me to the whole thing, and then listened to its podcast for quite some time. I spoke to the big man in charge, Neil Katcher, about bringing the show to Denver back in late 2015 before decided it’d be too much of a commitment. Big points for me there, by the way, because saying no to that was super hard; I just didn’t have the time.
Fortunately, someone did finally take the leap and brought the show to our fine city. His name is David Blatt and he’s phenomenal. I managed to attend the Valentine’s Day show last month and the live performance was SO GOOD. I was crying I was laughing so hard.
The weekend following the show, I poured over my own diaries from high school and college. This was no small feat, as I’d opted to color-code my diary by using particular markers, and they all bled together, so it was like trying to decipher code. But, I managed to eke out a few hysterical entries, and I promptly submitted my stuff for an audition.
Then, the day before the audition, it hit me — Did I really want to use younger me as the butt of not one, but many jokes? On stage? On purpose?
Confession: There’s a part of me here that wants to tell you that it’s not a big deal, and we all as teenagers had ridiculous thoughts and did ridiculous things, and to suddenly treat all this with kid gloves is silly. You know, that I’m taking myself too seriously.
Here’s the thing, though: I’ve never taken myself too seriously, especially younger me. I consistently have made fun of her. I’ve consistently mocked her feelings and her fear of writing her real thoughts down. I self-edited nearly everything I wrote when I was younger (still do, but I’m working on that). I was afraid to disappoint anyone who might accidentally or on purpose pick up my diary, ignoring the fact that by doing so, that person would be intentionally being completely disrespectful to me. I didn’t want to hurt feelings. I didn’t want to complain. In my own private space, I still couldn’t get my stuff out.
I’ve gotten somewhat better at it, I suppose, over the years. I’m over 40, by the way. There’s still this nagging fear that once I’m dead, someone will read my journals and see something that will cause them pain. Or worse, that my thoughts will disappoint them.
Do you know how screwed up that is? I do. I realized that the day before the Mortified audition. And I realized that even then, I was writing for an audience.
That makes me super sad.
So, I backed out of the audition. And I told myself that I’d make it a point to be a little more gentle with that girl from 25 years ago who worried too much, and didn’t realize that her worry was rooted more deeply than she realized. I’ve spent a lifetime being ashamed of that girl and wishing she’d had more courage to be honest with herself and others.
I’m raising a daughter now who is barreling towards adolescence at a speed I care not to pay too much attention to. I don’t want her to look back at herself and regret that she was too afraid. I don’t want to realize I didn’t teach her to trust people and to assert herself, not only in the privacy of her own journal, but face to face with people who have been condescending, insulting, or indifferent. I want her to have the kind of memories she can look back on and appreciate for their honesty, regardless of how ridiculous they may be. And perhaps she’ll eventually be able to use those private stories to entertain others, because she won’t need to nurture that little person quite as much.