When I packed up all my belongings for my move earlier this year, I tossed a whole lot of stuff. Well, I recycled and donated a whole lot of stuff. But one of the things I didn’t send to the recycling depot was my stash of diaries from my teens and 20s. Each time I filled an A5 book I’d wrap it up in pretty paper and paste a label on the front with the date range. The idea was that I’d open and revisit them when I turned 40.
I’m not far off that moment. With just a couple of years to go, I’m interested to see how much I’ve developed as a person. But I’m also a little sad. I haven’t journaled properly for years. And I’ve been trying to work out why.
Part of it is the fact that maybe I only journal properly when I’m alone/lonely, or maybe when life is a little difficult. But not horrifically difficult. Because I’ve been through some really rough patches over the past year and I couldn’t bring myself to talk about it, let alone write about it in the moment. But when it’s nastiness that’s a little less than devastating, it’s easier. I’ve journaled through years of being lonely, years of loathing my body, years of being uncertain of where my life is headed. And then stopped when I was happy in a relationship, when I got married and had a life companion always there.
Then when things started to not look so peachy I tried again. But it seemed wrong somehow. Like I hadn’t kept a record of all the happy years, now to suddenly return to my diary when things were bad… I felt like I was almost lying to whoever may one day read them. Like I was withholding parts of myself, even if it wasn’t on purpose.
Let me try explaining it differently… Maybe it’s like when religious people spend hours praying in their worst moments. Desperate for help, and then when it comes and life starts to look up, they forget to pray. Until the bad times return. I don’t know if that quite captures it. But I felt like a hypocrite.
There’s more to it though – my poor to non-existent journaling over recent years. And it’s really struck me in the last couple of days. In the Mindfulness course I’m doing, my teacher suggested I pay attention to when I click into social media. Not try to stop it – just pay attention to when I log in, and how it makes me feel.
As soon as I started to take notice and realised just how much time I spend on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (not that it was at all a surprise), I started to notice the time wastage and also how much of what I share online would usually have been things I journaled about. But with filters. In my diary I would (mostly) be brazenly honest, because it was only for me (and maybe decades down the line for a future relative). But on social media I’m concerned about what others think. So, while it’s still a record of my life, like a diary would be, it’s been filtered to within an inch of its life. And I don’t just mean pictures. I mean words and sentiments too.
Thinking about it now, I feel like pouring all of my random thoughts and observations out onto social media is a little like stealing from Future Terri. Because, when I open my journals in a few years’ time I’ll realise that there’s a whole chunk of my life that me at 50, say, won’t have the opportunity to look back on properly. Not that we should be living in the past. But I know that as I get older, my memory is getting less sturdy and there is so much that has happened over the past decade that I think it would be good and encouraging to be able to revisit. And I don’t want to have to rely on Facebook memories to dish up lukewarm seconds or thirds to look back at this part of my life.
I think I’m aching for a more authentic form of self-expression again. I owe it to myself now, and to my future self.
PS. I can’t even begin to tell you how hard I had to fight with myself to turn this into a blog post and not a tweet or Facebook update. Oh the irony.