Friday, March 26, 2010

Diary of a Mad Horse Driver [Why I Journal and How I Got Here]

Yesterday I ended my blog post: "Archives show us how we got where we are today and that things are always morphing even though our "humanness" remains the same as it has always been." Today I want to relate that thought to the individual and to discuss the role of journaling in a person's life and amongst personal papers.

Journaling is a dying art. Yet, keeping a diary can help us see where we have been and work out ideas that guide the rest of our journey. Some diarists write every day. Some of us write only to work out stressful situations or to document memorable events. Some of us write long passages, while others record just blurbs that jar deeper memories. Diaries can embody our deepest selves as they are generally intended as private recorded thoughts that are not to be shared until the memories they embody have started to fade.

When I was 11, I received my first diary:

June 26, 1982

Dear Diary,

I drove Bear and my sister was waving her arms in front of him and I drove into
Annie's oats...We came in third and Ray raced Excellento. We were in the best
class. Beaten by a horse from the big M and another good horse...

In those words I am transported back to the dreams of my youth. My desire to race horses stemmed from my Dad's passion for the sport and my love for the animals. Looking back at my words, I remember my uncertainty about where I was headed in life, lacking self esteem and trying to live up to the person I thought I should be while also lacking the experiences to see beyond my little bubble. My core being was clearly established, for I see in my old journals the bones of myself, which include many of the characteristics I still believe I have today. My handwriting from almost thirty years ago is even familiar (though I must admit it was neater in 1982 than it is now.) Yet, I see how much I have grown. For example, my writing is peppered with profanity that my Dad must have used. I also had a tendency to see things in black and white, not yet realizing that there are plenty of shades of gray.

Diaries can be written for ourselves or with the intention to pass them on to family, so that they remember us when we are gone. I have saved almost every diary I have written. I refer back to them every 5-10 years with the same wonder I approach history. I almost feel as if I am learning about someone else, perhaps some historical figure with whom I have felt a special bond. I feel as if I know this person, but there are many more new things to learn about her past and her future.

Diary writing (and reading) gives us a unique way to evaluate the world and our communities. My diary shows and reminds me how I got where I am today. My path has not always been straight, but I have absorbed experiences and built myself upon them. I am the result of a "collection" of experiences that is reflected in my diaries and am part of a greater community made up of diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and opportunities. Diaries offer the most personal connection to a person I know and through them we can gain a much greater understanding of ourselves and those around us. I hope we can help a new generation see the potential of recording thoughts beyond the blogs that we knowingly offer up to mass readers.

(I'll save my view on blogs for a future blog post. Blogs are not diaries! :)

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