Long before I started this or any of my earlier blogs, indeed from a time where there were no blogs, I kept a journal. It was not a uniform pursuit. There were long gaps in my life when I wrote nothing at all.
But others times seemed to consume me. I wrote obsessively at times, long and detailed tracts about the day's events, the people involved and my feelings about everything. I've kept all of this writing, it's one of the few things that I've valued deeply and taken care to keep with me through the changes that life has brought me.
Every once in a while I look back. I take out a volume, all neatly printed and kept in file folders in the basement, and read. As I've aged, the distance between the me of those times and the me of today has grown deeper and wider. It's not just that I do things differently now and think about things in a different way. It's also that I have completely lost the memory of many of the people I was thinking about then, and writing about in a very involved way.
I see names that mean absolutely nothing to me. I can't picture a face or a time or, in many cases, even the place where we encountered each other. I might as well be reading about a stranger, and the stranger is me as much as anyone else.
I've walled off whole areas of my past and let them decay. Is this a bad thing? Earlier, I might have said so. Today, I'm not so sure.
Without those diaries, there would be nothing. Except for whatever memories all those people I encountered have of me, and I am most unlikely to ever know those. But I do have those diaries. Have I transplanted my past out of myself and onto those yellowing pages? I think I must have done. Reading them reveals a small and often boring life, one very much constrained by my own fears and anxieties. Not a life I would return to.
As a record, I suppose they have value. They do provide a measure that tells me I am living a better life today than ever before. But they are also sad. There's a lot of pain in those pages. I like to let it stay there.