Seriously, if you read my diary from 1992, you’d think I led the sort of life that ends up in a misery memoir, because I regularly wrote things like “Oh god, the unbearable agony!” But actually, when I was 16 I was generally kind of happy and sociable and had really good friends who are still among my best mates 20 years later. I just never wrote about that. I wrote when I was feeling sorry for myself (usually because I didn’t have a boyfriend, in particular because I didn’t have, or indeed know, a gorgeous, romantic, floppy-haired, witty, poetry-reading indie rock genius boyfriend. I had ridiculously high standards for someone who went to an all-girls school and didn’t really know many boys) or when (more rarely) something really exciting happened. The “unbearable agony” nonsense, by the way, was because my best friend and I fancied the same boy and didn’t know which of us he fancied back (neither, as it turned out). That’s the sense of proportion I had as a teenager.
I started writing a diary when I was about ten (after I read The Diary of Anne Frank – because obviously my life in a Drumcondra 3-bed semi was going to be just as historically important as a victim of Nazi persecution hiding in an attic), and I kept writing in various notebooks until around 10 years ago.I kept writing my diary all through college and beyond, documenting all my romantic entanglements and general woes, because writing stuff out in my diary genuinely made me feel better. It was a great way of venting my misery and stress. As ever, I only really wrote when something particularly good, bad or dramatic had happened. Though once I was in college these things all happened much more frequently. And so my diary documents all the emotional college dramas. Oh yeah, and my thoughts on a nameless boy I fancied in the library who would become my boyfriend six years later and my husband seven years after that.
I’ve always been glad that I wrote a diary, and that I kept all those notebooks. I like the fact that I documented how I felt about everything in my life, and that I wrote about my crush on that boy in the library. But the problem is that now reading about your feelings from 20 years ago isn’t really enough. I know how I felt about a certain boy messing me around or how happy a new boyfriend made me. But now I also want to know what I did every day. I want to look back and see what else I did in college besides have ridiculous romantic dramas.
I look at my diary for the summer of 1995, which I spent in Berlin with two of my best friends, and while there’s some stuff about our sublet apartment and how cool the city was and a few clubs we went to, there was a lot more whining about how the boy I was besotted with hadn’t written to me yet. It was all about how I felt, not what I did. A while ago I found an unsent letter to my sister that I wrote that summer, and it was much funnier and more interesting than my diary – I wrote about our adventures roaming around the still scarred post-Wall city, the the crazy yoga teachers whose flat we were subletting, and the people we met, and our ultra-low-budget life, and how we ended up at the Love Parade surrounded by very tall Germans in “tiny knicker shorts” (ah, those were the days).
I stopped writing a diary regularly about a decade ago. Not coincidentally, this was the year I started writing on Livejournal and also a year after I got together with my husband. Livejournal was a place to vent about my daily life, and my romantic life was pretty boring now it was actually stress-free. My diary didn’t seem no necessary anymore. But I’ve drifted away from Livejournal too, and I’ve kind of been feeling the need to document my life as it is now. So I’ve been thinking I should start writing a diary again.If only because in another twenty years, I don’t want to have to look to Twitter to find out what I was doing in my thirties.
So what about you? Did you pour out your heart to a notebook as a teen? And does anyone still keep a diary now?