Saturday, 16 January 2010

diaries, blogs, more diaries, commonplace. part one.

When I was eleven, the most exciting gift that I receieved for christmas (indeed, the only one I can now recall) was a little electronic box called the 'Password Journal'. The big sell of the Password Journal was essentially that it contained voice recognition equipment, so one's secrets could be kept SAFE FROM BOYS, as the hilariously gender-based marketing - it was made by a company called GirlTech and available only in, you know, purples/pinks - so desperately informed us, via a spoken password system. I wrote in it a bit over the christmas period. I had toyed with the concept of diaries before; I remember having a small 'lockable' book, with those generic little keys that opened everything in the nineties (you remember them) at the age of about eight or nine, although I can't for the life of me recall what I put in it. I think mainly I was pretty worried about having nits.

Anyway, from time to time throughout my eleventh year, I would pick up the Password Journal and update it on my terribly insipid life - but something about the habit really resonated with me. A short while before I turned twelve, I began to write something every night before falling asleep, and the pad, clearly designed only for the odd secret about the BOYS you were so busy keeping it SAFE FROM, was soon finished. I got another, of a similar size and shape, and I kept them both inside the Password Journal together. Eventually, I had finished this one too and my talking box was running out of room, so I abandoned it in favour of my bedside cabinet's top draw, which soon began to fill up with these meticulously written little notebooks, all dated and signed like a confession.

I kept a diary pretty much every day between the ages of about twelve and fifteen-almost-sixteen-ish. TWELVE AND FIFTEEN. That's years! A huge commitment of time and effort, and I am now privvy to the most intimate thoughts of my young self, thoughts which - I discovered, looking through the earliest this morning - I had for the most part forgotten, or which pertain to people I have not seen for years. How fascinating!

Except that it isn't. The diary I kept between the ages of TWELVE and, yes, people, FIFTEEN, is - like almost all teenage efforts at self-reflection - pure drivel. Although I entertained thoughts at this age of becoming a writer and even went through a spate, at about thirteen years old, of writing huge amounts of poetry (on the encouragement of my then-English teacher; one of them was published, so I still have it somewhere, and the rest I kept typed up neatly in a green folder, some even with first, second drafts covered with scribbles tucked into the back. I got rid of the whole thing when I was seventeen, to the dismay of my mother), I think that it was mainly the HABIT of diary-writing that appealed to me. I was a poor sleeper even then and routine was important to me; the careful notation of that day's events became a part of my bedtime routine, in defiance of my writing's lack of artistic merit.

Many people have the benefit of being able to look back on their younger self and imagine that they were preternaturally wise; that they were forward-thinking, interesting; that they were, perhaps, unlike their peers. I have no such luxury.

4th January 2002: "School re-opens on Tuesday - I wonder who my new English teacher will be? I hope I'll still be sitting next to <3[boy I liked]<3?"
14th January 2002: "I don't think [boy I liked] likes me as much as I like him..."
31st March 2002: "I run my own website with [then-best friend] which is about Harry Potter. [ha ha ha, I think it was a geocities page.] Me and [then-best friend] have fallen out and I hate him but on the plus side with friends I am now good friends with..."


The heartbreaking thing is that I don't think I thought like this naturally. Well, no, I KNOW I didn't: I was - while not particuarly unusual or mature - at the very least something of an odd fish in those days. Looking back, I can see the way in which I modelled my writing style, if not my actal concerns, on the kind of dreary YA books that were being forced on me by my relatives. Worse still, on rereading my diaries this morning I could see my young self namecheck the odd event that I CAN remember from this period; ones which have had more of a lasting effect on me and which clearly affected me hugely at the time. But I would never go into detail about them. I didn't really own these diaries in any way that mattered, I didn't use them in any way which benefitted me and I continued to write them because, like Magnus Magnusson, I had started, so I would finish.

Perhaps, too, there was a part of me that felt I would one day find it interesting to look back on such musings; I've always been keenly aware of the passage of time and the kind of person who tries to record oh just EVERYTHING for "posterity" (the diarist's disposition) and knew myself well enough even then to imagine that one day I would be older and want to know how I felt when I was young. Well, my younger self was wrong, the things I thought then were better left mysterious and unknown, and there is some capricious and reactive part of me that wants to dispose of them now in the same way I disposed of my youthful poems. They still occupy the entire top drawer of my bedside cabinet and I - I could really do it. What's stopping me?

Nothing, I suppose, but that niggling reluctance to kick through any window to the past. Perhaps the twelve-year-old inside of me still believes that one day they will be useful; that one day, in my thirties perhaps, I will rediscover these diaries and see the wit and assurance that I now, at the tender age of nineteen, am still incapable of finding. But I don't think that's it. If I want to know what I had for lunch in August 2003, well, these diaries stand as an excellent memorial to that lunch - but they aren't good for very much else. Perhaps I am keeping them just so that one day, in my thirties perhaps, I will be able to look through them and go, "Oh. I was right. Nothing to see here."

(post one of two. second part coming soon.)

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