From A Distance

Reading old journals is fascinating -- if you can stomach it. At least 13 of my diaries emerged from packed boxes last summer and I'm slowly making my way through them. I've also found a journal I kept during some of my first year in the U.K., which is proving helpful for my current writing project: a memoir based around my early days living in London.

It's interesting to read my thoughts from the thick of the situation, compared to my perception now of what was happening at the time. But it's actually less shocking than I thought to see the honesty poured out right there on the page. Most of the time, it only confirms my view of what was actually going on and what emotional baggage I was carrying with each situation. It's only a story if you know what else was really happening -- the things I haven't written down. It's surprisingly censored for a personal journal. But it's still a little sad to see the younger me struggling with not only the challenges of moving to England on my own, but also the total confusion of 20-something life.

It's raw, unedited and also littered with the minutiae of everyday life. I am not sure if it's because I'm often writing when I am sitting in cafes on my own, but I make sure to record everything I eat and drink. I even note the moment when I decide I do like cous cous (Nov. 5, 2002, Belgium).

I suppose it's very much like blogging, and probably why -- with my journaling addiction -- I have continued with this blog for over four years now. I cringe when I go back and read older entries of it, so that's confirming it really is similar.

After high school, I really tried to shake the journaling habit. I told myself I was determined to "live" instead of thinking about it. I wanted to fill my college and post-grad life with normal things, like getting drunk and going to concerts. It worked for a while. But I keep finding exceptions to this rule in odd notebooks and from back up files on my computer. Not to mention all the letter writing I do and the holiday/travel diary I keep.

So recently I gave in. I started a personal journal again. Reading my old notes on life has made me realize that as a writer, it's important to keep two perspectives: one of everyday observations and thoughts, and the other looking at these mental brain dumps from a distance. Otherwise known as storytelling.

Journals are good places for questions. For thinking out loud, throwing ideas around and wondering why. It seems that my hobbies and interests wax and wane through the years, but the one I can't seem to escape is keeping a journal -- despite my attempts to shake this overly contemplative perspective on life.

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