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.