Diary of a Teenage Girl: Chris
Every month we pick one of our readers to share a week's worth of diary entries, detailing everything they're doing and feeling. Kicking off the series is 17-year-old Chris Wang from Gloucester UK. Read the rest of her entries over here.
It’s 3:39 am right now. Though the sky is still essentially opaque with liquid darkness, I’m hearing burst of twitters from morning birds I can’t see. My mind is racing in a panicky state doing that thing where I’m counting down exactly how many minutes of sleep I’ll get if I fall asleep exactly now. Not many: about 3 hours and 18 minutes. Today, I spoke to a friend whom I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. She told me, “I’m in that stage where you’re kind of lost in your subconscious not really feeling anything,” which is something I’m sure most people have felt. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact gutsy feeling; in my personal experience, it’s ambivalence to the point of numbness. I can’t make my body feel any different to how it is feeling at that moment in time. The reason this makes me sad is that, although it’s inevitable we have to feel the full spectrum of human emotion, we alwaysnever expect it and want to protect it from the ones we love.
I expend a lot of energy trying to adapt myself to situations, or fixating on whether or not other people care about what I do. It’s something I’m trying to change. This is my last year in secondary school before I go off to university, and the shift in people in the way people think and behave is almost seismic. With only five or six months left of school, more and more people seem to branch out in new ways which is so, so cool. Part of me realizes that the only reason people around me seem to matter is because they are presently there. Will I care what they think of my Instagram when I live far away from them? Probably not. So really, I shouldn’t care at all right now. I have a lot of goals and things I want to do before I finish school, but sometimes I feel like I can’t do them because I feel the weight of the world watching me or that no-one’s really interested enough — in either the thing, or me, to do them with me. Ultimately, people don’t really care about you that much, which both soothes and terrifies me. My ego demands that people care, but my self-esteem promises myself they don’t. I get the shivers when someone says or does something that shows they’ve been listening; they understand me, they comprehend what I’m trying to express. But really, my validation needs to come more from me. To shake off murky uncertainty and move with love, from within.
Stress levels hit a peak today. Aside from the nervous energy of anticipation and preparation for a university interview, let alone at one as prestigious as Oxford university, I feel like I’m coming off as frustrated and clumsy. I’m having a hard time maintaining my natural comfortable personality — I feel slightly out of my depth and swamped, and I can hear my internal voice critiquing my actions. “Oh, that tone came off weird.” “You sat down far too heavily on that chair.” “Don’t drop your cutlery… oh, too bad.” I’ve been here three hours and I’ve already managed to lock myself out twice and set off a door alarm. Sorry. I’m finding it kind of hard to justify why I should be here, especially when others applying for the same subject seem so content and self-assured, with complex thought-out strategies of extra reading weaved into their day-to-day plan. I love, love, love my subject and I’m cramming myself full of knowledge around it, but I also feel skittish and displaced. It’s probably first night nerves, which will hopefully evaporate by tomorrow.
I called my friend who was also in Oxford, at another college, and she came over and stroked my hair for 15 minutes before she had to head back in time for curfew. I guess there’s quite a lot I don’t talk about with my friends. I’m not sure what “the norm” is, or whether black moods hit others constantly as well, so I don’t really bring it up in case it’s unnecessary and narcissistic, but they are babes who remind me to call them if I need to talk and make me hot chocolate with almond milk when I cry. They seem to understand the unspoken which I really appreciate, and I hope I can do the same for them.
I’ve fallen in love with this city. It’s beautiful and lively; the stone walls seems to resonate with centuries of history, and the studious quiet inside the colleges is juxtaposed by the feel-good vibes of the ice cream bar just around the corner. This morning all the Law interviewees gathered in a glossy white stucco room, complete with a green-tiled art deco fireplace for a subject meeting with the tutors who will conduct interviews. The takeaway: “You are all incredible students, but the bottom line is that there are 20 of you here, and only seven or eight places available.” Everyone is amiable and conversational; there are people from all walks of life, but it’s hard not to detect the undercurrent of competition occasionally bubbling to the surface in glaring side-eyes and raised eyebrows.
My ma is currently in China and she woke up at 3 am Chinese time to call me before my first interview. She’s basically taking a two-week break to reconnect with herself and her side of the family after living abroad and missing them for 20 or so years. Another reason apparently is that I’m hard to parent (thanks, Dad!). I can appreciate that it must be crazy difficult trying to raise two kids in an environment and a culture the complete polar opposite to what she grew up with, but I’m not sure whether it was malicious of my father to tell me she was crying the other day because she was sick of being my mother or that she’s constantly stressed when I go out or to a gig.
At some point, every 17 year old fantasizes about running away to Berlin or somewhere equally promising without a second thought for their family, or leaving everything to travel the world when they’re older with no responsibilities. But really, I have to balance pursuing this bubbling wanderlust I’ve cooped up inside with the cutting reality that I can’t just leave my parents. Not to live life pandering to their whims, but understanding and respecting how much they gave up for me to be where I am now, for which I am eternally thankful for. It does leave a bad taste in my mouth though whenever I simply live out my life as an adolescent — though do I have any right to demand that? I don’t think I should be burdened with the knowledge that my mother grows tired of being my mother, but maybe that’s selfish.
I had two interviews today and they blew me out of the water. In hindsight, I genuinely really enjoyed them — they were surreal, and my mind was stretched to depths I literally cannot comprehend. Given the opportunity, I would study at Oxford in a heartbeat. And although I can’t help but consider the “what-if’s” of the opportunity cost of the social life I could have at another university, the larger-than-life academic opportunities and vocational benefits of such a prestigious university gives me chills.
A rather nice thing happened today in my French language interview when she asked if there were any French books or films I particularly liked. “Oui,” I replied, and went on to talk about my favorite film, “I Killed My Mother” by Xavier Dolan. She erupted. “I love Xavier! He’s my absolute favorite director. He’s a prodigy. An ‘enfant terrible’.” It definitely displaced the rigid interview structure I had expected, turning it into a pleasurable conversation on something we both adored. I’ve been blasting “White Flag” by Dido in a wave of nostalgia for Dolan’s films, reading all his latest interviews and articles. It becomes a cinematic rabbit-hole, one Wikipedia link leading to another, but there’s literally nothing better than a good stalk. I feel like his films capture the ennui of adolescence in incredible tender detail. The characters reverberate with such intensity on-screen and the tension is so palpable you can feel it emanating out to your, soaking your bones in the satisfying things you wish you could say and do in real life. Big up, Xavier Dolan.
A plane just flew by in the sky and it looked like a shooting star. I left Oxford this morning. I didn’t get called to another college for an additional interview (none of the law applicants at my college did, strange) so all I can is wait until results on the 11th of January. This experience has felt unreal, not entirely part of my actual life. The last time I felt like this was when I took the train up north to see my friends in Nottingham for their band’s first headline gig. After the gig at 2am by the River Trent, as everyone took turns playing songs on the bluetooth speaker, the quiet boy to my left stood up and declared: “Put some Spanish music on, I need to dance.” And he was really, really good. I still have the photo I took on my disposable camera. But after he’d finished his last twirl, he came and sat down again, and looked apprehensively into the center of the circle. He laughed, short and nervous, “This sounds gay — no wait, I don’t mean it that way, that sounds homophobic. I mean, this is cringe guys but I mean,” his gaze shifted out to the dark river and back, “I text you guys ‘Are you out?’ and sometimes you reply, and sometimes you don’t, but you never text me. I always ask you guys.” He laughed again. I guess moments like that stick in my mind because of the emotional vulnerability and openness in them — maybe it was the cover of darkness and the buzz of smoke that gave him the courage. If you’re wondering, he was thoroughly welcomed into the pack. Then we put” Dancing in the Moonlight” on and he waltzed into the fourth dimension on the concrete banks of the river. Beautiful and surreal.
Maybe when I’m older I’ll have collected all sorts of experiences and I’ll write a book of short stories based on all of my hazy half-drawn memories. I want very much to live the golden youth idolized in John Hughes films; yeah, I get that real life gets in the way and it’s not always the reality, but sometimes I catch glimpses of it and I hold tight to those memories because they make the other bits worth living for.
By Chris Wang, 17