I had planned to write about something else today, but I think this article is poignant and thought provoking. I hope that you will take the time to leave a comment to let me know your own response to it.
Read: "Burning Diaries" New York Times September 30, 2011
I have not saved all of my own diaries. I threw one away, but it took me years to decide to do it. It was weeded carefully.
I once returned to my alma mater and had a conversation with my advisor about this very subject. She is a well-respected art historian who specializes in women's studies. I knew that she was an avid journaler. It was early in my archives career and I was telling her about the work I do. Somehow, we got to talking about diaries and I brought the conversation to a personal level. I asked her if she ever considered who might read her diary. She told me that she didn't want anyone to read her diary. She thought it was too personal.
That conversation puzzled me and has stuck with me for a long time...
I assume that one day, someone is going to read my diaries. I have read too many stories about little sisters finding hidden diaries under the mattress. (I think that I even saw an episode about this on the "Brady Bunch.") As a young teen, I read passages professing my feelings toward a young member of the opposite sex. I was too shy to just tell him that I thought he was the coolest, so I read it to him.
As an archivist, I very much value diaries. Some of the best information about life is found in a diary. I like to think that my diaries tell a lot about me and about life during my times. I have written about wars. I have recorded my feelings about people, which sometimes very markedly changes over time. I have written about my battles with depression, infertility and cancer. I have also written about the birth of my child, falling in love with my husband and buying my first home. Like anyone's life, mine is filled with ups and downs. I want my descendants to see me as human, to understand what made me happy and sad, to be a part of the most momentous moments of my life. I hope that maybe someone will learn something from my mistakes. I hope that they will understand that my diaries do not always reveal the best parts of me.
I want my daughter to have the writings that I have been keeping since I was eleven years old. I want her to see her mother as a woman. I want her to be able to evaluate my life in context -- even in a different context from what she is accustomed to.
I am not leaving everything. The part I removed is reserved just for me. After careful thought, I came to the conclusion that it is not a vital piece of the whole story and I did not wish to share. Much like any collection, mine has been carefully considered and appraised. I couldn't conceive of consciously burning a lifetime of memories the way that the author of the New York Times article did. I feel sorry that people might think that others cannot appreciate the greater parts of an individual story without judging all of the particulars. I couldn't imagine the archives of the world without these gems of humanity.