For years I thought 1990 was the most pivotal year of my life. I turned 18. My father died unexpectedly and my entire life (such that it was) fell apart. Losing my father set in motion a long and exhausting chain of events that, when I put them in a list, sound a lot like a ridiculous Victorian or Gothic novel updated for the grunge era that included schemers, liars, cheats, and endless betrayals (complete with a pop soundtrack by Nirvana and 10,000 Maniacs).

But now that I’m older (wiser?) I know that 1993 was the more important year, because it was the year I started to put my life together.

My initial attempts at pulling myself out of the toxic spiral of grief and betrayal were unsuccessful (I wasn’t ready? Or the crazy people I surrounded myself were of no help?) but when I moved to Mackinac Island on July 17, 1993, it gave me the time and distance from my troubles that helped me remember that my life was actually my own—and I could take charge of it.

By the end of the summer I’d discovered truly wonderful lifelong friends, had the perfect summer romance, realized that I could stand on my own (and that I liked it that way), and I started to truly grow up and move past the dark years of drama and trauma following my father’s death.

Mackinac Girls


So here’s a snippet of my journal from July 19, 1993, my first entry in two weeks after declaring, “I need to get out of this town before I go insane.”

Note: I’ve kept the angsty melodramatic tones intact but removed some passages about my family drama and all the Douglas Copeland books I had read recently. 

Life flies by like some insane butterfly, constantly making unexpected dips and turns. Right now I’m sitting on the top of my bunk bed at Corby dorms, above Ryba’s Fudge Shop on Mackinac Island.

Saturday morning I took the Arnold Ferry and arrived on the island, my luggage ridiculously pulled behind me.

So far the people are nice, I guess, but I always crave the familiar, except when I’m in the familiar. Except things aren’t so familiar at home afterall…

I guess it all got to be too much at home…so I’ve resigned myself to living here for now. A long thin room with four girls in two bunk beds. Public facilities prevail.

My self-proclaimed “dorm alcoholic” roommate Paula (from Flint, no less) told me that a girl showed up to Corby a few weeks ago, took one look at the bedrooms, turned around and left. “Not even here two hours,” Paula said. It’s probably a fib but it makes for good copy.

I’ve been scooping ice cream. My wrists are sore just writing this. I reek of sugar sticky scream, especially Blue Moon – the scourge of my existence.

Yesterday, Paula and I were at the marina watching the sailboats come in. The winner, The Windquest, was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.

Starting to read The Color Purple today. Will switch to using a purple pen.

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