If only good girls keep diaries, then I must be a very good girl.
“When did I ever have time to write this much?” I said to myself when, in another rainy-day induced fit of house cleaning, I uncovered over a decade’s worth of journals and diaries. Most are thick enough to be worthy of the label “tome.” Few contain content worthy of any label besides “meaningless nonsense.”
I can’t remember ever not having a book to write stuff down in. In my tween and early teen years I keep “diaries.” While most kids would sneak a flashlight under their covers to read Treasure Island (or US Weekly?) I’d make a tent and take an erasable pen to a notebook. Each entry began with the ceremonious “Dear Diary.” (I know. Right? Gag me with a spoon.)
At 16, with a driver’s license pending, college nearing, and hormones raging, I decided daily happenings in my life might become significant enough to start treating my “personal” notebooks more seriously.
Good-bye, diary. Hello journal.
Good-bye faux letters that droned on and on about the boy who threw crayons at me in art class. Hello mini faux essays with an imposed sense of the profound… about the boy who studied with me before each calculus exam.
As a scholar, journals accounted for a third of my resources on any research project. At times it was a tedious process — reading the day-to-day accounts and musings of someone with whom I had no direct personal relationship, hoping to find gem of a detail that would prove a revelation in the history of art… Mostly, I learned what my subject liked to eat for breakfast…
In my own life, I make it a habit to sit down and read the pages of my most current journal. In doing so, I mostly discovered that meaningless nonsense is surprisingly revealing — there are life lessons to be gleaned from your unpublished, unedited, unmediated autobiography. Mistakes I made in dealing with challenging situations, mistakes I made in love, right life decisions, questionable life decisions — it was all there, laid out in my own words. My journal was my own handwritten guide to” what not to do.”
There are many reasons to keep a journal — for the sake of having memories, as a place to vent — but perhaps the best reason to have a journal is to have reminder that you’re constantly moving forward.