An entry from my journal on May 20, 2017:
“It is not difficult to feel self-conscious when you’re scribbling away in a notebook — quite manically, it would seem — in a middle of a subway carriage amidst the chattering weekend crowd. Sure, I could’ve typed this out on my phone, but alas, I’ve pulled the journal out so there’s no turning back.
Who, in this god forsaken place, still journals, anyway?
I feel exactly like the old British lady I had once encountered on a flight, who, upon discovering that I was reading Middlemarch, leaned over and remarked, ‘you know all is right in the world when young people are still reading George Eliot in book form!’ I’m not sure if this is a good thing, for — surely — I’m much too young to relate so closely to someone thrice my age? Then again, my wardrobe is composed almost exclusively of turtlenecks, so I doubt I have much say in this matter.
It is also not difficult to feel self-conscious when you’re on your way to your alma mater for its open day; when you’re returning to a place where you’ve not set foot in almost half a decade, and where you’d most certainly re-encounter figures from your past. […] Funnily enough, my worries lie not with the prying questions from my teachers, but with how I’ll be perceived, having — inevitably — grown jaded with age, despite the (pragmatic) idealism that the school had sought to instil in us.
I wonder if I’ll disappoint with my reasonable ambitions, having relinquished my grander dreams over the years.
This anxiety is, perhaps, only compounded when one is reminded of the masses of prospective students (and their parents) that one will have to face shortly. What will they make of me, when they perceive me as one of the many products of four years of education within the institution? How do I, as an alumni, represent the school in the eyes of others? I’m not sure if I want to know.
But as usual, I judge myself the harshest.
Whilst I had never, in those days, toured secondary schools as most of my peers did, I do wonder how my twelve-year-old self would feel if she were to encounter me at twenty-one, at one of such events. Will she be impressed? Will she remain indifferent to the situation? Or will she simply balk at how little she’d have to boast of, a decade into her future?
The thing is, I cannot remember enough of who I was then to understand my expectations of myself at that age, or to even begin to paint a somewhat realistic portrait of my twelve-year-old self, let alone imagine such an encounter.
I don’t know if I had already been rebellious then, but I do remember rolling my eyes at my teachers occasionally and hiding books under my desk to read in class. (To be honest, I was quite an obnoxious character in my childhood.) I remember poring through the copies of Teen Vogue that I snuck to school with my friends during our breaks, and teasing the notion of becoming Anna Wintour. But besides the affluence, the influence, and the wardrobe, it seemed that I’d sought nothing concrete for my future.
In my unassuming ensemble — a corduroy dungaree dress and matching navy oxfords — I suspect I’d hardly be able to impress that wide-eyed child who used to torment her tiny feet in cheap heels. The sturdy New Yorker tote, on which item #37 on my current bucket list (to be published in the magazine) is subtly publicised, probably wouldn’t do either. It seems my only saving grace would be my perfectly-drawn eyeliner, which seems just a tad unfair for I was still to be acquainted with the miracle that was the liquid liner.
My preoccupation with literature is a tricky one to judge, for I had always loved reading, but I had then yet been taught that I could build a career upon what would otherwise have remained a mere hobby. Of course, my twelve-year-old self would likely have found academia to be much too serious and not quite as glamorous as being the editor-in-chief of Vogue, but she was, after all, years away from her feminist enlightenment.
Would I then, at twelve, have been disappointed at how my life turned out?
Life, certainly, hasn’t followed the trajectory — whatever it might’ve been — that I had planned for myself at twelve-years-old, but I do hope that I am, now, the person I needed when I was younger.”