I had reason last weekend to look at an old journal of mine from when I was nineteen years old. I still have my old journals, and lately if I do find myself reading them (particularly the older ones), I wonder why I keep them around. How are they serving my present self?
It’s painful and embarrassing to revisit my past, especially in my own words. I was extremely cruel to myself, and was clearly in a world of hurt. With the separation of time and introspection, I am a little more aware now of the root of my childhood suffering. Becoming a mother also shed light on aspects of my past, or I should say, the things I will never let my girls endure. But looking at this old journal, something else came up for me: I have very little memory of the events I wrote down back then.
Of course it was a very long time ago. Who can remember conversations from 20 years ago? (Well, actually, I do know a few people who have that talent.) But it was odd to me how little I remembered. Boys I had crushes on (it’s excruciating how many pages of ink are wasted discussing the guys that were not interested in me), who were these people? I rarely discussed my actual college work, and therefore remember almost nothing of my education at Evergreen (that may say more about Evergreen than about me). I think now of what I WISH I had written down. Things that actually mattered, the things about Olympia that I now recall with fondness.
Further, it got me thinking about the other wide gaps in my memory. My childhood is a series of blurry snapshots, like fragments of a dream slipping away the next morning. The years of my life spanning toddlerhood to age nine or ten don’t have any form or structure. I don’t remember much, and if I do, I can’t place any dates around it. Others remember details of childhood, my memories are guesses… I know I had a blue bicycle, I spent a lot of time by myself, I liked horses. I don’t know how old I was when certain events took place, I don’t remember any of my birthdays.
Maybe it’s like that for most people. Or maybe it’s just my subconscious protecting me from the sadness I felt back then, the chaos and detachment that was always a presence in my home.
The journals have only one purpose now, which is to show me how far I have come, how deeply in the past their author is now. But I don’t need an old notebook to show me that. I just look at my sweet happy family, and my circle of friends, the life I have built. I am thinking of burning my old journals. When I look at them now, I feel a heaviness in my heart, a sadness for that poor girl writing those words, an incredible feeling of grief for the years I wasted being full of anxiety and misery.
I imagine that watching them go up in flames might be beautifully cathartic. They are literally the ghosts in my closet. And if anyone else ever read them, I would be totally mortified.
Kinda wish we had a little fire pit in our backyard…