Sunday, 26 August 2012

Dead-Tree Diaries

That sounds like the name of an HBO drama, but what I'm talking about is actual paper journals and diaries.

I used to keep them religiously.  I still have most of them and sometimes I go through them, and it's weird to remember things from when I was a kid that seemed so important at the time, but I would never even remember now if I wasn't reminded.

I still have a journal, I always have one on the go, but I've gotten really bad at keeping it up to date.  It's something I actually beat myself up over a lot.  I feel like maybe if I wrote in my journal more, I'd be more at peace, or something along those lines.  Like it would help me sort out my thoughts or something.

But I don't know. The journal I have on the go now I've had since I started university in 2006.  It literally spans six years of my life, my entire undergraduate degree, and I plan to get a new one in January when I start grad school - I feel like that's a good time to end it.  It's one chapter of my life and I don't think it would do it justice by including the next chapter as well.

The thing is, to fit six years in one journal, I definitely did not keep very good track of my life.  There are times when I wrote incredible regularly, and times when I wrote once every few months - one gap is almost a year, I think.

I tend to get mad at myself for that.  I look at the gaps and think, "When I'm ninety and losing my memory, these are all I'm going to have to hold on to, this is going to take the place of my memory, and I am going to have these huge gaps..."

But, I'm starting to think that maybe that isn't a bad thing.  Maybe some things are better off not being remembered.

I wrote a little 'epigraph' in the front of my journal (which, when I got it, I named "Tapping the Dream Tree" after a collection of Charles deLint stories) a few weeks ago when I flipped through it and realized it spanned my undergrad.  This is what I wrote:
It's amazing what can change in six years.  This is an entire chapter of my life, my years as an undergrad, in one book, and it simply gets progressively worse and more miserable.  I hope the next one goes the other way.
And, mellodramatic as that sounds, it's true.  My initial entries are really hopeful and excited.  Three long-term boyfriends, two sad breakups, one unrequited puppy love, estrangement from my family, a year and a half of near-crippling depression, and one really, really awful breakup and heartbreak later, it's a depressing fucking read.

Of course there are good things peppered throughout it.  And of course I am glad I documented the awful things that happened to me.  But I'm also glad that I didn't document every passing ache and pain and moment of fear.  Because, to be honest, these last two years have been some of the hardest of my life, and I feel like I'll remember them for long enough.

When I'm ninety and losing my memory, maybe that will be more of a blessing than a true loss.  There's enough of it in that journal for posterity, a history of my life could be cobbled together well enough.  Any archaeologist could easily fill in the blanks if they knew my online usernames.

I love the idea of paper journals and diaries.  I think there is something special about them, and there will always be a part of me that wants to leave something more tangible than my web presence behind (well, you know, in a post-apocalyptic future, we may not have the Internet anymore, and maybe journals found in ruins will be all the archaeologists have to go on - that is seriously the logic that silly part of my brain takes).

But I think it's important that I remember that it's not a bad thing to leave some stuff out.  Not everything needs to be remembered and recorded.  Some things are better off forgotten.  It's okay if I leave things out, purposefully or not.

In the end, life should be more about living it than recording it, anyway.  And while it is a good exercise and a good way to organize your thoughts, it's just an addendum.  It's not really the story.

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