Why journaling should be kept secret, or not.

She opens up the trunk of her car.

“Look what I found,” she whispers to me.

I can’t help but steel a glance around me first, checking if we’re being watched.

“Oh no you didn’t,” I mumble as I look at the contents of her trunk.

“Just wait until you hear what else I found in my parents’ attic,” she secretively smiles.

She was my first best friend in high school. We reacquainted through Facebook and now we’re rebuilding our bond through running. That Sunday morning, we were standing at the parking place of the park we were going for run in. Her mother is moving out her parental house and at helping her clean up and pack, my friend found our joint container of secrets. At the parking lot, she innocently showed me the Latin text books and note books full of her handwriting which back then looked so much like mine. The back cover was full of doodles by both our hands, killing time through another boring class. But what she yet had to share was something far more precious.

All this time she kept them.

They had this inconspicuous A5 size, with a white hard cover. Both had pastel colored ribbons to close the note book with. One had an illustration of Peter Rabbit on it, I can’t remember what the other one was. Maybe another Peter Rabbit illustration. Could also be an drawing of Alice in Wonderland. They were our joint diaries. Can you imagine, two fourteen-year-old girls sharing their thoughts, their insecurities, their joy and tears with each other on paper? Yes, I know. It sounds ancient. But most off all: priceless.

“I think I’m gonna throw them out”, my friend nervously giggles.

“I would never dare to open and read those diaries again, confronting myself with my insecure, mean teenage self.”

I know how she feels. Remembering our diaries make the shame boil up from within me, heating up my cheeks. The sheer glimpse of what I can remember of what kind of person I was, the thought of how childish and small-minded we were back then, thinking so much of ourselves, it awakens a big sleeping dragon of Shame within. She’s right. No-one must ever know. Not even ourselves.

But then I come to my senses.

“No.”

Did I shriek? It came out more desperate than I wanted.

“You must never throw it away.”

I’m urging her now. My friend looks away, avoiding my stern eyes. She knows I’m right.

“If you can’t handle having them, give them to me. I will keep them. Unread. Save.”

What she doesn’t know, is that I have a big box up in my own attic full of diaries. Our shared ones can happily and secretly live with those there. It’s my prized collection of secrets, that nobody can every know. It would be better to burn them if I really wanted the secrets to remain secrets, I know. But I can’t. I just can’t.

The with paisley fabric covered diary I used during high school. Parchment envelopes filled with letters between me and my friend from summer camp. The Chinese embroidered diary with the leather at the binding and the corners from my senior year. The sky blue one with blanc paper at the end of my college days. A note book with a grey linen cover about the first year of dating with who is now my husband. Another one with a black linen cover that I started during my first pregnancy. The pocket sized one with the black plastic cover saying “Entre moi and moi” containing my most painful secret.

They are all too precious to be forgotten, even though it would be easier just to forget. Flipping through the pages of my diaries I see my handwriting develop, from standard calligraphy to the style it has now. By the way I pressed the pen into the paper, the  angle of the letters or the rushing of the words, emotions fly of the paper, hitting my in the stomach. Flashes of sentences catch my eye, recalling that particular scene, that emotion to me. Pages of pages of handwritten writing are witness to what my life has been so far.

And that is why I can’t bring myself to burn those silly diaries to the stake. Writing 101 had me thinking about the lost art of writing and I realize that I remember so much is because I’ve written so much about it. Not just about what happened, but how it made me feel. The facts are the outlines of the drawing, my pathetic emotions the crayons that give that memory its color. My diaries are free writing in its purest form, not restricted by the possibility of being judged upon by others as is the case with blogging. Back then, I didn’t think about my post first. I didn’t think about a public or optimizing for key words. I didn’t think about followers or likes. I wrote. I just wrote for me. And what I didn’t realize up until now is that It gave me more vivid memories than if I hadn’t.

Today at Dutch Memorial Day, I think about Anne Frank and her diary. How would she have felt if she had known that all of her teenage secrets were published to an audience of millions? If she would have lived, she would have been 75 years old. I’m guessing that gap between her and her teenage self is big enough to face and conquer her Dragon of Shame. I hope she would be proud if she had known that her outlines of facts and crayons of emotions helped millions of people understand what the horror of Jew persecution was.

So today, it’s a Memorial Day for me and my younger self too.

By no means I’m a comparing the value of my box of diaries to the diaries of Anne Frank. To the world that is. To me, my box of diaries is my hidden treasure, my prized collection of secrets. One I learned to appreciate again through the course of writing 101 and which helped me reacquainting with old school writing with pen and paper. My secrets, and those of my friend, are best kept that way. But if in a decade or two, when clearing out an attic they are discovered by strange eyes, it probably won’t be that bad in the end.

It’s good to look forward. But it’s even better if, once in a while, you turn and take a look back.

[Writing 101, Day 20] Tell us the story of your most-prized possession, using longform writing.]

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3 thoughts on “Why journaling should be kept secret, or not.

  1. near perfect ending if you ask me. I like this post a lot, well-written and relative for anyone that has ever kept diaries and notebooks and journals.

  2. I relate to the topic, even on a blogging level. The tension between being true to my heart and sensitive to the family members who may read it…what to do??

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