Oprah Winfrey was quoted as saying, “Keeping a journal will absolutely change your life in ways you’ve never imagined.” She may be right.
I’ve kept a diary and journal off and on from the time I was a young girl. That was decades ago. I’m a big girl now, and my current journal is a cluttered catchall for everything from important appointments to excellent quotations. My journal is also my secret place where I go to express my opinions without fear of judgment, blame or requirement for justification. No need to concern myself with proper grammar, spelling, or proofreading. In my journal, I am free to be me.
My first diary was a cute, little dime store book with a pretty pink cover and a flimsy key lock. I wrote in it almost daily. Some days I would scribble a line or two, other times I’d fill a couple of pages. My entries were the sanitized expressions of a naïve preteen. There were no embarrassing disclosures about sexting or secret meetings with online friends of the opposite sex like today’s youths might write, because it was a different era, and such things were nonexistent.
I wrote about school. I wrote about the many books I’d read. I wrote about my playmates and a boy I had a crush on named Tyrone. Tyrone was my age. He lived in the same apartment building as my family, and secretly I adored him.
One day mother discovered my diary in what I thought was my secret hiding place. She wasted no time letting me know that she had found it, and mimicked word for word some of my private thoughts. But worse than that, she began teasing me about having a puppy love crush on Tyrone.
Back then, I’d never heard the word violated and didn’t know what it meant. But years later I realized that was the perfect word to describe how I felt after mother read my diary. It’s how I felt as I ripped out and tore up every page of my little book before throwing it in the trash the day after I learned that she had read it. I promised myself that I would never keep a diary again.
Need I say that I broke the promise? I was an adult with children of my own when I began keeping a journal in a thick three-ring binder. In addition to writing about family and friends, I journaled about grown-up stuff like my marriage and divorce, my ex-husband, and my struggles as a single parent.
As time passed, I filled the front and back of numerous pages until the notebook was bulging with too many sheets of paper. Then, one evening I was sitting in a chair, skimming through the pages of my journal and contemplating buying another binder in which I would start Volume 2. Suddenly, in my mind’s eye, I could see a timid little girl sitting alone on her bed, legs crossed yoga style. The bedroom door is closed, and the girl, heartbroken because her mother read her diary, is crying uncontrollably while holding a pillow to her face to muffle her sobs.
The young woman holding the binder thought if I die, my mother, my children or someone will discover my journal and read it. Seized by the heartbreaking emotions of the little girl inside, I got up from my chair, walked to the shredder and shredded every single page. Afterward, I put the empty binder back in its place, beneath a blanket on the closet shelf. Past experiences have a way of resurfacing when we least expect it and cause us to do things that we later regret. I wish I could have that journal back.
Years had passed before I began another journal. I’ve faithfully journaled now for over 25 years. I write without hesitation or reservation, about everything and anything. Milestones and disappointments. Decisions I need to make. Relationships, friendships, and neighbors. I opine about God and religions, news events, movies and TV programs, politics, and politicians. I get an idea; I write it down. I get angry; I write it down. I have given myself permission to be honest in my journal, and I detail my most private thoughts, dreams, and concerns. Occasionally, I will scan or copy and paste a photo into my journal. As I said it is a catchall for everything. And it is priceless — to me.
Forsaking pen and paper, I’ve gone digital. I save my journal in a password protected computer file on my desktop. I do not keep a backup copy on my laptop. Instead, I store an extra copy on a flash drive that is also password protected. To date I have 711 computerized pages, that’s 258,712 words — and growing each day. One day I may write another book and refer to many of those pages. And if by chance a crafty sleuth cracks the code and reads my journal, it’s no big deal. I’m a mature and thick-skinned woman now (in more ways than one), and I can handle it.