Monday, December 29, 2014

25 Years of Journals

I started keeping a journal on December 31, 1989, shortly after my 15th birthday. The first one was a Christmas present from my parents. I had been admiring blank books in my local bookstore all that year and was so thrilled to get one. It seemed so full of potential.

I started keeping a journal because I knew I had a poor memory and I wanted to remember how it felt to be fifteen. Interestingly, it took me a little while to actually trust my journal. I started out by writing fictionalized names and changing details a bit, but within a couple months, I settled into a more truthful routine. My plan, even at 15, was always to bequeath these to a granddaughter someday. Very presumptuous of me, I know, to imagine a future in which I have a granddaughter, and to think that she would want these!

At 15, I couldn't even imagine being 20, much less 40, yet here I am. I have now filled 23 of these books, writing on average once a week. In the pages are also tucked various memorabilia of life, making most of the books bulge a bit. I just finished the last one Christmas night and started book #24 yesterday (not in the photo). I keep the books in three decorative boxes. When I took them out for this photo, I flipped through some of the pages. Many of the events I barely recall (I told you I had a poor memory!), yet it was interesting to relive them.

After all of these years, I sometimes wonder about the wisdom of the practice. While an examined life is a good thing, our minds tend to sort out our memories. We remember the highlights, the pain of the bad moments eases, and the good memories remain. I think that is a gift from God. Maybe life isn't meant to be remembered in all its detail. And while on some level, I would love to have journals from my grandmother, at the same time, now that I am a parent myself, I think that perhaps we aren't meant to know our parents and grandparents on such an intimate basis. Maybe we are supposed to get the edited version in the stories that they share with us, and that's it. Maybe too much truth is not a good thing.

And so, I'm left with all these books and no idea what to do with them. I don't think that they have any real historical value. They are mostly a record of the goings-on of everyday life. I make no great insights on the world at large, and my life, while of value to me, has been very small. I have made no great accomplishments to the world that the world at large would care that I lived. Perhaps I will die unexpectedly and the decision won't be mine to make. In the meantime, I will keep writing and recording because at this point, it is so much a part of the fabric of my life that I can't imagine stopping the practice. And because, every once in a while, it's interesting to take a trip down memory lane.

Have any of you kept a journal for most of your life? What do you plan to do with them?


  1. Hi Anne,

    I've been keeping a journal since I've been 11--more than 40 years, and I don't plan to stop. I think they are a good way to track growth and capture memories. Who knows if they will be of value after I die, but letters and journals are prized by historians. Perhaps my reflections on events like 9/11 will help to illustrate what those days were like for average people.

    Happy New Year and I hope your 2015 is filled with writings about the many blessings you receive this year.

  2. Glad to hear that I'm not the only one! Happy New Year to you as well. Happy writing!