What I did find, though, amidst the angst and pathos, was honesty. It was heavy and dark, and often self-indulgent, but it was real. And I found, surprisingly, that I was a better writer in college than I am now. That realization cost my pride more than a little bit. After college and grad school, I spent almost ten years as a professional writer and consultant before deciding to take my days in a new direction -- and to think that my writing actually didn't improve over that time stings. I'll rationalize it by assuming that my technical writing got really good, and my personal writing suffered from a lack of attention, and that may help me sleep tonight, but still -- ouch.
I was particularly surprised to be reminded by my journals how angry I was. I wasted a great deal of time and energy spilling my anger onto the pages of journals, bathing the paper with sweeping passes of ink, the spiral-bound pages scored deeply with the force of my words. If I could go back to that girl and tell her anything at all, I would want her to know that all of her rage would make her suffer more than she needed to. And that if she could let go and forgive, even if she was still angry, she would be doing the lion's share of the work necessary to become truly happy. Because, after all, forgiveness isn't a choice you make one time. You make it every day -- you continue to forgive constantly, you choose it again and again. And sometimes just getting started is the hardest part.
There was a time when I felt that the quality of my personal writing was directly related to how unhappy I was, as if the formula read, discontent = inspiration. Or, misery = brilliance. I see now that that's not the case. But I can finally say, today, that even if it was -- even if I had to choose between being unhappy and a great writer, and happy and someone who could not define herself as a writer -- I'd give up the words in a heartbeat.
It's not even a contest anymore.