Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Value of a Journal

I've kept a journal since I was a little kid. My first one was one of those small square ones with the little lock on the front and the key you kept hidden in a secret place. You could pick them up in any grocery or stationery store. The lock could be popped just by looking at it hard but somehow that little flimsy piece of metal gave you a sense of security that the secret thoughts you poured into it were safe. My journal keeping back then was sporadic, but it left behind enough of a trail of my childhood to paint a landscape rich in color.

My journaling began in earnest when I reached 17 and a friend gave me one for my birthday. From then on, I was never without. I dug out my journals over the weekend and began reading through the volumes that told the tale of my twenties. It was in part funny (I thought I was so smart, so mature...) and in part poignant and sad (I was so lost, scrambling for a foothold). It told the tale of friendships lost and gained, crushes whose faces no longer register a picture in my mind, others I did remember after a bit of prodding, still others who I still think of to this day. It detailed events that over the years had morphed in my mind to look differently than they actually were.

There were lost loves, heartbreak, humor. Anger, frustration, missteps. All of it written out so that decades from now the pattern of my life will be defined in snippets of time peppered by the people who helped shape them and the emotions that ruled them. My mistakes made me shake my head and chuckle, the errors much easier to see now given the benefit of time and experience. The drama made me laugh out loud, how everything seemed so intense, so immediate, so necessary. It was strange to read through the decade, to watch myself mature before my very eyes. Even my handwriting changed, becoming sharper, more sure.

There were reoccurring themes. I thought I had set my writing aside in my 20s, but over and over again it was mentioned, how much I wanted it, how I would choose it above all else. Even when I wasn't actively working on a project, the passion for it remained. The drive to make it happen, somehow, some way. It was the one bright light in the darkest parts, the thing I held onto when all else seemed to be spiraling out of control.

I wonder if ten years from now, I'll look back at the journals I keep now and notice more or less of a change. The thirties were much calmer, much happier, but no less eventful. And forty is right around the corner. I know I'll keep journaling until they pry the pen from my hands. Part of me wonders who will read them when I'm gone, and will they find the journey as funny, sad, inspiring and amusing as I did looking back.

So do any of you keep a regular journal? Do you ever go back and read what you've written from years before?


Melissa Marsh said...

Since I started my blog, I haven't kept a written journal for awhile. I did for several years, however, and I had the urge to journal again last night, but couldn't find it!

Melissa Marsh said...

Kelly - make sure you check out Writer Unboxed!!!!!

Tess said...

I kept one as a kid (similar diary to yours), but haven't written in one regularly in years. Like Melissa, my blog is now the closest thing.

Rene said...

I wish I kept a journal. I've tried over the decades but I could never make it a habit. I do think they are valuable and I've tried to get my son interested. I wouldn't be surprised if my daughter starts a diary. It will be pink, heart-shaped and trimmed in maribou.

Christine said...

I've never really kept a journal, though I've tried a few times. Really, my blog is the most I've ever written that wasn't for work or a WIP.

There is something very rewarding about keeping a record of thoughts. Wish I'd done this years ago. :)

Brenda Oig said...

I never kept a journal until I got older. Now, I write in my journal nearly every day. I can't live without it now.

Congrats on winning the contest at Writer Unboxed!

Julie S said...

I tried keeping a journal several times, but it never lasted. It's strange that I blog now and that I've stuck with it for almost a year.

I wish I had kept a regular journal though; there are large stretches of time during my life where I swear I wasn't awake!