Recently my dad was cleaning out the attic at my parents house. Stored behind boxes of Christmas decorations he found a tattered box with the name, “Carey” wrote out in faded permanent marker. Held inside the box was a treasure chest of my childhood; a collection of Breyer model horses-many purchased with hard-earned baby sitting money, a Bride doll still in its original package-which was a gift from my Grandma Cooper on my parent’s wedding day, when I was 10 months old, and a pink paperback book that I recognized immediately. I’ve had many journals over the years, but this was my very first one. Started on December 29th, 1989 the first entry consisted of, “I got a keyboard for Christmas and a phone. I’m never letting my cousin Stephanie use them after what she did today. Well maybe.” I was 9 years old, in fourth grade and apparently much quicker to forgive than I am now.
I don’t believe in coincidence. I don’t believe in accidents or luck. I think everything happens for a reason. I believe that prayers are always answered and if you allow God to work in your life he will show you how to heal, how to forgive, and the direction he wants you to journey down.
Finding this Diary was an answer to my prayers. I’ve looked for this book for years and assumed it got lost in the shuffle of a move. My dad has cleaned out the attic numerous times and just now found it. Reading this diary was almost therapeutic. It helped me understand some of my thoughts and behavior that, as an adult, I still have and what events took place that originated some of those thoughts. I think this was the right time for me to read it, the right time for my eyes to be open, and my ears to listen.
The whole time I was reading the story of “me”, from a child to a teenager, I kept saying to myself, “Oh, Carey if you only knew” and “this worked out so much better than you ever could’ve imagined.” The diary is hundreds of pages long and spans the years of 1989-1994. My handwriting changed from childlike manuscript, where words are spelled exactly as they sound, to the loopy obnoxious cursive teenage handwriting that I still have to this day. Although, these are only a few excerpts & sentences, their thoughts that helped shape the person that I am today.
*February 10th, 1990–“My brother lost my moms doll. I have to keep a secret about it. I guess I will ask him to pay me for a week to keep a secret.”…Advice to myself: Carey, to be nice to your brother, Chad. He will defend you and forgive you, when at times you didn’t deserve it. He does this because he loves you. Besides, wait until your teenage years he has a whole book of secrets on you!
*December 30th, 1990- “Tomorrow’s New Years were going over to GGW’s the 4 grandkids! Like we do every year!”…Advice to myself: Carey, treasure these memories with your Papa & Grandma Cooper and cousins. There will come a day when your Grandparents won’t be here on earth and you’ll sit around with your cousins talking about memories of New Years spent eating shrimp, performing plays, & drinking grape juice out of champagne glasses at midnight. These are stories that only you four will share, stories that will forever link you with your cousins and grandparents.
*January 16th, 1991- “Down in Saudi Arabia war broke out. Iraq took over Kuwait about 6 months ago and won’t give us our oil supply. So we had a war. My dad might have to go down by the end of the month.”…Advice to myself: Carey, although your dad doesn’t go, years later your brother Chad will have several deployments to Iraq. It will be one of the most stressful times your parents will go through. Be supportive (even when your mom and sister-in-law go crazy selling yellow ribbon car magnets).
*June 24th, 1992- “I asked Jesus to come into my life. I was so happy I could scream!”…Advice to myself: Carey, you will forget this memory, this moment, and how you felt. You will spend many years away from your faith. A faith that your grandparents and your parents instilled in you. You’ll make decisions that will disappoint God and your parents. But, eventually God will draw you back to him. Broken and defeated he will slowly heal your heart and your being. He’ll remind you that you’re forever in the palm of his hands and that you’re still a work in progress. Don’t ever doubt it again.
*June 24th, 1992-“I don’t know if he went to heaven or not, but wherever he is I know he’s with my Great-Grandma and I just hope that he’s happy”…Advice to myself: Carey, even though this particular sentence was wrote about your Great-Grandpa Henderson’s death, you’ll have the same questions, over a decade later, when your Grandpa Henderson passes away. Just remember that even though he could be difficult, he showed love in the ways the he knew how.
*November 23rd, 1992- “Well today mom told us she’s pregnant. I’m so mad.”…Advice to myself: Carey, boy did you get this wrong! You spent months angry, jealous, and embarrassed over the thought of your family changing. What you didn’t realize is what a blessing your baby brother, Luke, turned out to be. He is such an important part of your life and you get the chance to watch him grow into one amazing, kind, compassionate, caring man.
Entry after entry about fights with my parents, insecurities over the way I looked and struggles with friends and boys. How great to have a record of memories! At some point they’ll be a teenage girl in my life who’ll say, “you just don’t understand” (as I’m sure I said to my mother once or twice) and I’ll be able to hand her my old diary, full of the struggles and pains that I went through as an adolescent. And maybe it’ll be the common ground that helps her through a rough time in her life.
It’s never to late to keep a journal for yourself. I urge everyone to start writing one. One day, in twenty or thirty years, you’ll sit down and read it with eyes that have survived and realize you’re so much tougher and braver than you ever thought you could be.