Stop Shredding Your Youth!

A couple of months ago, I was digging through some junk and stumbled upon several teenage diaries. Only they aren’t really diaries in the true sense of the word. I didn’t use them to write down my darkest, most inner thoughts. These are spiral bound notebooks I once shared with friends. Do they have a name? Do they still exist now? I don’t know. They are a cross between a slam book, a diary and the worst idea ever.

Here’s how it works: you write a letter to the chosen friend you’re sharing said notebook with, pass it to them, they write a response and then pass it back. Eventually it’s filled up with complete nonsense. The purpose of these notebooks then? I have no idea. But that didn’t stop me from having four or more going at one time. And I have no idea how I kept them all straight. For example, it amazes me that at no point did I accidentally talk shit about the person I was writing to instead of a person I shared another notebook with. Does that make sense? It’s confusing. Basically, I managed to keep my teenage backstabbing straight. I was sweet like that.

Speaking of accidentally sending something to the wrong person, earlier this year I received a text message from a Brooklyn mommy friend I’d recently met. It read: “GUESS WHAT!??? Michele BLOCKED me on FACEBOOK!”

Can you believe that shit???!!

Only I was Michele. And I didn’t block anybody on Facebook. But this added to the plethora of reasons as to why I did eventually quit Facebook. Facebook has technical issues for one friggin day and I start getting text messages ABOUT me TO me. Thanks, Facebook. Thanks a lot.

Needless to say, that mommy friendship (along with the one I thought I was forming with the person who the text message was meant to go to) ended. But it’s not Facebook’s fault, or the text messaging mishap. Those relationships ended because I was going through some rough stuff at the time—such as infertility and miscarriage—and so I withdrew. Perhaps if I’d written about how I was feeling on Facebook, they would have cut me a little slack. Not that I deserved slack, but, well, you know… sometimes things aren’t how they appear, especially if you’re going by what you read (or don’t read) on Facebook.

If only we had had a notebook…

But I digress.

It was about 5 PM when I started reading the red one covered in magazine cutouts. Emory was with me, building train tracks around my pile of spiral-bound notebooks, occasionally he’d interrupt me with a, “Momma? Whatchoo doin?”

“I’m reading letters from when I was a kid.”


“To remember what I was like as a teenager and hopefully laugh.”

“Oh.” He said, satisfied.

Now, I haven’t ever been able to read more than a page or two from these journals. But I decided I was finally going to finish one. I thought maybe at the end of it all, my story would redeem itself and I’d finally, like, get it. I mean, I’m an OK person. I grew up to be a fairly decent human being, how can these things be that bad, right?

Wrong. They’re terrible. And the existence of these notebooks has me terrified that I might be carrying a little girl.

Every page asked if the other person was mad for reasons that were never, ever specified. It just went back and forth, “Are you mad at me? Are we still BFF? Or are you BFF with Stacey? Do you still like me?” Then the other person would write back: “Are you mad at me? Because if you are, I don’t know what I did wrong! TALK TO ME!”

We were BFFs one day; enemies the next. And occasionally there’d be a drawing of a pink bunny, ESPRIT socks, or MOTLEY CRUE RULES!

Well, I got almost the entire way through one of the notebooks when something shot off inside my head. Behold, it just so happened I was inches away from a shredder. My thought process: if these pages cease to exist, perhaps that part of my past could as well. At the very least, there will no longer be any proof. AWESOME.

(Wait, it’s just now occurring to me: has social media become today’s “Letter Notebook”? I’ve got bad news, teens of today: you can’t shred the Internet.)

It was about 6:30 PM when I started tearing pages from the spiral bound notebook and feeding them into our shredder. And it felt amazing. Watching those pages turn into confetti made me want to throw a party.

“Momma, watchoo doing?”

“I’m shredding letters from when I was a kid.” I said.


“Because your mother was silly.”


“Honey, I wish I knew.”

Right as I grabbed another batch of pages for the shredder, Toby Joe walked in.

“What the hell are you doing?” He demanded.

“I’m shredding my notebooks because I was pathetic and embarrassing.”

“But that?” He said pointing to something on the page being fed into the shredder. “That is awesome!”

I looked down just in time to see a crude pencil drawing of a guy with his pants down and a girl kneeling before him. The words: “THIS IS WHAT A BJ IS MICHELE” were scribbled in pink pen above it.

I tried to pull them out, but it was too late.

“Stop shredding your youth!” He said.


  1. I’m 23 now, but I used to have these kind of notebook when I was 11, 12. Instead, they were full with question to all my friends, like: what’s your favorite color? who do you like? tell me a secret I don’t know…

    I have a lot of fun reading these notebooks nowadays, and I too, feel that I was very silly at that age. Don’t worry, we all grow up and change, but that’s the funny part about life: to see how far you’ve come.


  2. I shredded my teenage diaries. The world does not need a record of that time… and neither do I!


    1. Thank goodness it’s not just me, Lana! People keep saying that I will regret it one day, and I keep waiting for that one day. I’m nearing 40 and while an 80-year-old me may get a kick out of it, I’ll spare her the possible humiliation and give her a Reader’s Digest instead. Or bingo night. Maybe a trip to Florida.


  3. Don’t shred your youth! If we don’t remember history we’re doomed to repeat it, right? I know exactly how you feel, though. I’m not a big fan of that girl back there in the rear view.


  4. Sunday I was going through my closet and found my journals from when I was 17-19. Oh my. I thought I was so wordly. And so full of angst. I embarrassed myself just by reading them. I can’t believe I was that silly.

    It went something like this:

    “I love so and so, he’s the best bf ever”
    “Why isn’t he returning my calls?! I think he hates me”
    “So and so is a great friend. But I think he likes me more than a friend. And I have a boyfriend. WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!”

    (Note: said boy that was not my boyfriend lived on the other side of the friggin country)

    Haven’t thrown them out yet. There’s a chance they will be thrown out soon. Anybody who reads them will think I have a screw loose.


  5. You are badass.

    I’ve got a box in the back of my closet filled with mementos from middle & high school. It all reads just like the stuff you’ve described… sheer madness fueled by hormonal fluctuations. You know what the label on the box says? “THE DISTANT PAST- BURN BY 2015″… I have five years to get myself some courage.



      HA HA HA! Anyone who eventually comes to name a box of stuff this is A OK in my notebook.


  6. You are who you are because of who you were and I think you turned out just fine. Don’t destroy everything. I wish I had held onto all my stuff.


  7. OMG, I had these going too. I’m glad to see that my school & friends weren’t the only ones. (I am fascinated at how different schools in different places can be. My husband thought “mums” were crazy…in Texas, they are huge badges of popularity that we all made each other for Homecoming week) Yes, mine shed light into my twisted teenage girl head. A lot like what yours said except we had the balls to make fun of teachers in them too.


  8. LOL we had similar thing but had code names and stuff we used so if said book should get found no-one but us would know what in the world we were talking about.


  9. My friends and I did the same thing. Weird. No one taught us about it. Teenage girls must think a like.


  10. I had those notebooks too AND they had the same style magazine cutouts! Of course, those notebooks chronicle my friendship with my bff to this day and as silly and boy crazy and worse, embarrassing, as they are I can’t ever get rid of them. But I will NEVER let them out of the vault!


  11. I found a similar notebook that purported to be notes from Freshman Seminar (college class, we sat around and talked about Greek classics).

    Basically it would be like 2 sentences about what we read, and 100 doodles and snarky comments to either my BFF who sat next to me or the (gay) boy I fake-flirted with. Pre-IM, you know. It was hilarious and dreadful.

    I vote for shred.


  12. This has made me wish I didn’t destroy my diaries: !

    I had an odd tradition of shredding my pubescent diaries about a year after I had written them, always, without fail. I guess my embarrassment creeps up faster than most. I do still have a jar of letters from boyfriends and one journal I still have because, I assume, it’s less “childish” than the ones I shredded. I haven’t read it in forever. Tonight is a good night to decide if I’m right. (I bet I’m not).


  13. Good memories. I had one (a lot actually) with my best friend in high school too. We both keep a couple of the notebooks and from time to time swap them. It’s good to remind yourself where you’ve come from: We were totally pathetic, good to find that we’ve evolved.
    Don’t shred it, it will be nice for your kids to read one day.


    1. Oh, believe me. My kid will never, ever read these. That is one thing I can promise you. :]


  14. I popped over here from Dooce (I’m adi82 there). I love, love your blog!

    I never kept a journal/diary because I’ve always been embarrassed of my writing pretty much immediately. Which has me wondering why on God’s green earth I’ve started a blog. That’s like a diary with no lock on it!

    So no real diaries to speak of, but I DO have notes from friends all through middle school and high school that I will never throw away. They are ridiculous and silly and downright stupid at times, but then again I was all of those things too. And for some reason, I don’t want to forget that. I also still have emails in my account from friends in high school who replied to my email (so I can read what I wrote) and it’s so cool to read back on those and remember what was going on in my life at that time…because I can’t remember most of it!

    And I agree with you, I don’t want my kids to read that stuff, but someday when I’m having a hard time relating, it might help ME to go back and read it and remember that oh yeah, I was a silly teenager once too:) Sorry I wrote a freaking novel in your comment section!


  15. Over the years I have thankfully whittled down and eventually thrown out all the notes which were passed between me and my girlfriends over high school and elementary school.

    The journals I still have in a couple of boxes I am ashamed to admit, in my parents storage as they just moved out of our family home of 35 years. I should have thrown them all out earlier this year when I was throwing out other things (like a box of letters from a long ago boyfriend which was so satisfying shred) but I couldn’t bear to.

    Sometimes, if I read through the journals I find them at times funny and insightful mostly though they are not only embarrassing but incredibly boring. I always thought that I would keep them but I was very close to chucking them all out and might still do next time I go home.

    I do like Adrianne’s point though about keeping them to help her relate to her kids when they are teenagers but somethings might be better left to memories. I can still remember what a self conscious and egotistical teenager I was, I don’t know if I still want my journals to prove it to myself.


  16. […] was reading Michele’s post about finding notebooks from her teenage years and it inspired me to open up my own journal from my late high school years. I’ve kept many […]


  17. Okay, you inspired me. I got my scanner working again and posted some stuff from my teenage years.

    And 88 Highbury Corner: “what a self conscious and egotistical teenager I was…” That’s such a perfect wording! It sounds like a paradox (how can someone be afraid of what people think of them yet think so highly of themselves?) but it’s exactly what most teenagers are like.


  18. my friends and I had these! I have no idea who has them now, but I hope they don’t have a shredder (but I do remember one girl going through with an exacto knife and cutting out every instance of the name of a boy she’d dumped or who’d dumped her – who knows!)

    We also sent notes folded into little puzzling squares. I’m sure I could still do it if I tried.


  19. Oh. My. Lord. This is hilarious. I love it. I kept journals from the age of nine until I was in my third year of university. A snippit from my 9 year-old journal:

    (written a week before school starts, just before labour day weekend)

    “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT. Mom and dad are going to the cabin. CABIN! And I start school on Tuesday. And I don’t even have a damn PENCIL CASE…or sneakers! They are so stupid. I hate them. I can’t believe they are making me go to the cabin when I’m not even ready for school.”

    Oh. The drama. I am terrified I will one day have a girl. Terrified.


  20. I didn’t have notebooks like that, my friends and I just wrote each other notes back and forth that went on and on. I still have a bunch of the best ones up in the attic that are from my best friend – someone I am still good friends with now (30 years later). I’ve read them a thousand times and will keep them forever; they’re too good to shred.

    However, I did destroy all my journals from that time, and I don’t regret that at all.


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