I’ve always been a writer. I may not make a dime from anything I write, but writing has been my soul language since the moment I could hold a pencil.
I remember reading a collection of autobiographical essays by Janet Campbell Hale called Bloodlines. In the beginning, she recounts believing that she was a writer before she could even form letters. She would simply scribble what she thought looked like words across the paper…for pages and pages…until she felt her soul was spent. And I can relate.
For years, I kept a private diary, and I had stacks of journals by the time I went away to college. Of course, given their private nature, they traveled everywhere with me. I wasn’t about to let them out of my sight.
At some point, though, in my early twenties, in a flight of “turning over a new leaf,” I destroyed every last one of those journals.
For awhile, in my early thirties, I regretted it.
And now, in my early forties, I can see both the wisdom and the folly in the act.
Those journals were all about thinking and discovery…figuring out who I was and where I was going. But they were also a product of a time and a mindset. What I knew then is not the same as what I know now. My truths have changed.
How do I know what I think until I see what I say? – E.M. Forster
The wisdom in keeping these journals is in the possibility of reviewing them later to gain perspective and understanding.
The folly is the same. Sometimes, those thoughts are better left in the past. After all, those questions, fears, dreams, and plans, have either been forgotten or have lived out their usefulness as steps to new questions, fears, dreams, and plans. There is no need to look back. Much like the road diverging in a yellow wood, way has led on to way, and I cannot go back to where I was.
What good is contemplating things that cannot be changed? After all, if provided that set of paths to choose from today, I might choose the same and still end up in a completely different place.
I cannot change what has been done. In fact, I wouldn’t. What has been has led me to what I have…a beautiful son, love, family, meaningful work, and possibility.
Do I have regrets? Certainly. But I believe those are better left to journal pages I will never read again. I think that’s likely why I destroyed all of those journals so many years ago. Because, like Pandora’s Box, they can be found and released, wreaking havoc. Or, like the beating heart beneath the floorboards, they can simply drive me mad, knowing that they exist.
Words have that much power. They can heal. They can harm. They are beauty. They are fear. They are awe, magic, wonder. They are, for some of us, solace and torture together…two sides of one painfully necessary coin.