A Love Affair
I strive for honesty and fear the lies that I am willing to tell myself. At an early age I came to the conclusion that I was a beneficiary of rich genetic history riddled with ancestors willing to take advantage of their ease with lying. In order to police myself from committing crimes that I could not rectify I found the best method of honesty has been my journal. I document my thoughts in order to sift through the half-truths I am willing to tell and to force myself into some level of accountability.
My love affair with diaries is due to self-analysis and a self-diagnosis. There is darkness in my thoughts; I find that I love to reiterate my doubts by writing them out, over and over again. Sometimes I am so crippled by the act of journaling, that I cannot imagine any other way to process my emotions and recollections. I can only tell the truth through my hands, leaving evidence of my good intentions. I do not reflect or reread my thoughts; I feel complete and purged after writing whatever situation it was out.
My interest in journals began in elementary school with the Scholastic book fair. Each year I would beg my mother for money to spend at the fair. I would blow it all on a bunch of cheap themed pencils wrapped in plastic (which were banned from the classrooms for the damage they did to both the manual and electric sharpeners) and books that Scholastic has been pimping out on the elementary school circuit for years. My favorite series from the publisher were the Dear America and Royal Diaries series. I was a geeky, and at times, a mean spirited child. I loved historical fiction, collected stamps, and forced my cousins to play Librarian. The purpose of the game was to turn my cousins into model patrons and allow me to have complete control. I would only allow them to handle one book at a time from my private collection. And when they refused to play, I felt no remorse in beating up the patrons until I had enough quiet bloodied souls seated on the same bed as I keeping me in quiet company while I read.
I still love historical fiction and the occasional fight with my cousins but it was those childhood series that helped develop my love of journaling. In the Dear America series, the girls who served as the stories protagonist had lives unimaginable and more thrilling than what I experienced. Even when recounting the everyday, the writer filled the characters’ lives with mundane chores so time consuming that they were able to sum up entire years in an exciting paragraph or two. The writers told the stories of pioneers, using a child as the voice and perspective. In the Royal Diaries, I was exposed to the historical injustice of being a girl, especially if there was power involved. The more famous subjects helped to put in perspective my childhood: at least there was not a kingdom to lose and I never had to fear about entering an arranged marriage with a member of my own family. My life more resembled the lives of the poorer children in the Dear America series and was the model for my first set of diaries. I armed
myself with the tools needed: pen, paper, literacy and vindictiveness; I have been journaling ever since.
In middle school, I was not content to journal on my own. A group of my friends and I passed a notebook between us in order to bore one another with the details of any classes we did not share. In high school I adapted the habit with a long distance boyfriend. He and I would flirt through short stories thinly veiled on how we felt for one another. Whenever someone did not know what to buy me for a gift, the popular default has always been a journal, something that I am not averse to. Though money is the more preferable form of paper, I do rank a blank notebook as step above a gift card.
Aside from the need to be honest with myself, I also entertain the egotistical thought that my words are needed for the future. Archeologists centuries from now would uncover my spiral notebooks and rejoice at the chicken scratch that would require years to decipher. They would use my words as a frame of reference for an adolescent late Twentieth century girl whose thoughts switched between anxiety over alphabetizing, by color, her Barbie’s wardrobe and her undying love for Val Kilmer. Or they will rejoice over the oversharing from my teenage mind, those schedules made of my crushes semester blocking and who I could convince to buy me my cigarettes. Any time period of mine is solid gold for piecing together a normal American life, I am ready to be archived and studied over.
Though a diary is supposed to be personal, I am under the impression that it is nothing without an audience. I have had blogs and Angelfire websites dedicated to this assumption. Deadjournal. Livejounral .Tumblr. WordPress. All different platforms, but the same goal. For my own eyes, I have a different opinion. Every time I would read what I had to feel and think, the compulsion to edit would strike me. When I could not clean up my past enough; a new wave of urges follow: throw it away, abandon all hope, hide from my hands, and restart with a healthier mind.
It is rare for me to read what I have spent so much time recording. I feel shame at my past embarrassments and indiscretions. I have an urge to throw away words as if it will be able to erase those unwanted emotions. I went through periods where, outside a boyfriends apartment and in the last few months of our break up, I chucked several years of my history in his dumpster. Sobbing hard at making an emotional ass of myself, I was embarrassed to be scorned and I did not want a reminder of my time wasted. It was not the first time my shame would dictate a purging. Every few years I have given up on myself and I feed the urge to destroy my own words. As if that would counter the prophecies I had made for myself. As if I could forget all the truth I had forced myself to acknowledge. I replace the urge to lie with the urge to edit.
I keep on aging. This realization, along with so many others, is recent. My last Birthday must have solidified the concept. I came to the conclusion that I could not live my life in the same cycle. If I keep on restarting I will never come to terms with the person that I am. I will find that I lived my life waiting for the perfect start. There are so many wasted words that I end up rewriting every time I throw them out.
I still have the itch to trash my journals. These epiphanies have not been the catalyst for change, only a slight motivator. My current relationship is more stable when compared to the dramatic young ones that lead me to tears and the trash. Yet I still use my diary as a crutch in arguments. With my boyfriend, I quiet up during our spats, trying to process how we got to this point. I keep silent till I can discern how I feel and why I feel it. Hours or even days later, I jot it down. I have given him access to my diary since my current silence is inadequate for our relationship. My work desk displays a growing collection of notebooks; a shelf crammed to capacity and threatening to invade the neighboring territory that is the window sill. Since my last great purging was a couple of boys ago, my boyfriend has the opportunity to read a history of who I was prior to us.
An opportunity that I have restricted him from in the last couples of weeks. After a couple of minor fights I decided to discipline him by hiding my words in the bottom of a wicker basket. They are tucked under purses the size of my petite frame and backpacks that I am not using, I let my journals stay hidden. My plan is to allow my anger at him for not noticing the absence of my voice, to grow. I am setting us both up for failure in an attempt to win this round in a bout of which he is unaware that he is boxing in. I am sure the majority of our conflicts could be negated if passive-aggressive tendencies did not exist. There is a level of joy associated with it; everyone can relate to the pleasure taken in cultivating minor vendettas.
Aside from my current pettiness, I would like to think I have grown into accepting all aspects of my mind, even the truths I try to avoid while comprehending my day. I have made a promise with each new journal: I will allow this notebook to live until I die. Whoever has the responsibility of my body and meager belongings in death, well they can do with my words what they want. But I do hope for a legacy. Even if my family and friends hope that in death I will not be able to haunt them into reading anymore of my work, there is still a want to have someone hold onto my words and memories. And if their intentions are to chuck it all out, they have that right. Still I would curse them. May the boxed up journals crush them and lead to a slow suffocation or a concussion. Some type of odd death that would lead to a mention on the local news and multiple Facebook shares.
A.J. Whitaker is a college flunk out and beauty school dropout living in Austin, TX. Unpublished but for her personal blog, www.smashlin.com, A.J. attempts to bring mundane everyday details to life.