If you journal, do you ever envision someone reading what your write someday? It’s sort of a humbling thought. It can make one more conscious of the fact that what we choose to do today could influence another tomorrow.
Let’s take the published diaries of famous people that we may enjoy reading about. The Diary of Anne Frank; The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery; Diaries and Letters of Anne Morrow Lindbergh… (Sorry to list only female writers here: I try to write what I know.) What is it about reading someone else’s diary that interests us so much? I think in large part it is because we feel a connection to someone else. They may have lived in a different place at a totally different time, but we still can identify with universal human emotions. In Ecclesiastes we read, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Somehow, we don’t feel quite as alone when we connect with someone who has felt similarly at one time or another. We are drawn out of our isolation, out of our selves, and are exposed to new ideas and ways of looking at things.
I’m currently watching the riveting docudrama The Great War Diary,– reenactments based on real life diaries and letters of people who lived through the first modern war in history. A diary can be a snapshot in time. We get to see what a person thought or felt during a specific event. Some diaries may mention world news, others may not. Regardless, reading about how others managed through the times in which they lived can help us find strength and inspiration for our lives today. People can learn from others from both the good and the bad.
There is something quite different about reading someone’s journal as opposed to fiction. It’s not a contrived plot. The person writing a particular entry had no idea what would occur the next day. Maybe we know the ending, as unfortunately most do when reading about Anne Frank. But they didn’t, and had a choice to do the best they could with what they had at a given time. Not all things are wrapped up with a bow at the end of the story. Sometimes we see realistic periods of time where seemingly nothing happens, or maybe the entries are blank. The feelings described were real and were felt by real people, like us. In that way, we can identify and maybe be comforted by the fact that we’re not the only ones.
So, what responsibility have we when we set to journal our journeys through life? I think being honest is the most important things we can be when pouring out ourselves, even to the pages of a book. Nobody’s perfect and in our journals– whatever else our lives may pressure us to be—we can be safe to reveal that and hopefully process through it. In so doing, we pave a way for readers who may come after us. What else are we here for than to be a light to others?
Keeping a journal of our thoughts and feelings is also a way to not let it all be in vain. When I feel sad or happy, I don’t want those emotions to be for nothing. So I will sometimes sit down and write it all out. Then it is recorded—not lost, and I feel as though it has not been wasted.
Perhaps all this may sound scary to some. Those who felt inhibited about being vulnerable before now may feel doubly so. “That’s what I was afraid of! I’m terrified someone may read my journals one day!” I know a couple of family members who pitched their older diaries because they were embarrassed. If this is the only way one can feel better about keeping a diary, then I suppose this could be an option as opposed to living in so much dread someone may find it that it keeps you from writing at all. But I urge careful consideration before destroying all your precious thoughts. They really can be an invaluable aid for future generations, whether you think so or not.
In a digital age where text, email, posts, and twitter are thoughtlessly punched out and type quickly vanishes, a journal can be an even more precious gift for ourselves and those who come after. A journal’s voice keeps on speaking long after the writer is gone.