You’re not the only one who had an awkward phrase,” boasts the tagline of Mortified Nation, a recent favorite Netflix musing of mine.
The documentary follows Mortified participants as they read their childhood diaries out loud to a live audience of strangers TWH
One by one, each performer steps up to a microphone, flips open their diary, and spills their narrative of growing up, hormones and all. My personal favorite is a performer who showcases the pictures she once drew of herself and the crush she desperately longed for. With visions of the two one day riding horseback together and starting a family, the pictures are unrealistic only in the way a prepubescent girl can dream up.
I loved the Netflix documentary and was lucky to see a Mortified reading here in DC this fall. But what I equally love is how the series has made me think about my childhood and my relationship with my own childhood diaries.
I have kept a diary steadily since 2nd or 3rd grade, a fact that still amazes me given my short attention span and knack for losing things. However, in a family of six, including two sisters who I shared everything with, an older brother, and a Noah’s Ark’s worth of random pets, my diary became a sort of necessity to share and validate my existence. I didn’t write every day, but when I did, it was always an intricate, emotional dump of characters and narratives, with the occasional sloppy drawing.
Inspired by Moritified during my last visit to my parent’s house, I pulled a diary off my shelf to quickly skim through it. Instead, I found myself still plopped on the floor an hour later, utterly immersed in diary after diary, mesmerized by the words that once lived in my head five, 10, even 15 years ago. Even watching my handwriting shift from childhood scribble to teenage cursive to adult type was like witnessing myself grow up before my own eyes.
All at once it was weird and was wonderful; it was traumatic and healing. I felt like an archaeologist digging and digging through the layers of my own life.
There are lessons abound in Mortified. As some performers reveal in the documentary, the process of revisiting the stories of childhood and presenting them to others can be a sort of backwards therapy, especially for those whose childhoods held trauma. For others, the revealing of the absurdity of our childhood selves is a way of saying, “It gets better.” Because there’s nothing like the juxtaposition of the words of your crazy, embarrassing childhood self coming from the lips of your professional, mature, and (hopefully happy) adult lips.
Personally, my takeaway from Mortified has been reclaiming the significance journaling has had in my life in helping me become articulate, self-aware, and unafraid of my emotions. I’m not quite ready to read those words to an eager audience, but I am inspired by the once-six-year-old me who would probably tell me now to “keep on writing.”