What Diaries Are For
Today, I opened one of my old diaries. For a long time I avoided opening or even really going near my diaries because I felt like it would only be a reminder of a part of myself- part of my history- that I no longer wanted to deal with. I didn't want to read the story of a time when I felt as though I had let another person- a boy who was unworthy of any shred of me- become the protagonist in my life story. But for whatever reason, I wandered over to the little cove in my room, a small bookshelf whose plum wallpaper and dark wood lining is lit up by the vibrant colors of my old diaries and notebooks, spines lined with labels indicating when I began and ended writing in their pages. The last labelled notebook reads "22.10.2016 -"
The day I chose to commit to keeping a diary, I did so because I could feel something significant occurring in me and in my life. It's a feeling I get have almost everyday now, but at some point, when I was 15, I felt like I could say to myself "you are on a path. You are becoming what you will be and you will want to remember this." I started that diary not necessarily because I wanted to keep track of events that were happening in my life, but because at that point it felt like so much was beginning to open up to me and inside me. From reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X, to beginning to learn and talk more about sex, to discovering my mind and a world of endless questions and my duty to ask them through philosophy classes, I wanted to map the journey of my mind and examine my thoughts in real time as things occurred .
I never began a new diary simply when the pages where full; I would move on when I felt a change had come or was needed. If my life is a TV show, each diary represents a different season. The cuts aren't clean and endings aren't well thought out, elaborate or seamless but they were honest and raw and at a time I felt they were representative of me. Writing in them was cathartic and therapeutic.
It is now almost the end of 2018 and although I have had many many notebooks since 2016, I have not had a diary because I was too afraid to document anymore shame. I didn't want anymore negativity, naivety or even the slightest mistake to be a part of my history after so many previous pages held words about a boy who hurt me more than I ever thought possible. Although my diary was supposed to be a safe space, I also thought of it who I was at the time. I feared that the reflection I would be met with would be a marred mess of a girl fooled by a boy. Whatever is written down lives forever and the thought of confronting a version of myself I couldn't contend with made me not want to risk writing anything more down.
So I'm not entirely sure why today was any different, but I am so grateful that it was because as I flipped through the pages, trying to avoid reading anything about him, I landed on a page that reintroduced me to a version of myself I forgot once was.
I want to share these pages, not only because I needed to see them (even though i didn't know it at the time) but also because the words i wrote to myself are words i know many other girls and women might need to see.
I don't know how frequently people read their old diaries but I've always assumed they weren't meant to be read until some time long after they were first written in. Decades even. But I'm glad I didn't wait 10 or even 20 years to read mine (at a point I thought I never would look back at them) and remind myself of the strength and character I had and continue to have. I let some dark things that happened to me and one person overshadow the worthy, wise and wonderful person that those pages show. The pain I experienced was a reflection of him and the terrible person he was to me. Not of me. I have nothing to be ashamed of. Yes, I struggled. No I was not perfect and neither were my choices but I was (and still am) an amazing, complex and beautiful person with a mind that no one, including myself, should be deprived of. I forgot that there was so much more to my life than just the pain that he brought. There was so much joy and most importantly an immense amount of growth.
That is what diaries are for: to allow yourself to appreciate that you came to be. And however that happens is worth paying attention to. I thought that if I chose to not write down anything, if avoided documenting the hard things, in time it would be as though they never happened. But the beauty of what lies on the pages of my previous diaries is that they showed me being whole. A complete person becoming more full with every experience and every thought over time. I was unbound. They reflected the fact that life is about a process, not a point; if could not accept my whole self, flaws and all, and enjoy the process of my growth, then how can I expect anyone else to? When I write in my diary I am accepting that all the thoughts, and experiences and responses I have (not just the "good" ones) are worthy of being paid attention to because they show a wonderfully whole person.