Blogging & Writing,  Experience

Two sides of one painfully necessary coin

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 BloodlinesIn 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.

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  • Cara Thereon

    I still have my journals from when I was young. I can’t imagine destroying them but I also can’t imagine ever reading them again. Those things are better left in the closet.

  • Marie Rebelle

    As a youngster I have tried many times to keep a journal, but never succeeded. I always started and never continued. But, I wrote lots and lots of letters, to friends, to cousins, and in that I always told everything that happened to me or what my thoughts were. I have always been a storyteller, just not in journals 🙂

    Love your last paragraph. That is so true!

    Rebel xox

  • Molly

    I still have some of my diaries from when I was younger. I was a very dedicated diary keeper for many years. I don’t look back at them though, the odd time I have picked them up they have mainly made me sad as I feel like I missed so many opportunities back then because I didn’t have much self belief


  • E.L. Byrne

    I enjoyed your writing style very much. I am also a crazy journal keeper, but mine as stored away in various places. I always thought I’d want to pull them out when I wrote my life story but once I started my memoir I realized as you pointed out- my truth has changed and how I see the world is different now and those old words don’t have a place in my new world. TFS!

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