This is one of the classic stories from my childhood: I got a new bike when I was about eight or nine years old. The neighboring apartment building had a large yard with some grass and trees and a parking lot where all of the neighboring children and their parents would gather in the afternoons for play dates and gossip.
My friend, Kata, really wanted my new bike. So she would say to me: “Hey, Zsofi, come here! I want to show you something!” Curiosity got the best of me and I got off my bike, walked over to her and she ran to my bike, got on, and rode away happily.
I don’t quite remember this incident, but apparently she did this to me about 10 times that afternoon and I fell for it every single time. My mom watched from the bench, along with Kata’s mom, hoping that I would catch on.
How many times have I heard this story? Way too many, in my opinion. Kata is perfectly nice and we are still friends and really, she did what every other kid would have done. But the story still embarrasses me today, every time I hear it.
In fact, a lot of things from my childhood and young adulthood still embarrass me for some reason.
A couple of evenings ago I had a glass of wine and decided to read some old diaries. I shouldn’t have… The diaries were from my junior and senior years in high school and from college and after reading them I couldn’t look in the mirror for a couple of days from sheer horror and embarrassment.
As a teenager, I was SO stupid. I was so gullible and naïve and emotional, not to mention irrational and needy and clingy. What was I thinking? It’s not that I made too many bad choices; it’s that everything was such a BIG DEAL. A wink from a boy sent me over the edge, or an innocent word from my parents enraged me for days. Where did my cool go? Did I have any dignity at all? Was I all hormones and no reason? What was I doing kissing a 28-year-old French saxophone player? And even worse, how did I ever think that he would fall in love with a 17-year-old high school girl?
My current self was – and still is – mortified. I had to stop reading after a while and lock the diaries away for at least another ten years. Hopefully by then all of the pink ink I used will have faded into eternity.
When Drew got home that evening, I told him about my findings and he reassured me that no, I wasn’t a hormone-crazed, irrational, emotional wreck anymore. He also wanted to read the diaries, but I’d rather swallow the keys before I let that happen!
I am not sure why I was so embarrassed about my younger self. After all, everyone goes through awkward years, bad boyfriends, bad fashion choices, and arguments with parents and siblings.
I guess part of me was horrified for putting my poor parents through this. It must have been no picnic for them to live with me and to keep me out of trouble. And another part of me was – is – afraid that there is still a side of me that can easily revert to a crazy 17-year-old or 22-year-old at any moment. And I am not so sure that I wouldn’t still fall for Kata’s trick at let her ride off with my bike.
I haven’t kept a diary since college. It seems that once all of the drama of my life was over and I had to get up at 5 a.m. for my job at a newspaper – no more parties, no more international romance – life got a little too mundane for words. I do remember that as I was writing my diaries, I kept thinking how great it will be to read them a couple of years down the road and relive all of my misadventures.
Instead, the diaries turned into a cautionary tale and they made me realize a couple of things:
1. It is a wonder any of us survive our teenage years.
2. It is a wonder our parents still talk to us after our teenage years.
3. My future daughter better watch out because she will not be able to get away with anything. I’ve literally been there, done that, and I have the diary to prove it!