Yes. Tonight I will set fire to the little black notebook in which I have kept a semi-regular journal over the past five years of my life. I will incinerate half a decade’s worth of mundane, important or note-worthy personal happenings recorded the “old school” way. Ink, pen and paper.
In the grand scheme of things, that really doesn’t matter much. Nonetheless, let me share with you the thought process that led me to making this rather inconsequential decision.
I previously blogged about why I keep a journal. The reasons why you would keep a journal are many. Such reasons are both highly personal and somewhat obvious. I would also say that while those reasons are not mutually-exclusive, those of us who keep a journal have one dominant drive or reason to do so. From journals of artistic inclinations, to a written form of self-reflection, to having a sort of autobiographical breadcrumb trail that provides a lead to the roots of current emotional/psychological states and acts as a witness for self-honesty.
The Rollins Band puts it very succinctly in their song “Such A Drag”:
“...so you open up your journal, and try to open up yourself, to try to find the key that unlocks the door that gets you to the point. The Reference Point. So you can say:”Right there, X marks the spot of my discontent. X marks the spot of my soul starvation. X marks the spot. The place…where I went so wrong…”
My journaling habits were focused on, or rather driven by, the latter reason. The frequency with which I write in my journal is anything but regular: I’d go for weeks without recording anything. Total radio silence. Then I’d be going through several ballpoint pens as I religiously (and somewhat furtively, I might confess) add daily entries, or even several times a day. The level of detail also varies. Sometimes I would barely scrap the surface of what I intended to record, but have comfort in knowing that the few lines of chicken scratch script on coffee-stained pages serve the purpose of having the mental bookmarks to that particular incident/thought/observation. I will read the first few words and vivid, life-like images of this situation or a clear recollection of that thought will instantly flood my mind. Other times, I would meticulously record everything I could get on paper before I bore myself to death with detail.
Yesterday I opened my journal and sampled entries dated as early as 2004, to date. Travels, observations, people, thoughts.
There was too much of “me” in there. It scared me a little.
Not because I have anything uber-secret in there. It’s just that I really prefer not to share too much of my thoughts with others, even those close to me. Doing so often does one of two things: 1) Poke holes into your isolated and as such often flawed inner logic and help patch up weaknesses in your personal hypothesis, or 2) morph a completely sensible and logically sound inner monologue into a screaming argument with self.
I choose to forgo #1 in the interest of avoiding #2, most of the time.
Having these thoughts on paper is like having a part of me gain physical independence. That, to me, is a very uncomfortable thought.
Which brings me to thinking about the weird dichotomy in having (some of) these thoughts in the digital form on this blog, forever archived even if I decide to delete it. You can’t get rid of all traces of things you release into the digital ether. I am being OK with spilling out many thoughts and entries for (potentially) millions to see online, yet uncomfortable with having an analog journal in a notebook I keep in my bag. Oh, such a bizarre mix of vanity-driven personal hypocrisy.
So tonight, as i stare into the flames eating up the little black notebook. I will make my peace with the fact that whatever thoughts I intend to share would go on this blog, and the ones I must guard from unsolicited public scrutiny and judgment will stay locked in my temporal lobe.
(I am only kidding, I am not going to burn my notebook, though I did consider doing so. The idea of a ritual burning of a notebook really appeals to the dramatist in me )