6: Farewell to My Diaries

6: Farewell to My Diaries

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less


Farewell to My Diaries

Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.

~Oscar Wilde

I received my first diary when I was nine. It was pink and pocket-sized, with a gold latch and key. I started writing in it right away.

Fifty years later, I still keep a journal. On its lined pages I plan, dream, storm and mull. Journaling has been my partner all my life.

Over the years I amassed cartons and cartons of journals that I schlepped from town to town, state to state, and country to country. The journals are the record of my life. They’re “me.”

Once in a while, I would think of the dusty cartons taking up more and more space in one basement after another. Then I would imagine them gone, and a sense of freedom and weightlessness would come over me. I mentioned this to my sister, who has planted herself deep in the same plot of North Carolina soil for thirty-five years. “But you can’t throw your journals away!” said Jane. “You can’t! I’ll store them for you!”

“What, ship them all to you?” I said, idly wondering which would be cheaper — USPS, UPS or FedEx. Any way I did it, sending them all the way from California would be an expensive embarrassment.

Keeping a journal is one thing; revisiting it is another. On the rare occasion when I descend into the cave of an old journal, I usually surface feeling morose, relieved to be back in the sunlight. All that drama! All that venting! True, every thirty pages or so I’ll come upon an absolute pearl, and I’ll think, “Gosh, I was brilliant!” But then, along with that comes, “But where did that brilliance go? How come I keep forgetting?”

I debated for years (all the while accumulating yet more journals) whether I should let them go. Always, I hesitated. I respect the value of documentation. Where would history be without records? And who knows, maybe one hundred years from now someone might come upon my journals and read with rapt interest what life was like in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, just as we read diaries of the pioneers, or Civil War memoirs.

Plus, who would I be without my journals? On the other hand, letting go of them might set me free.

Back and forth I went. In one stage I tore out random pages from old journals and collaged them. But that only took care of a few pages.

Finally, somehow, I decided: for now, I’d keep all the journals up to age thirty, and out of the rest, pick fifteen to let go.

I gave my husband the fifteen journals, with the agreement that if within two months I had not asked for them he would “release” them (the phrase “throw away” made me wince). Out of respect for my earlier self, I tore out random pages and collaged them into my art journal. So who-I-was-then is grafted into my current life.

I never did ask him for the journals. I forgot all about them. So they have met their maker. Fifteen journals lighter, fifteen pounds lighter. Now I only have another sixty or so to go….

~Louisa Rogers


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