How many of us have written that greeting under the incandescent glow from the lamp on our night table, while siblings softly slumber in the room next door and our pen, our mighty tool, anxiously scribbles the day’s events, the newest crush, the latest dream. Afterwards, we would quickly lock it, and hide the key in one place and the diary in another for safekeeping from prying eyes.
Keeping a journal knows no boundaries, it allows the writer to try-on and live-through various experiences through their own imagination, and it creates a form of autonomy by allowing the writer to control what is written: A diary lets us put who we are on to paper, it also allows us to describe who we want to be. What is writing in a diary but a messy melding of ink and paper that opens a window into a person’s soul.
For many years I was an avid journal-er: I wrote about my dull and mundane life; the troublesome times of my teens; the desire to be popular and soooo cool; the need to lose weight, get a boyfriend, wear cool clothes (don’t know why that was a priority since I wore a uniform in high school). All of this would somehow equate to a better and happier teenage life: the teenage dream.
And then my journal entries took a juicy turn as I entered my junior year of high school. I was sixteen, it was spring and I started seeing a guy (I use the term seeing loosely, as we probably saw each other once a week but we would talk on the phone for hours – “Don’t go on the internet, I am on the phone!”). As my love began to blossom, so too did desires to kiss, hold hands, cuddle, and god forbid, French kiss. These newfound feelings I would vigourously note on the pages in my journal: What were these feelings that made my head dizzy and my heart beat faster? What would it feel like to have my hand held, and in public?! What would it feel like to hug someone that was not a family member, and what does a kiss feel like. To quote an excerpt for my 2001 diary: “I think a kiss feels like a Hershey’s chocolate kiss, if not, why would they be called a Kiss?” Boy, was I right!
These desires weren’t rooted in sin, and I should point out, never acted upon, because hello brace face, but the cause of a natural curiosity towards another human. I could never talk about these feelings with my parents (“What are they teaching you at this Christian school!?”), I couldn’t share them with my friends for fear of embarrassment (“What do you mean you’ve never kissed a guy?”), but I could freely share these thoughts and ask these questions to my bff, Dear Diary. That was until my secret world was exploited, and my life as I knew it came tumbling down. Someone broke the unforgivable act, and read my diary without my knowledge or permission.
I will never understand why my diary was read, just as I will never understand why I, humiliated by my own words, had to read it out loud to my parents. But days later, and a two-month grounding serving as a form of punishment for my words, I watched my diary burn in flames and my words as I vowed to never keep a record of my secrets.
However, that vow was broken a year later when a new leather bound notebook fell onto my lap, and the well of words flowed, just as Maya Angelou’s “Caged Bird” continued to sing. These tomes full of wonder, anxiety, heartache and love are boxed away in my basement and once in a blue moon I will tiptoe downstairs and reread the workings of my mind from a different time. Some of these excerpts bring me joy, others tears, but most make me laugh.
These days I don’t keep a diary, I have good intention of writing my daily thoughts as unused notebooks pile atop one another collecting dust as my yesteryears become more faded and my memory becomes a blur. Diaries are meant to serve as secret reminders of the person one is because of the who they once was. Maybe I will start writing again?