Two things have made me decide to go look at my old high school era blog and reread the entries there. One was the fact that my favorite manga of all time, Cardcaptor Sakura by CLAMP, is getting a sequel (and the first chapter came out this month!) so I reread the second half of the manga, volumes 7-12, had a lot of revelations over parts of the story I had forgotten, and wanted to know what my 15/16-year-old self thought of them originally when I read them for the very first time. I knew those things would likely be chronicled in my blog from that time, so I opened it up. I’ve also been experiencing some difficulties with my sister lately and I feel like a lot of it is rooted in the fights we had when we were teenagers, so that was another reason to look back at my thoughts then.
It has been pretty eye-opening to relive that time. I forgot how many of the fights I had with my parents (dad mostly) and sister revolved around the Internet and the computer. This was 2002, and until we got DSL we had dial-up, which meant that while my sister and I had our own desktop computers, only one of us could be online at a time, so we fought a lot over whose turn it was. Of course there were no smartphones and Wifi giving us 24/7 Internet access. And then my dad decided we were staying up too late, so he set a timer for the Internet to shut off at midnight, which was the source of so many fights as well. He was also concerned we were “downloading too much” (we downloaded a lot of anime and music) and he didn’t understand that, for example, simply leaving a music program open did not mean anyone could access my computer and download files from it (and when I tried to explain this to my parents, my mom would just say “Listen to him, he knows about these things.” But he didn’t know better in that case).
I had sort of forgotten what it was like to live in my parents’ house and have to abide by their ridiculous rules. I am so, so glad I live on my own and support myself 100% and don’t have to do what they say anymore. There were silly religious things they made us do too–like an hour of Bible study every Sunday (I was raised Christian, and my parents would be deeply disappointed to know I am very much agnostic now, and will definitely never identify as Christian or believe in its teachings again).
But remembering how I was expected to obey whatever my dad said, no matter how ill-informed or misguided, has made me realize that the Christian concept of “the man is the head of the household, and the wife must submit to him” is just complete bullshit, and actually severely negatively impacted my childhood. Because I think that the majority of the time, it was actually my mom who knew best about how we should be raised. She has a degree in child development, has worked in preschools and elementary schools, and she understands children very well. But it was my dad who made the decisions, and she had been taught by Christianity that it is the wife who submits, so she would go along with his decisions. I really feel like that’s what gave me the anxiety/anxious attachment style I have spent so many years dealing with. Because at a word from my dad, my mom’s nurturing could be taken away from me. I felt like I couldn’t rely on it to be there consistently. “Stop crying!” he’d bark, having no patience for our emotional reactions. He punished us by spanking us with a long, narrow, rectangular paddle he’d actually made himself (he dabbled in woodworking). He called it the Foolishness Remover. We lived in fear of that thing. It was so painful.
It was good to figure this out, because for so long I couldn’t understand what in my childhood gave me anxiety and insecurity, seeing as how I did feel loved growing up, and I still feel loved now. In a way it’s easier to engage with my parents as adults, and their house now is like a relaxing refuge for me and my sister. It’s where we go to unwind in a quiet, luxurious place. But I also felt like my dad’s love was conditional on good behavior and godliness. I still feel that way. I feel like to my parents, the most important thing was to raise good Christian daughters. I think my sister and I are great people. We have strong moral codes and we generally try to do the right thing and help other people. We have good jobs/professional success and we live independently and support ourselves. We’re not addicted to drugs or begging them for money or freeloading off them or anything. By all means, we are dream adult children. We are just not religious. But to them, the “not religious” part would cancel out everything else. I’ve always felt like who I am (a weirdo more interested in Japanese stuff than getting married, having kids, and going to church every Sunday like a normal person) disappoints my parents, and sometimes I would spend so much energy trying to be someone they would like more.
But I also came across so many things that impressed me about my former self. The transition between age 15 and 16 was monumental. All of a sudden I was sounding so much more mature and self-aware. At 15 I was very silly but by 16 I was already pondering things deeply. Like this:
July 11, 2002: Too much extra attention bugs me, it makes me afraid that people will start thinking I’m a know-it-all and stuff… I really shouldn’t worry though, there are so many stupid (MALE!) know-it-alls in our class who’ve got that covered, they’re all “Oh, i think this question is phrased wrong, you should correct it” or “That answer’s wrong, allow me to explain it for you and make sure everyone knows that I’m here because I’m smart.” We’re all smart, no one needs to prove it, so SHUT UP. I hate people like that; unfortunately, they’re quite common in I.B. and it’s really annoying.
CALLING OUT MANSPLAINING AT AGE 16, WHAT A BADASS.
But really though, that used to annoy me so much. “I.B.” is the International Baccalaureate program, which my high school had and which I participated in partially (mainly because everyone else around me was, and also it was the only way I could attend my high school, because it wasn’t my zoned high school). Looking back on it I don’t really think I.B. was all that worthwhile and it was a crazy amount of work, but at the time I just did what everyone else was doing so I could stay with my friends.
I did feel ashamed of a lot of my younger self’s thoughts. I first got into anime and Japanese (wanting to learn Japanese) in middle school, and my sister soon did as well, which was very threatening to me. For my whole life I’d felt like she just imitated me, like we almost always ended up liking the same things at the same time, and I wanted to keep anime and Japanese as my thing and keep her away from it. That was foolish, of course. So a lot of fights would happen because I selfishly refused to share certain things with her, so in retaliation she would refuse to share certain things with me (like when she bought a PS2 and wouldn’t let me pay for half of it so it could be half mine, and then she would be able to kick me off when I was playing Kingdom Hearts because the game system wasn’t mine). I also felt like, in terms of Japanese, which we were both trying to learn words from and cobble together some sort of understanding of it, she was going to surpass me because she’d always done better academically than me (she has a lot more focus and dedication for studying than I do, and also she’s most likely smarter than me). So I felt very jealous and threatened that not only was she trying to copy and steal my hobbies and interests, but she was going to do it better than me.
It’s all very silly to look back on now, now I’m just like “So? Who cares?” because I feel more secure and confident in myself (and also because now, both of us have lived in Japan [my sister for 3 years, though she has moved back, and me for 4 years now] and both of us possess JLPT N1 [she got it about three years before I did] so we are basically equal now anyway), but at the time it was Very Real.
I also smile a little, of course, thinking at how I am basically living my 15-year-old self’s dream life. I live and work in Japan, I am fluent and literate in Japanese, I can buy anime crap whenever I want and go to silly anime themed cafes and events, oh and since 15-year-old me was obsessed with BL/yaoi/gay guys (well, that part hasn’t changed. I still love BL, I’m just a little less ridiculous about it now), I would be thrilled to know that I have lots of gay friends (not on purpose!). Actually, it was funny how the majority of the entries in my old blog were about guys I thought were hot and musings on how great yaoi is. It was like… I am still the same person… I still have a terrible weakness for hot guys/ikemen and BL. Aha.