Sunday, August 3, 2014


People are afraid to remember, because they are afraid to know who they really are.
--Madeliene L'Engle

"I've always thought finding one's vocation should be a hard, long process. Maybe I've translated it to that because I know you have to pray about it a lot--which I have..."

--Thirteen-Year-Old Renée, on vocation, in her 7th grade journal. 
Little did she know how much more prayer awaited her in her future.

Earlier this week, I re-read a great selection of my old journals. It was an excellent exercise in self-awareness; in learning to laugh at oneself; and in recalling old memories. One particular gem was my diary from age thirteen. Not to trumpet my own virtues, but I admire Thirteen-Year-Old Renée greatly. Not only was her egotism unabashed and unpretentious (as opposed to the egotism that plagues us into our adulthoods which hides behind the golden virtues of false modesty and pretension), she was also a connoisseur in prudery. I have never in my life met so confirmed and convicted a prude as Thirteen-Year-Old Renée. And I'm so proud of her for being so and I admire her for cultivating a healthy distaste for all bodily functions. It shows that she spent her prepubescent years reading entirely too many books and vying to get first seed in the draft for the neighborhood games of capture the flag, both properly effective outlets for a thirteen-year-old young woman with an overly active imagination, and a deep propensity for falling in love. Before, they would simply cart her off to a nunnery, now they simply educate her, and similar results are produced. I dearly hope that most people experience a phase of well-adjusted prudery at some point in their life. If one does not feel a distinct embarrassment towards the Facts of Life, I feel that one is not only missing out on a great deal of fun but also a crucial part of the drama of adolescence. 

Reading about one's younger days is a good reality check, because not only does it teach us what was laughable about our past selves, it also teaches us to seriously confront the embarrassing parts of ourselves. As we grow older and our memories grow more selective, it becomes easier and easier to cast a glamor over certain stages of our lives or particular phases that we went through.
Usually, there are parts of ourselves that we shed, like an adult dragonfly shedding the shell of his nymph-hood. This is the joyful and wonderful part of growing up--that we should actually mature. 
That eventually, the hormones churning constantly in our brains settle down into a steady slosh. Rising to the surface, our common sense, masterful captain of the steady ship Reason, finally gain mastery over the tempestuous seas of passions, emotions, and inscrutable and inarticulable feelings that inundate our teenaged selves daily.
Obviously, once we have sailed our way through those dangerous waters, I think very few rational creatures would ever wish to cross backwards over that rite of passage. But, the excellent things about diaries is that they provide a retrospective submarine peek of the vibrant life underneath those stormy waves.
Sometimes, it is embarrassing to admit that we were once that silly, that we were ever so sheltered, that we were so mindless of what lay beyond the boundaries of our experience.
But we'd be more foolish still if we deluded ourselves into believing that we were always so wise and confident as we are today.
There was once a time for all of us when we knew comparatively nothing, when our ideals were so close-minded and informed by such a narrow swath of experience, when we said such callow and idiotic things, when we, in the renaissance of our years, believed the earth was flat and we were marvelously clever for discovering that it was so.
It is in revisiting these earlier epochs that we can begin to understand the journey that has taken us to today. 

Speaking of journeys, several pages after thirteen-year-old Renée weighs in on vocation and how often one ought to talk in public about sex (never), she keeps a record of numbers in the margins.
What are these mysterious numbers?
During our family's road trip to Canada, I grew intensely annoyed with my older sister whose bladder demanded that we stop for what seemed like every few minutes.
So I had a private competition with my sister, in which I decided that, in order to balance out her seeming constant need to attend to nature, I would use the ladies' room as little as possible over the 10-day trip.
 Did I inform her of this contest? Absolutely not. This was my private battle, a personal challenge set out to augment my own sense of self-righteousness.
For what purpose? None, except my own self-satisfaction.
I told you I admire thirteen-year-old Renée immensely.

As I was reading through these old stories of myself, I was happily surprised and somewhat relieved to find little snippets of truth recorded in old journals that mirrored thoughts I had only just recently jotted down myself in a current journal.
The more I read, the more I found self-exhortations that mirrored ones I invoke daily, I found frustration over the same mistakes that I make today, excoriations for the same bad habits and failures, and principles I still hold dear.
It was a joy to remember that the passionate convictions and convicted passions that compose my personality today did not arise out of nowhere. Their nascent growth is rooted more deeply in my personality than maybe I was aware.
This is quite a comfort.
Although the transformation that each whirling year of life brings is as welcome and as necessary as a butterfly emerging from the caterpillar's chrysalis, we humans have a dreadful fear of inconsistency.
To thine own self be true, exhorts the bard, but where, we think, can I find my true self? How is anyone supposed to know what self is true when one is constantly transforming from caterpillar to butterfly?  
In the past four years of perpetual change and rapid development, it is a blessing to receive assurance that you have not transformed as much as appearances would dictate.
Perhaps you have not changed as much as you think; perhaps you have merely grown.

 Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self. The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. 
Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. 
Lose your life and you will save it. 
Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorites wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. 
Keep back nothing. 
Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. 
Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. 
Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. 
But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
--C.S. Lewis, Beyond Personality

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