As we pack to move, I discovered some of my old journals. Written in old spiral notebooks, my earliest journals were written starting the summer after my freshman year in college. I have been sporadic in keeping up with them; this site actually serves much the same purposes as those journals, albeit in a far more limited way.
As I flipped through the pages - the dates on them seem impossibly far in the past, a different age - I was put in mind of some reflections on keeping a notebook. Some of the things Didion writes are actually spot on - why does this or that comment appear, and about whom? One thing, however, I have to admit. Despite the other things I will write in what follows, these journals were very much memory aids. As I read through them, I was both amused and pleasantly surprised to find that they helped shape my memory of some events, keep others in mind at all long after one would have thought they would have been forgotten; and kept names and faces in my mind I might otherwise have let slip. The question, then, is whether or not the recollections included reflect events accurately or not; I cannot even begin to answer that question with any equanimity. Discovering that my memories have been shaped to a very large degree by my own attempt to record those memories makes it impossible for me to get behind that process and figure out whether or not they bear any resemblance to what actually happened. Indeed, the question becomes meaningless.
I cannot help but note how juvenile my earliest entries are. They are full of earnestness, which is, I suppose, excusable. They are also terribly embarrassing precisely because of that. I would far prefer to have been mature at 18, to be far less convinced of my own understanding, knowledge, insight, and prospects. Alas, a theme that runs through the earliest entries is the conviction, the certitude of my beliefs.
One theme that runs through my journals of which I was really unaware until I read through them - my dating life! My very first journal entry, dated August 17, 1984, was the afternoon of a date with a young woman; we went to see Ghostbusters at a theater in Elmira. One journal, comparatively small, begins with the date September 8, 1991, and is almost completely dedicated to recording my reflections (some of them a bit taxing even to me in the way the spiral of reflection soon enters the territory of the absurd) during the last love affair I had before I met the woman who would become my wife. This last is important for any number of reasons, but most of all because I was convinced then, and am satisfied now, that this was the first time I was really, truly in love. Nothing in any previous relationship - not various young women I dated occasionally, or to whom that word might refer - prepared me for the depth of feeling, the honest surrender and vulnerability I allowed myself. As I read through my thoughts from that autumn of 1991, I have to smile at the way it all sneaked up on me. Even though we broke up, and badly, I have nothing but good thoughts and memories of our time together. Reading through the journal entries reinforces this particular view.
Some moments are recorded that help me anchor certain world events - the Challenger explosion; the fall of the Duvalier dictatorship in Haiti and Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines; the bombing of Libya; Chernobyl; the events of the spring, summer, and fall of 1989 during which the Warsaw Pact and Communist bloc collapsed. It's nice that I managed to pay attention enough during these times, when I was remarkably self-involved, to not only note their passing as events, but to reflect upon them.
Part of me wonders why I keep them, but then I realize I cannot get rid of them. For all they are quite nonsensical in many ways, they are also accurate reflections of who I was at one time. I would be getting rid of evidence of my own existence, in some way, if I discarded them.
And, no, I will not share them. For one thing, they contain names, and my guess is the people attached to those names might object. For another, it is enough that they are embarrassing; take my word for it, and leave it at that, OK?