My journals – private and otherwise

My private journals are GONE!

I kept a personal journal starting when I was a sophomore in high school. It was an assignment from an English teacher named Mrs. Gerhardt. We were supposed to write, if I remember correctly, 4 or 5 days out of 7. The emphasis was on trying out different writing styles – prose, poetry, short story… (Why did she skip the all important laboratory report?) I wrote only prose. What my teacher called the “informal essay”. A few weeks ago, I excavated my storage space and found my first journal!

I kept writing, with assorted interruptions, to this day. Forty notebooks covering FIFTY years! Most are spiral bound notebooks from the nearest available campus bookstore. A few are fine, leather bound volumes received as gifts. Some are small, others big and heavy. Many are tattered and food-splattered.

My journals were/are private. They have not been shared.

In addition to my personal journals, I kept a “reading journal” from about 2008 to 2013. It will become the property of my oldest son to use as he sees fit. (He is my “literary executor”.)

My reading journal ended when I began this blog, in May of 2013. It contains about 20% non-book-related entries, ranging from movie reviews to generalized rants. It’s public, written for the world to see, although my name is not given. I had imagined gradually transferring reviews from my book journals to the blog, but I’ve done only a little of that.

I found out that I like blogging! I post three or four times each month. There’s a good deal of “me” in my blog.

I intermittently kept another category of journals, “gratitude journals”. There are two or three of these. And one journal of “memories” for my sons. These additional, non-private notebooks will also go into the custody of my son.

The question of what to do with my private journals bedeviled me for years. Do you know the journal curse?

“If I die before I wake, throw my journal in the lake!”

Destroy it. Tempting. Maybe logical. My journals are unprocessed, full of complaints and worries and anger, as well as joys and happiness. I’ve no wish to hurt anyone’s feelings. But… fifty years of personal writing?! Surely it has some value.

Last summer at a 50th high school reunion (not my own) I chatted with a man who was both a journalist and an author. When I said I didn’t know what to do with my personal journals, he was most emphatic. Find an archive! A library! A repository! But don’t, DON’T, DON’T throw them away.

I did it. I’ve found a home for my personal journals. It’s an archive maintained by my religious denomination. This religious affiliation (acquired in adulthood) has been important to me. Someone may, someday, use my writing to learn more about our denomination. Who else might be interested? Feminists, environmentalists, scientists, educators, local historians? Perhaps a sociologist or psychologist. None of us knows what aspects of our lives might interest someone many decades in the future.

So I chose an archive and discussed my writings. I advise my friends and relatives not to investigate. If there’s serious dirt in there, it’s known to those who matter. Most of what I wrote is mundane. I’m holding on to my most recent journals, from the past three years.

I’ve spared my eventual survivors from having to make one difficult decision. If they seriously need to check on some aspect of family history, they can visit the archive and dig away.

So today was the day! I signed a “deed of gift”. There should be a toast for this occasion! To life? To pen and ink and paper! To the future, digital or otherwise!

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