Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Dear Diary: a lifetime of angst recorded for posterity…

A recent visit to a blog that I enjoy reading made me start thinking about all the old journals I’ve written and kept over the years (added note of irony: I have the exact same diary that she features on her blog as one of my earliest journals!). As much as I’d like to claim that my journals are magnificent social commentaries and works of auto-biographical merit, they’re not. In fact, most of them are purely self-indulgent angst that I’d be embarrassed to share with the world. There will be no great posthumous biography complied from my diaries. I am no Samuel Pepys who recorded the minute historical details of his society, nor any other more modern (Elizabeth Gilbert or other), witty version that I would actually enjoy reading or sharing. No, my diaries belong to a more painful, self-confessional group of writers: http://salonofshame.com/ . (As a side note, I think this would be a fabulously entertaining night out if done right! Maybe Montreal needs its own version—if it doesn’t already have one?)

From boy angst, to rage against my parents, to venting and self-pity, my journals, although somewhat of entertaining stroll through memory lane, will never make it into book form.

So why then do I keep them? Do I secretly enjoy re-living my moments of angst or feeling like I’ve come so far from that time? Or is it a perverse sense of history that needs to be remembered to that drives me to keep these books? And if I’ve been blogging on and off since 2004, what is the point of keeping another record aside from the public blog record?

Maybe the fact is that there is something so mundane yet personal that goes into my journal writing that I don’t really want to part with. Inasmuch as the entries are trite, they serve as a reminder of the hard times I’ve survived, over-dramatized, or the evolution of my self that I want to remember because memory is so fallible in the end. Perhaps those entries about that jerk that I had a crush on in the 8th grade but always teased me isn’t really something I need to remember but my personal record of my travels through India (the highs and lows that I wouldn’t necessarily record publicly) and the adventures to Europe at 18, before I was internet savvy, are all things that I want to look back on at 80 and laugh over.

To be honest, the questions that I ask myself in diary land are very different than what I write on my blog. Despite the practice of self-disclosure in the great blogosphere, the division between public and private does need to be maintained and keeping the record of my past joys and woes, trivial though most of it may be, is something that I cherish. Beyond being able to go back and remember those moments that I’ve forgotten, my journals will never be more than dust collectors (and ones I probably wouldn’t want my children to read after my death—god forbid that they come across my entries detailing the acid trips or awkward moments of sexual exploration of my adolescence!)

So yes, when I die I would like my journals to be burnt with me! They aren’t something that I see as needing to share with my family in order for them to know me better. Some of my entries are either too painfully earnest or bitter for me to want them to read whereas some of just so mundane that I can’t imagine them ever wanting to read them. But perhaps, this particular reminder will prompt me to go back and spend a little time remember who I was then, which is small joy that keeping all these little incriminating books of personal self-pity and angst allows me from time to time.

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