My very first diary had a lock on it. Trembling with anticipation, I took the tiny key and inserted it into the locking mechanism and turned until I heard that magical sound. “Click!” The tab popped open and there before me, lay fresh, untouched, lined pages just waiting to have my story written on them. Where would I hide my treasured words, for surely a lock would not be enough to keep interlopers away. I had little brothers and sisters and a big brother, too. As a fourth grader, there were secrets to tell, stories to write, friendships to analyze and emotions to explore. At least I thought so.
Here is a sample of my writing from that diary.
“Today was a bad day.”
Later on that same month I wrote, “Today was a good day.”
Not my best descriptive writing.
The bad days clearly outnumbered the good ones. Fourth grade was not a good year. Ever. For anyone I’ve ever talked to. (But that topic is for another day.)
Further on in the year I resorted to smiley faces or frowney faces. Apparently writing my thoughts and feelings proved a task beyond my years.
I didn’t begin journaling in earnest until I was thirteen. How serious could my writing have been back then? Serious enough to me that I wrote every single day. I filled pages and pages and pages of lined paper, front and back. I have several boxes full of binders that served as my journals through my teen years. Unfortunately on many of those pages I wrote in pencil. Or maybe fortunately, since I’m pretty embarrassed about who I was back then. Clearly in my teenage ramblings I was angst ridden, overly dramatic, too sensitive, lonely, shy, awkward, geeky, confused and sad. I was also naïve, gullible, suspicious, angry, silly and unusual. It takes some chutzpah to let myself read that stuff.
Remember yourself at thirteen?
I try to be kind to that young woman. She was simply trying the best she knew how to get through life unscathed. She had led a blessedly simple and fairly sheltered life. The teen years are a brutal, eye-opening, tangled path to make one’s way through. Writing about that journey helped make sense of some of it. Admittedly, from this many years looking back, there was some missing logic, some flawed thinking and some wrong assumptions that were significant and painful to navigate.
I’m thinking about rereading all of those journals. I’m not sure I’m up for it. Not sure my psyche can face those raw, bared emotions. It’s probably great stuff for use in a novel. Some of it belongs in a fire, a ritual burning with some kind of ceremony, like a cremation. Wouldn’t a formal goodbye, a letting go, be psychologically healthy?
Not sure I want my children or grandchildren reading about my life without some explanations, justifications, photographs, background info, apologies. It would be a really good idea to do some editing, some separating of the wheat from the chaff, winnow the merely embarrassing from the highly incriminating.
Maybe I could just write in bold black letters on the boxes, “To be burned, unread, upon my death.” There ya go. No reliving the past required if I do that. Ah, but would they, my children and grandkids honor that request? Would you burn your mother’s journals without reading them even if she asked you to? Me neither.
There are three or four boxes of journals stacked in my closet. More than half from my “grown up” writings. Those others, emotion laden and heavy with more than paper, keep calling to me. So I’m considering the idea of slogging through the muck of my teen life and draining that swamp memory a bit. It’d be nice to clear some space in the closet. Even better, it’d be nice to clear some space in my head.
- Journal Your Way to Stress Relief (everydayhealth.com)