Tess Simpson (who is most definitely not a twat) has been aggressively writing ‘BYE!’ at the end of the day since 1995. She’s also been sharing what she wrote back then in her brilliant blog If Destroyed Still True. Here she tells us about how all that came about as well as what it all means to her.
You’ve been blogging your diaries since April 2014, how did you get to a place where you wanted to share your diaries with the world? I first started thinking about it during the Somerset Levels winter flooding in 2013-14. I wondered what possessions I’d be most upset to lose in a flood or a fire and realised I’d be very sad if didn’t have my diaries. They’re so full of little memories (often in minute detail and sometimes with diagrams!) that I’d never remember if I hadn’t written them down. For example, I would never have remembered what the house of my first crush looked like from 2 different angles.
How old were you when you started keeping a diary and what made you start? I was 12. My friend Hayley gave me a little diary as an early 13th birthday present in 1995 and I wrote in it the next night to record how shattered I was after my early birthday sleepover. It got a little bit more interesting than that as time went on once boys had entered my radar.
What was your life like at the time? I lived in a very safe village with my very stable family, hence my diary worryings were about extremely minor things like who I’d have to sit next to on the bus and why a boy might have smiled at me. I spent a lot of time outside on my bike with my sister and friend Emma, which gave us plenty of time and space to plot mild stalking missions away from nosy parents.
How many years did you write your diaries for and how difficult was it to keep them going for that long? I haven’t stopped writing diaries. It’s not been a difficult thing to keep up because it’s become a habit. There are days when I can’t be bothered or I don’t have time but when something is worth remembering or is worrying me then I reach for a pen and my diary without really thinking about it. I’ll still mull things over when I’m trying to sleep but writing it down definitely helps. It’s therapeutic to rant somewhere that no-one will read it… until I put it on the internet 20 years later.
How long do you think you will keep blogging them for? IDST was only supposed to be my teenage diaries but I hadn’t thought this far ahead and I’m now 17 diary-wise. I don’t know what to do when I hit my 20s diaries. I intend to keep typing them up somewhere because I want to preserve them for myself but I don’t know if adult diaries are quite the same as teen ones. Although I was still utterly cringe-worthy as a 20-something and probably am as a 30-something.
How did you feel when you first began to read the diaries in adulthood? Ugh. I couldn’t cope! They made me laugh but want to hide. I’d read a few lines then have to look away or retreat cringing into my jumper. I also flitted between feeling glad and horrified that I had everything I did written down depending on the entry I was reading.
What kind of challenges have you faced along the way? In true diary style, I shall give this answer as a list.
– People I went to school with finding out when I accidentally posted a link to an IDST post on my personal Facebook page. That set me off worrying about what I’d said about people and what the hell they’d think about it.
– As of the other week, I found out one of the boys I wrote waaay too much about has been reading it. I’ve not cringed that much in a very long time!
– Blog and reality crossing paths and losing complete anonymity when I was asked to read my diary on stage. Live reading was NEVER something I thought I’d do but I agreed after half a jug of sangria and then couldn’t back out.
How did it feel when you first let someone else read your diaries? I didn’t really expect anyone to read IDST but when they did and someone actually commented, I got all hot and flustered! They were never meant to be read by anyone until I was long dead. It’s a warts (spots) and all account of growing up in the 90s/00s, thinking you’ve got all the biggest worries in the world, like not being allowed to stay up late to watch Pride and Prejudice, having 50 million spots and probably never getting a boyfriend.
What kind of reception have you had and how does that make you feel? Really good (so far). Surprisingly good! Most people can recognise themselves in bits of it, I suppose. Everyone was horribly embarrassing as a teenager, it’s just that not everyone has the hard evidence to prove it. The reception has been a relief. I was really worried (and still am) that people would think I’m a twat.
What do you think your diaries mean to those who read them? I’ve been told that people relate to them and, even though the situations were different, the feelings, worrying, over-analysis and reactions are all very familiar. Everyone felt self-conscious about something, everyone fancied someone that didn’t fancy them back, everyone had to snog someone for the first time.
How do the people who you wrote about feel about your blog? I don’t really know who knows about it or who reads it amongst people that actually know me. My sister and my friend Cat who both kept diaries at the same time (sometimes about the same things) find it funny and cringe-worthy in equal measure. The school friends that I’m still in touch with find it amusing as it reminds them of things they’d completely forgotten about. My first boyfriend is still coming to terms with it I think, after discovering it by chance and mentioning it to his workmates without thinking that he’d, of course, feature sooner or later. In detail.
Anything you haven’t felt brave enough to share? Not yet! The only bits I’ve left out are a few lines here and there that were too personal about other people and would be upsetting to them. I’ve changed everyone’s names and local places too. Thankfully I went through my diaries before I went to university with a big, black marker pen and redacted anything… er… graphic just in case my family found them while I was away. I reckon if I hold it up to the light I could still make out what it says though.
Do you have any favourite entries you want to highlight? I quite enjoy/cringe horribly at the ones with diagrams or drawings of people. The ones that spring to mind are The Full Monty school assembly one (that seems really dodgy now!) in which I not only listed the boys in order of fitness but also drew them. My friend Cat and I were also thrilled/horrified to discover that we had diary entries about the same party and the Cat-based MAJOR GOSSIP that ensued.
What do you think of yourself when you look back at what you wrote? I actually think I’ve not really changed that much as my brain still works overtime worrying unnecessarily. I’m not as spotty and stalker-y but I do still really love owls.
If you could return to the late nineties and give yourself any advice, what would it be? STOP WORRYING! Also, stick a bet on Man United winning the treble in 1999.
Finally, I’ve published my diary in full in book form – is this something you would consider? This is the first time I’ve thought about it. I’m not sure I would. At least with IDST I could delete the lot if I one day regretted sharing everything with the world!