Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Decluttering, continued: What about the old journals?

I'm in full-on decluttering mode, secure in the belief that, even if you can't tell I've gotten rid of anything, every little bit counts and eventually it'll look like I've really done something. Or so they say.

While in the basement, ruthlessly culling the piles of junk I've held on to for years, I came across a box filled with my old journals. And I mean old -- one of them dates back to when I was 12, a dramatic 7th grader who wore pink denim and turtlenecks with things printed on them and wondered whether her friend David liked her and felt bad because she broke Peter's heart at the dance. Others were written during the first years of high school, with notes passed during class pressed between the pages, documenting things I was too young to realize that I'd always remember, even without a written record.

I've always kept journals, even when I knew what I was writing was incriminating evidence -- as if a big "IF YOU VALUE OUR RELATIONSHIP, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS" sign on the front would really prevent prying eyes from taking a peek. It was enough to make my brother shut that volume and confess immediately, but not enough to stop my first serious boyfriend from reading the thing cover to cover and using my secret fears against me. And still, I kept writing, maintaining a public journal for the snoops and a private one that I kept with me, disguised as schoolwork, at all times. (Nowadays, that public journal takes the form of a few different professional blogs.)

At some point I left off writing in messy script in black-and-white composition books and started writing on computers -- though not online, back then. I'd write things and save the documents to disk, first massive 8-inch floppy disks, then smaller 6-inch floppies, then those hard-cased 3-inch ones, then zip disks, and finally thumb drives. And I've saved them all, even though technology has advanced so far that I can't even access the data from my late-high-school and early-college years.

My old journals. I thought I was saving them for my future kids, so they could see what I was like when I was a teenager and we could all bond over the similarities in that portion of our lives. But the future is here and now our oldest girls are full-on teenagers. And they are so cool and gorgeous and smart and sharp that I'm a more than a little embarassed to introduce them to my awkward adolescent self.

I'm decluttering, and I'm in my late 30s, and I know that big box of teenage angst and bad poetry should hit the curb. Or maybe an incinerator, just to be safe. But I can't bring myself to do it. I didn't even thumb through more than a volume or two before closing the box and returning it to a dark corner of the basement.

Maybe I'll get rid of it next time I declutter. But probably not.

Do you keep a journal? What do you do with them when you're done?


Fibro Witch said...

Please don't get rid of them. Find some one who can print out your older computer files. Keep everything together and treasure it as an important part of your past. Your children have you, they know you. Think of the future, the grandchildren and great grandchildren who will never meet you.
I never met my grandfather, he died when my father was in his teens. My grandfather liked to keep journals, he wrote about his life as a train engineer, growing his garden and raising his children. I heard lots of wonderful stories about him, but to look at the thoughts the ideas he committed to paper, I feel like I knew him, just a little bit.

Nancy Shohet West said...

This is so similar to my experience: the binders, the notebooks, the floppy disks, the thumb drives. But my belief is that the value in daily writing (and I never miss a day) is in the process, not the product. As far as I'm concerned, I could write pages and watch them blow away in the breeze; I've reaped the rewards as soon as I've done the writing. This post inspired me to write about the same thing at my blog: (7/30 entry)