As I held a book with a worn green cover, prominently labeled ‘Secret! Do not open!’ and filled with pages of chicken scratches and crude sketches, memories rushed back of the many evenings I spent diligently writing in my childhood diary.
I kept a diary from mid-elementary school up until early high school, filling almost eight complete volumes. Yet rereading my old diary entries, I often ask myself: ‘Why, exactly, did I decide to keep a diary? What had I hoped to gain from this? My earliest diary entries were more a type of lifeless accounting. I chronicled only the mundane details of day-to-day life, such as what time I woke up or what I ate for lunch, while omitting any hint of introspection. This frustrates me, and I want to ask my past self, ‘But why did you write this down?’ or ‘How did you feel about this?’. The truth is, at the time, I was afraid of forgetting things. If I didn’t write it down, how would I know in ten years that I had eaten a burrito for lunch? My diary was, in a way, proof that I existed. However, my favorite entries come from my mid-diary writing career. Inspired by books such as ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’, ‘Dear Dumb Diary’, and ‘Anne of Green Gables’, I started infusing more emotional depth into my writing. I love reading my entries from this period because some of them are absurdly hilarious. For instance, one of my entries finishes with the declaration “I will never ever ever ever ever talk to [person] ever again!”, with each ‘ever’ spanning an entire page, yet the very next entry begins with “So [person] and I made up today”. I also gradually discovered the cathartic function of writing: I would write purely to vent my emotions. However, the result was an endless chain of pessimistic entries in which I would gloss over anything positive because it simply wasn’t worth venting about.
I often like to reflect on how my habit of keeping a diary has affected me today. When I was younger, keeping a diary helped foster my interest in writing and reading. It also was a source of enjoyment for me, not only because I was able to destress and release negative emotions, but also because there is a certain thrill in putting your secret opinions on paper. Today, rereading my diary is a humbling experience, which genuinely changes my perception of myself. I am always surprised by my character development throughout the pages, though I am simultaneously horrified by how immature and senseless I sometimes sound. It helps me recognize my flaws which I can only see clearly by putting time between my past and present self. At the same time, my diary gives me hope that I will continue to grow, and that someday I will look back at today’s diary entries and feel the same embarrassment as I do now when I read my childhood diary.