Let me tell you a thing about what a weird teenager I was: I used to write down everything all the time. Every dumb emotion or thought I had, a somewhat creepy inventory of things of consequence and not. Usually not. Which is funny because I really wasn’t up to much until about eight years ago, so I had no cause to write everything down except my own narcissism. I wrote down what I did that night, who drove, who I hung out with at lunch in high school, all of the dreams I had when I took a three hour nap after school at the peak of my 16-year-old anemia-induced lethargy. I never re-read what I wrote, nor did I undertake any style — it was simply record keeping of a very mundane life. Almost a compulsion–if I forgot to log the day, it didn’t happen.
Pardon me while I wax earnest for a hot sec: I will concede that it was a helpful way to sort through my feelings about things. When I’d fight with or be hurt by a parent or my first boyfriend, I’d write down all that happened and my feelings, and somehow by the end I was able to better understand myself and them, and move through the emotions. It was also very UNhelpful in that, by writing down all of those details, they were now seared into my memory much more than they were of the other party, and I would remember and feel all details of a tiff for much longer — not a favorable effect when you’re already pretty bitter by nature (I’m pretty bitter by nature).
For this reason I stopped writing entirely in 2011 when I was experiencing various forms of tumult in the form of being dumped and resenting my parents because I was 25 and that’s what happens. While all of these rites of passage seem silly and extremely surmountable now, at the time they were earth shattering; they were unique and incurable diseases never to be suffered before or since. Like I said, narcissist. So I stopped writing in 2011 because I didn’t want to aid my memory in any way nor did I want to feel more deeply. I began to allow moments to happen without keeping a record of them for the first time in my life. Until Instagram got big, I guess.
As many people who are nervous and shy children tend to do, once I decided to grab life by the balls, I packed more life into eight years than I had in the previous 25. And I didn’t write any of it down. I’m sure I changed a lot, but I have no record of it like I do of every subtle transition I experienced in the previous years. Which is fine, no one wants to read that boring shit.
I recently went a little meta on myself and realized that I am about to change quite a lot, I expect, because I’m moving to another country for an undetermined amount of time. Instead of trying to preserve our US life while we’re in France, my husband and I have a sole objective to intentionally become less American and see who we are in France. He’s originally from France, the southwest, but hasn’t lived there since his early twenties so he’s pretty much Californian by now. Says “dude” all the time with a french accent, says “We gotta catch de 2 north,” talks like a french surfer for some reason. So he needs to rediscover his Frenchness again before he starts talking like he grew up in Ventura. We’ve been together five years but I still don’t know French because I always come up with something better to do than learn it, and it’s not fair that one day he and our kids will be able to talk shit on me in another language. So we’ve got to do this. We’re about to change and we’re aware of it, and I want to see the gradual effect like I used to be able to in my creepy diaries. Except hopefully I’ll be less creepy this time, hopefully it will just be funny but not ironically read-your-teenage-diaries funny.
I also hope it might be helpful. Not helpful as a guide the way other expat websites are when they give you tips on how early to arrive at your visa appointment — that stuff is important but it’s been done. This is more of an experiment in what it’s like for an anxious and self-obsessed career sabotager to walk away from a job, a house, tens of dozens of friends, and move to another country at the age of 33.