I wanted to keep a journal when I was a kid, but I never committed. I remember scribbling a couple entries down on loose leaf and then forgetting about them soon after. They were shoved in my desk along with other useless papers that I would later have to rifle through to decide their level of importance. So many things I should have thrown away, and so many things I should have paid more attention to. That’s the thing though when you’re a kid, you can’t tell the future.
I watched an interesting documentary last night called “Mortified Nation” about a stage show that originated from a guy reading his old journals out loud. It became a phenomenon that spread throughout country and now has monthly shows in several major cities. It’s such a novel idea to me, something I would probably jump at the chance to do, but for some it is a cathartic experience. There are participants in the show that had way more to deal with growing up than I did. I never had abusive parents or struggled with sexual identity, but for many of these folks the journaling was the tool they used to cope with the tumult of emotions they went through. It’s not all sad and serious, though. In fact the popularity of the show comes from the unintentional comedy of the writings. We all laugh because on a base level we can relate to how it felt to be an adolescent and angry at the world. We all thought we were so smart, but it’s fun to share in the hindsight that none of us really knew anything. And we still don’t.
What I have now in place of journals are a number of video tapes and audio cassettes that I or another family member made during my childhood. My grandpa was pretty good with the camera when I was little, and there is plenty of footage of me roaming in and out of the shot, interrupting heartfelt moments to interject another joke I remembered (or made up). Some shots you can see the top of my head bobbing in and out as I’m trying to jump into the frame, and you can hear me plead with my grandpa to move the camera back down to my level. When the camera was on me, the adults behind it would feed me questions probably just to see what I would say. It’s hard to predict someone who has no filter. They’d ask me about the girl in my class I had a crush on and listen to me yammer on about how pretty she was and how she made me see hearts. Or they’d ask me to tell them the new joke I learned. See they always encouraged me to be myself, but then they wondered why I never shut up.
So whatever kind of historical record you have, I advise you preserve it. You may think that those journals you did in English class are worthless, but that’s because you haven’t allowed them to see the light of day yet. You should take them out, dust them off, and at least give them a private read. There may be some things in there you had forgotten about that’ll make you smile. Or hurl. Either way I think it’s worth it.