You really would not have been able to tell, from my barely touched and poorly-written teen diaries, that writing was an activity I would someday be paid for. I averaged about two entries per entire journal, and at some point stuffed them all into a large metal lockbox to hide them from my parents and lost the key.

Unfortunately for all of us, the only diary I still have with any real extended narrative arc is the one I brought with me on a six-week teen tour of Israel when I was 16. For once, I wrote diligently (though not particularly insightfully) because I was fairly convinced that I was in the midst of a formative experience worth remembering. At this point in my life, I loved Israel—a place I knew very little about—and was not yet attuned to any thoughtful explanations as to why a person might not, so to me the trip was simply an elaborate staging ground for improving my makeout skills and learning to draw blue eyeliner on my bottom lid only.

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In this diary, my teenage self said some dumb and occasionally kind of fucked up things that make me wish this happened longer than 11 years ago; I referred to someone as “an insecure bitch slut,” for one, which strikes me as overkill. In another entry I wrote after a visit to Masada, I wondered at the ability of ancient Jews to commit mass suicide and noted, stirringly, that it “made me think.” About what? I did not specify. Mostly, though, I made lists: lists of inside jokes that make no sense (who can forget “the penis truck stop”), lists of things that irritated me, lists of who was in my room that night, rotating lists of people I liked and did not like, and one pretty upsetting list of songs to download when I got home:

I remember feeling a deep and almost violent pressure to recap every single thing that happened to me, but context or emotional reflection was too exhausting, I guess. In the entry below, for example, I complained about the hotel in Jerusalem that we were stuck in for about a week without once mentioning why we were stuck there (the 2006 Lebanon War):

Since Sunday we’ve been staying at the Shalom Jerusalem hotel, which I dislike for a few reasons:

  • No fridge
  • Everyone is on a different floor
  • Too big

(In retrospect, these issues seem like they were out of the hands of the Shalom Jerusalem hotel.)

But there are a lot of gorgeous British guys, some of whom we made friends with and kept us up late the past 2 nights. (Author note: I’m not sure what I was trying to imply to my diary, but none of us hooked up.) On Sunday, we went into a stalagwhatever cave, which was pretty cool, but I forgot to add that before we left Agron that morning after watching a fascinating (not) documentary on Israeli rappers, all of the groups were sitting together in the courtyard and someone was playing “Wonderwall” on the guitar and I just felt so safe and peaceful and loved and it was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Yikes.