My first real diary was a hardcover Babysitters Club tie-in “journal” that I ordered from Scholastic. I wrote things like, “This year, I want a boy to like me,” something I remember specifically being more related to peer pressure than any real interest in particular boys. There was a lot of angst directed towards my parents and siblings. I still have the book somewhere in my parents’ house, probably in the bottom of the single plastic bin that still contains leftover belongings that I couldn’t bear to part with, yet didn’t want to bring to college. I know for a fact that the journal smells like Stimerol gum, as I taped a chewed-up piece as a memento to one of the first pages.
During the one year of high school I spent in the Ph, I carried a little blue notebook around and wrote in it obsessively. I believe the first entry was about a family visit to a fancy hotel–something about how the outdoor space would be perfect for “______’s and my garden wedding.” (I am cringing as I write this.) That year marked my first true infatuation (I vividly recall the moment I realized that the feeling of having “butterflies in your stomach” is a cliche for a reason) and my first broken heart. I was fourteen and it was all innocent, thank heavens, but man was that book full of roiling emotion. I have no idea where this book is. I hope I burned it.
I bought a fresh, faux-suede journal right before leaving to study abroad in England my second semester of college. There was a little cut-out for a picture in front, and I promptly inserted a portion of my tube-map in it. I know for a fact that this journal is sitting in a wine box in my closet, right this very minute. I didn’t write in this journal too frequently, but revisited it every few months, mostly to write about boys (seriously–I even dissected interactions with boys long gone–good grief), my hopes and dreams, my conflicting impulses, my uncertainty about what the future might hold. I was about as innocently self-obsessed as most college students are in that period when they discover the world for the first time. I remember writing while lying in my bunk in Belfast, during the brief two-week sojourn I took across the UK after my program ended. I wrote about desperately wanting to hold on to the version of me that I had found in England. I was also dating someone for real and wrote about our future so tentatively, so insecurely, that when I re-read my old entries, I feel painfully protective of my former self.
I returned to college the summer after that term in England, newly single and eager to jump into a new life. It was 2002 and I jumped into the world of blogging. My first blog’s original url was eventually phased out because it included an underscore. I posted regularly on that blog for EIGHT YEARS. I started blogging before I realized that people could get famous, could earn MONEY for blogging (a realization that gives many casual bloggers nowadays a sense of failure that was foreign to me back then)–truly, I blogged for my little brother and perhaps a tiny handful of college friends. I finally set up the old blog (which included my full name) to automatically forward people here (a more anonymous site), as no one who meets me in a professional setting now needs to be able to learn about about the countless hours I spent at the pool table in 2003 through a Google search of my name.
Before my second semester abroad (my junior year of college), I realized that I couldn’t depend on blogging, as I was to live in a tent without electricity for 4 months, so I picked up a plain black sketchbook from the campus store and tried to learn how to write again. This marked my most prolific period of journaling. I even wrote poetry freely, for the first and only time of my life. I filled four or five of those black notebooks (the three from the semester in TZ are charmingly grimy) within two years and only stopped journaling when I met my now-husband. Both of stopped journaling abruptly not long after we started dating, a fact that made us both nervous (were we trying to hide something from ourselves?) until we realized that our communication with each other via e-mails, conversations, etc. took the place of our journals. I suppose that is acceptable. (As my friends and I concluded, the wonder of having a partner is having a witness to your life. So P is the lucky (?) recipient of my emotional dumping.)
Upon the birth of A, I started a new blog in order to write monthly letters to her (I still maintain this, although a bit more erratically). I think even then I realized that I didn’t need my letters to my daughter to share a url with ramblings by my college self. I opened a Tumblr account, then another just for pictures, and now I’m blogging here. Kind of.
I write about how embarrassingly narcissistic my old diaries were but gee, here I am writing about my own journaling history at 12:38 AM. I am not trying to fool anyone into believing that my blogging now is any more mature or meaningful. But as I fumble around, trying to find an online home, trying to figure out how to journal or write or blog again, I can’t help but revisit old entries and feel grateful that I had taken the time, at certain points, to pinpoint what I was doing, what I was eating, what crazy thoughts were in my head. Really, I still write for my little brother (my one regular reader), but honestly? I am writing for me. For future me, who will certainly get a kick out of this someday.