Even though I post on Facebook and Twitter and my blog every day, I still maintain a private journal. Because there are lots of things in life that simply don’t belong online. I’ve now kept this journal, off-and-on, since my Freshman year of college. It is 180,000 words long (364 single-spaced times new roman pages), and I don’t think I will ever go back and read any of it, because the whole thing is mostly a chronicle of FEELINGS.
It was in this journal that I wrote about loneliness and fears of failure and my struggles with alcoholism. Sometimes the journal entries themselves became major turning points in my life. For instance, when I quit drinking, six(ish) years ago, I wrote a five page entry about why I was quitting and why I wasn’t going to go to AA (great decision, AA is the dullest thing on earth). And a year (or two?) later, after I got rejected by every MFA program I applied to (this was the first time I applied), I wrote a long dialectical argument (with myself) over whether I should or should not continue to pursue writing.
Now, these entries are, by and large, a little bit embarrassing to me, since they strike me nowadays as a bit self-important, but they were important, and I’m grateful that I wrote them.
But what makes my feelingsjournal such a difficult read is the utter lack of context. There’s six or seven sentences of analysis for every sentence of detail. Major events in my life–trips, friendships, relationships–go by with barely a mention. It’s all very, very concerned with what I’m feeling. Even thoughts get short thrift.
I was aware, even while writing these entries, about this problem with them, but I found myself unable to fix it. My feelings were simply too real and too immediate for me to turn away from them. Everything else in the world seemed irrelevant in comparison. I might admire diarists, like Kafka or Gide, who recorded the details of the world, but I was unable to replicate their feat.
I am once again going to try, though. I’ve opened up a new diary (this time it’s a notebook in Evernote, rather than a word document), and I’m going to do my best to record each day’s events and impressions.
My inspiration here is Boswell. His Life of Johnson is very clearly not so much a record of events or of sights as it is a record of conversations (and gossip). Since I have some pretty good conversations (and I love gossip), I feel like this is a way in for me. Thirty years from now I might not be able to remember what people looked like, but maybe I can at least thumb through my journal and recall the things that we talked about.