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Dear Diary

I’ve been writing in a journal since I was fifteen. Sometimes I flip through the more recent ones in search of some piece of historical information but the early ones are mostly left alone. Last week I made the mistake of looking through volumes one and two. I thought my adolescent self would be charming by now. No. EGAD. True, volume one was not really written for me, but for some phantom audience. By volume two I had at least started recording the things that were happening reasonably accurately. And yes, that volume is a painful combination of melodrama and repetition, but that is true of the current volume as well. At least it’s now I am the worst parent my spouse is irritating my research is pointless I bought some pants that do not look stylish even though I was so sure they would on endless repeat instead of life stretches out in an endless wasteland of futility. That is a QUOTE from volume 1, my friends.

There is definitely value in writing. The historical record is useful (when I need to prove to my spouse that I remember things better than he does, for example), and expressive writing is therapeutic regardless of the terribleness of the product. But is there any value in keeping the damn things after a few years? I mean, presumably if 15 year old me is horrifying after 25 years, 40 year old me is going to be equally horrifying after 25 years. Should I burn them as soon as I can’t bear to read them?

Or do I keep them until I die for the purposes of fun deathbed reading? What if I die unexpectedly? Will my family have the good sense to burn them without looking at them? Do I need to paste a disclaimer on each one: Not to be read by anyone who knows me, and if you ignore my advice, you have only yourself to blame.

The only possible reason I can see to keep them is that they might help me find compassion for my children as they trek the endless wasteland of futility that is life. I mean, perhaps being humbled fifteen year old me will help current me be kind to my fifteen year old progeny.

Assuming I don’t die unexpectedly before then.

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. This made me laugh because, well, because you have a wonderful sense of humor, but also because I very much related to it. I’ve had very similar questions and thoughts about whether I should burn/dispose of my journals or mark them with “do not read.” I liked your particular statement a lot though (…you have only yourself to blame) and I might borrow it. šŸ™‚
    I will say I’ve enjoyed, or at least found it helpful, looking back on blog posts so my online journal I’ve decided can be saved for posterity.

    February 14, 2016
  2. I’ve been keeping my paper diary since I was 10. I find it fascinating to see patterns of writing — when do I write in it? (When I’m sad, AND when I’m happy. But not when I am parenting a young child, apparently, it seems), when do I write in it vs. when do I write in LJ? (No clear pattern.) Sometimes, I like to go through all of them and do “on this day”, finding the closest post to today’s date on various years.

    There is no way I will ever get rid of them, and there is no way anyone who has known me in person should ever, ever read them.

    February 14, 2016
  3. Please don’t die unexpectedly bunny. You’re so funny and honest. We need you. Your diary does sound very interesting to me, btw. The unedited workings of someone else’s mind. What could be more fascinating?

    The young me wrote in code, I’m happy to report, because the drivel I wrote about boys was private drivel and this me is just presuming my half-arsed blog covers enough stuff. Now that you mention it, the thought that it might fall into the wrong hands is bringing me out in a cold sweat. Might need to add a note to my will. Delete my blog.

    February 14, 2016
  4. Steph #

    I’ve kept a journal since my 10th birthday when I gifted a white floral jurnal with a lock and key on it as a gift. I still have it. I haven’t gone back that far but did pick up my undergrad time period two weeks ago to read about a tough “friends based” decision I made. Lo and behold, I’m still making the same mistakes. It’s slightly terrifying to me. I’d absolutely keep them. When I traveled a lot for work I’d leave instructions in the case my untimely death for the entire milk crate full of journals to be immediately burned and not read. For whatever reason it gives me comfort to know I can reality check myself though I do think I’d roll over in my grave if my family read a single word of them.

    February 15, 2016
  5. Interesting question. There was a period of time when I kept journals (sounds so much better to me than diaries). Sadly, I don’t know where they are and highly doubt I will ever find them again. Part of me is saddened by this because it would be interesting to look back on where I was 20 years ago but in reality I don’t like looking back. Even cleaning out my closet (I still have clothes from that long ago) makes me uncomfortable because it forces me to confront past experiences.

    On the other hand, blogging, at least the way I do it, which is to say all about ME, is pretty much the same thing. I did read through my archives once (they only go back 5 years) and actually found the experience to be very meaningful. No one in my family knows about my blog but if they find it after I die, I guess I’ll be dead so it won’t bother me much.

    February 15, 2016
  6. Burned at least one of mine. Nobody, including me, needs to read 200 pages better summarized as DTMFA.

    February 15, 2016
  7. I being very old and in bed, reading them aloud to my teenage granddaughter. This fantasy only works because I have not reread them myself.

    February 15, 2016
  8. Have you read the David Sedaris essay where he talks about keeping a journal? I’ve always been too self-conscious to keep a journal, which is a terrible and sad excuse. I would have been afraid that someone would read it, and in fact I have a bit of a journal phobia, because I found out about my first boyfriend’s cheating (with a good friend of mine) by reading his journal. I know, despicable. And then I stayed with him! WTF was I thinking. So wrong. I prefer to avoid remembering these things by not thinking about journals at all. However, I did just get a 5 year journal – where each page has about a paragraph’s worth of space for each of 5 years. I have kept it up for a month so far, but haven’t succeeded in recording as many cute kid moments as I wanted, mostly because I’ve had to work late and have been missing the kids. So it’s been mostly just ‘ahhhhh WTF on and the kids are awesome, I think, I haven’t really seen them lately’ type stuff. Anyway. Can’t recall your original question but as usual can completely identify with your endless repeat and really appreciated hearing it from someone else (not that I wish you to feel this way, just you know – you know).

    February 17, 2016
  9. Wouldn’t it feel like you are throwing a piece of you away if you threw the journals away? I think that’s what keeps me from discarding mine. I somehow feel like they are proof that I exist/have existed. I know it’s a really weird thing to say, given that I am currently alive and writing you this comment. But the old journals, even if I don’t read them very often, help me know that I am FROM somewhere. I can’t go back to an ancestral home, I don’t have very strong ties with my family, and so I can’t point to those things as anchors of my historical self. But there is my box of journals in the basement.
    That being said, the way you think about your journals is refreshing to me, especially that you would consider just burning them soon. And why not. LIfe and everything in it is ephemeral, and so why not just have an awesome campfire.
    But then again, there is this option you could consider: https://grownupsreadthingstheywroteaskids.com/

    February 17, 2016
  10. Ana #

    I very recently discarded my old diaries. I wasn’t charming and reading brought back negative feelings and also depressed me in the conclusion that I had changed little despite all my efforts—I still struggle with a lot of the same things, though time and age has brought a lot of perspective. I realized I would never want to pull them out and read them fondly AND the thought of my family finding and reading them should I come to an untimely end were horrifying!

    February 19, 2016
  11. SRB #

    I read that quote and pictured you in your goth makeup. I would have been friends with THAT Bunny too, despite my “I am first chair flute in symphonic band AND getting and A+ in bio” teenage self. Ugh. Youth.

    It’s hard to say whether you should keep them or not. I think with these things, if you aren’t CERTAIN that they need to go, keep them. In a box. In the basement. Revisit at a later date. Totally acceptable.

    Related: My mother found a bunch of her grandmother’s letters somehow, some time ago. There were all from the time that she met and married my great grandfather. Those were written with a very specific audience (cannot for the life of my remember who) BUT they were nice to read for an afternoon. I have no idea where they are now. This isn’t terribly helpful, but it was interesting to touch something that she touched, with great purpose and careful consideration. So there is that aspect too. So… keep them.

    February 19, 2016
  12. I have never been able to keep a diary. Just can’t. Tried to, many times, it just didn’t work. The blog is the best I could do as far as regular writing about myself goes. But a paper diary, nope.
    On the one hand, I would love to know what my parents felt and thought when they were raising the five-year old me, for example. I feel like some part of my family history is lost because we only have some disparate facts from my parents and grandparents’ lives. But then, in the grand scheme of things, it does not matter what they thought and felt, what they could pass on, they did, what is lost, cannot be recovered after their death. It will be the same with me. My children and possible grandchildren will never know the tumult that was happening in my head and heart at certain moments, unless I tell them about it. If they don’t know, they will still be alright and hopefully able to carry on a worthy, full life. šŸ˜‰
    I am tempted to write an account of our relationship with their grandparents. I do not know how much it will help though. If they find it out too soon, they might not be able to understand. It sounds spiteful of me to tell MY side of the story, and show them how low and stupid and petty their grandparents were, doesn’t it? Only to put myself in a very good light. Isn’t that just me being like what I think their grandparents are?! Tricky. I am still pondering what to do. I can always hope and count of my children being astute enough to figure things out for themselves. But if they don’t, is it this a real loss or not?
    I would enjoy reading my mum’s diary, but sadly, just like I, she never kept one. I would love to read YOUR diaries, I bet they are a hoot. šŸ˜‰

    March 10, 2016

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