Thursday, October 23, 2008

At 16

In the months leading up to my wedding, I observed a sort of ritualistic catharsis by reading through old diaries.

The entries, as one would expect, were a riot of cringe, funny, angst and pain.

It felt a bit odd going through each one, almost as if I was an intruder bearing witness to the life playing out on the pages.

Because I was so different then, but still so Saaleha.

I ended each quasi-voyeuristic reading by tearing up the pages. 

I was letting go to make space for new things.

However, like any wannabe godplaying wordsmith, I took notes. 

I never wanted to forget what 16 was like. 

Even though I'd grown beyond the insecurities and other mental blocks, it was an age ripe with what was to come.

Here are some of those notes, with a little careful editing to preserve some semblance of pride.

(I'm not sure why I tend to refer to myself in the collective, perhaps I'm spreading the loaded responsibility of what I write across all my personalities.)


At 16 we're emo. 
Over the top. 
Histrionic, theatrical. 
We overuse metaphor - bunjee jumping, precipice, mach 3, ground zero, sans parachute, plummeting.
We overuse words - pain, rejection, unrequited, dramatic, therapy, voices in my head.

We begin with new years resolutions for the year 2000-
  • lose weight
  • read namaaz
  • read quraan
  • study hard
  • be disciplined
  • make an effort not to miss school or madressah
  • be more assertive - as headgirl and in everyday life.
  • be neat
  • learn how to drive
  • talk less and listen more
  • 'be there' for my friends
  • refrain from gossiping and passing bitchy comments
  • look upon everything and everyone as beautiful in their own way
  • smile more
  • be more understanding
  • learn how to cook
  • drink 8 glasses - more if possible- of water daily
  • start an exercise routine and stick to it
  • build up my self confidence
  • finehone my writing skills - start a thought journal
  • remember that folks are just folks and people are rarely intentionally nasty or stuck up
  • don't be judgemental
  • compliment at least one person daily
  • don't be a doormat
  • get up earlier
  • be more helpful and considerate
  • don't litter- don't be part of the problem, become the solution
  • set an example
  • lighten up
  • save the world!

Death shocks the young - we wrote of a friend's passing, the regret and the lessons learnt - to not hurt each other because life is indeed short and the Almighty knows best.

We had self-esteem issues - never thought we were good enough or deserved the best. 
We seemed to prefer fantasy, living in that dream world. 
We learnt not to underestimate ppl or pass judgements.

"I like to write in pencil, easier to erase"

We thrived on unrequited love, the chase, the longing
We used to listen to 5fm while we wrote in our diaries, pencilling in the name of a computer college advertised, because we weren't quite sure where we fitted.
We had a crush on a boy.

We tended to vacillate -I love him, I cant believe I ever liked him, and on and on.
We were superficial.
We were terrified about the future. and being friendless and nameless.
We realised we were on the continuous search for The One, the elusive ideal.
We used to write for an imaginary audience that we obviously tried very hard to impress.
We realised we wanted to write. Really write. We wanted to inspire awe, be glorious and spellbinding.
We thought we hadn't suffered enough to write brilliantly.
Our fear was that we would waste our talent.
We feared being ignored.
We thought we were manic-depressive.

We met someone at a party. We thought he was amazing. We were swept up in the moment. We forgot what he looked like and made up a picture in our head when we spoke to him over the phone. We learnt soon that evening-time was a witch who liked practical jokes.
We panicked when he put his hand on our thigh during the longest trip home.
We cringed and we wanted to die.
We were horrified when we learnt he didnt like poetry.

We were more attracted to boys who didnt show any interest in us.
We often wrote about suspected psychological disorders.

We liked writing because it immortalised the ephemeral.
We liked using words like ephemeral.

We thought often of the One.
We didnt want a mirror of ourselves - someone who reflected our faults, shortcomings or virtues. We didnt want perfection.

We made the 'first move', and it was thrilling and scary.
We loved the power, the fact that we could make things happen.

We found out he liked another girl. She was pretty, funky and thin. For us this meant she was perfect, and better than us.
We liked his goofy laugh and smile, the dumb things he said, we admired his confidence.

We were afraid of commitment, afraid of solidifying things into concrete definition.
We didnt know if we were in love, only that we felt deeply.

We couldnt get over the fact that someone crushed back, that we were desirable.

Our last matric paper was Afrikaans. We were afraid of the changes that we'd see. 
We felt like we were losing something. We were afraid we'd never find friends like the ones we had.
"leave the sunshines of your past to face the fires of your futures" - something we wrote once.

Our weight was a 'heavy issue' - we intended all puns.
We realised we always fell for the goofiest, quirkiest characters.
For us, leaving school was like jumping off a very high cliff.

We learned that good can come from bad and that we learn from every life experience.

We were intrigued by the strange boy who'd come to the shop and stare at us.
We felt fat, unattractive, stupid and unfriendly.
We were whiney, yet we tried to inspire ourselves towards Better.
We realised we liked goofy quirky guys because they didnt intimidate us.
We were afraid of failing at varsity, of making the wrong friends or none at all, of losing ourselves.

We seemed to feel empty alot, We doubted whether we'd ever find the real thing.

We got our matric results - 4 As, 2Bs.
We got interviewed by Radio Islam because of this success.

Our insecurities concerned us. We wanted to be thin and pretty. We wanted fame and acknowledgement but were afraid of becoming conceited.
We didnt want to be a carbon copy, we didnt want mediocrity to swallow us.



Nielfa Hanifa said...

I like this post...

"I like to write in pencil, easier to erase"

... was (and probably still is,) so me.

You're giving me ideas on wanting to bare what my past scribblings had to say.

M Junaid said...

this was laovely lass :)
you haver also inspired me to dig up some off my older writings :)
ive always liked the quiet quirky ones.
but MJ at 16 wasnt into girls at all. He was into Volleyball and Nintendo 64

KimyaShafinaaz said...

"We thought we hadn't suffered enough to write brilliantly."

Shafs still thinks that.. And you know what? Fate obliges with some more scoOps. Sadism can be sUch a thing. But the words still tend to look like a river of fudge for now.

:) enjoyed reading this. been packing up some old school/uni stuff and not daring to read old journals for fear of wanting to tear them up!
i use my old toybox as a trunk to keep the diaries and cards and momentos of old. but after this im tempted to dig it up and (cringe) reminisce :P

Azra said...

Two questions:

How many of the "resolutions" came to fruition?

And how on earth did you get a hold of my diary???

This post really resonated with me, I can relate to every line. It made me smile and laugh and want to cry too :) The problem with me though is that I still feel stuck there...I'm wondering when is it going to be my turn to "grow up"?

Thanks for sharing :D

KiLLa said...

Thanks for letting me read a whole book at 2am.. lol

Killa @ 16 was about games and cricket in the park..

I see the old archives still exist or is that from the medulla oblongata

word veri - cordiss

Blue Sunflower said...

Oh my word.....

I feel as though I am reading stuff about myself and to be honest you have me thinking back to those times - Oooh I really dont wish to be 16 again, but thinking back did put a smile on my face.


Work in Progress said...

Oh to be young and untainted, to think anything is possible... 16 feels like eons ago. Not sure I'd want to go back though but I liked this post. Like Nielfa, i still write in pencil - maybe we never really outgrow being too cautious.

There was a boy, he wrote me notes and left flakes at my desk. Seems so innocent and simple now. I'd kill for simplicity at this point.

Nafisa said...

I really enjoyed reading this...took me back to when I was a teenager too. How we've grown.

Khadija said...

I had to read this again. It stayed with me throughout yesterday and I woke up with it reverberating through me. It's amazing how everybody can find a little bit of themselves in it. :)

Princess said...

This post has so much of me it in, made me look back and think of many me things :) Thanks for this post

Saaleha Bamjee-Mayet said...

In a conversation with Khadija yesterday, it was mentioned that even though we all felt so alike at that age, the irony was that we all felt so alone in it at the time:)

As for which resolutions came to pass:
I can drive and cook.
I forget to drink water.
I'm still a bit untidy.
Unless I'm on deadline - I find it very hard to get up early.
I work on being assertive everyday.
While I still have moments of limitation, my self-confidence has definitely improved and my only regret is that I wasted so much time caught up in my imagined inadequacies.
Saving the world is in my ten-year plan.

Naaz said...

This is soo scary.

I was part of that "WE", i know who and what you talking about..

And i have to admit we were so wierd, but looking back "WE" have all grown sooo much and have come sooo far!!

'liya said...

Fabulous post! (I remember those days :D)

ME said...

This post sounds like me at 16. I was part of that "WE" also.

shameema said...

There are things in your post that I can identify with for sure but i dont think it was at 16. You sound like an awesome 16 year old who actually had a clue compared to me.

I dont remember caring about the world at 16, I was too interested in what my exucse for getting out of the house was going to be.

While you were making new years resolutions I was dancing the night away.

I wouldnt trade it for anything but yeh my youth was definatly wasted.

ExMi said...

i have been meaning to comment on this all week...

i read through some of my old writing as well, it's strange how there seems now to be a sense of calm coming through, whereas years ago it was all frenetic and disjointed.

i think i might have grown up somewhere along the line..

Saaleha said...

that means that I was one abnormal 16 year old :P

Zahera said...

I was a stupid 16 year old! Sometimes i think im still as stupid! loooll.

Lovely post Saals- can relate to some of it although Zesty at 16 was pretty much like the lads- looll into Nintendo and riding bikes believe it or not!

Anonymous said...

I went to Farmland last week and was commanded to clean up my old room.
My favourite find in my cupboard of forgotten things, was my Hajj diary, which I forgot about writing in during the 5 Days of Hajj as, I don't know, there were sooo many other important things to do! Lol....but it was funny. I was 13 and wrote a lot of junk and I can't believe I wrote about the guy that was throwing up behind me in the aeroplane (and now I'm writing it here in your blog).
I made my brother read how boring his birthday was (we were in Makkah) and I made my mother read how my parents were driving me nuts (still happens until today).

I had a book of crappy poems - interestingly, the one got published in some lame anthology which I received a letter about, but I was a student and it was free so I received no acknowledgement besides the letter (and I threw out the letter after that - so now I don't even have proof that it happened! Stupid 14 year old me).

Thank you for sharing Saaleha. It surprises me that people at 16, can actually have the same feelings and thoughts.

You actually reminded me of my own hangups and stupidity and all out doffness at that age. I realise I am sort of that age today in certain aspects...I think it makes you who you are :)

Congrats on the Radio Islam 7 years down the line ;) lol

Profane. Profound. What's your poison?