Friday, 18 October 2013

Are You Keeping A Secret?



"All human beings have three lives: public, private, and secret."
- Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Gabriel García Márquez: a Life


I froze. I heard the boys' names mockingly mentioned by one of the girls who belonged to the 'It' group of my sophomore class. I was mortified. I thought my school uniform and I were simultaneously stapled on my seat.

How did they know the names of my secret crushes in our village? I never told anyone but my five-year-old sister. I didn't think she would betray me. 

Unless my diary did. My diary! My diary which I mistakenly left on my armchair on a quick trip to the lavatory. I took a furtive glance and saw that my teenage diary was fortunately still inside my school bag, but the secrets it held were unfortunately not.   

I was 13. The embarrassment of knowing that someone else has read the things I wouldn't tell another soul just because I wouldn't, broke my attachment to diary-keeping. All the other diaries I  kept after that were functional and practical when-was-my-last-period-and-what-about-the-next-exam kind of record-keeping. 


photo credit: flickr.com

But then, habits don't just abandon you. So at 19, I started a diary again. Not just one, for I have a notebook fetish. I judge one by its cover. I don't write as often as I used to as my life then isn't as tangled as it is now, but when I do, I write like a madwoman. 


 My three diaries. From L to R: green hardbound is from 1996 (has witnessed just a year short of half of my entire life that my Facebook timeline can't rival); brown in the middle with embroidered circles is from 2007; and the hardbound black Moleskine is from my 2012 birthday.


I keep one (green) for my deepest, innermost, unedited, and most secret thoughts and feelings that I know and am sure I will be harshly judged for, if not misunderstood, if I tell anyone. Another one (brown) is for constructive thoughts and ideas that make up my future life plans.  The third one (black) is for random musings on topics and plots to write about. I must say though that some of the best thoughts are those that come in passing where I find myself smiling
 
photo credit: dailymail.co.uk
 A soldier's diary entry from the trenches, written on my birthday.



Lost Art
In the same respect as letter-writing, diary-keeping is a dying art, if not a hobby from the past whose embers are nervously flickering from eventually getting snuffed. 

photo credit: metro


An article (amongst so many other articles) was published a couple of weeks ago prior to the release of the book 'Mad About The Boy' which is Helen Fielding's third book on one famous fictional diarist, Bridget Jones, whose calorific and alcohol-unit-doused diary pages and resolve to stay away from megalomaniacs and emotional f***wits directly spoke to lots of thirty-something women in the late 90s and early 2000s, they were convinced Ms. Fielding was writing about their own loveable dippy selves, before the same horde followed the 'shoesteps' of Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte. 

 
photo credit: wikipedia.org

Bridget Jones' diary has come into the consciousness of mainstream moviegoers, even straight men have seen the film adaptations. The writer questions whether the musings we scribble on our diaries and journals are more worthy (in his words) than our posts on social media platforms. 

Are they really?



My Diary and Me: We Go Back A Long Way
I've kept a diary since I was 12 for several reasons: I was ready to give up my slambook; I didn't think that scented stationeries glued  together would make me a sophisticated diarist; I've always loved the written words and thought that I might as well put my own thoughts into writing in an organised bound notebook rather than on old scraps of ledger books I used to manage to get my hands on; and I was inspired by Anne Frank whose world I saw came crashing down through her diary (which also ignited my very strong fascination with World War II events, I'm surprised I didn't major in History. But that's another story). 


photo credit: annefrank.org
 The Diary of a Young Girl, also known as The Diary of Anne Frank, written in Dutch and has been published in 60 different languages.


If you've ever read Archie's Digest, the highschool kids (Betty, Veronica, Big Moose, Jughead, et al.) thought of burying a time capsule that would contain their batch's memorabilia (apologies to my UK readers as this is very American as Archie, highschool yearbooks, and my cultural influences, that you probably won't get it) that they will one day unearth during homecoming (proms have reached the UK, so this one's next). 

I think every person is sentimental and introspective at varying degrees and expressions, and whilst a time capsule wasn't up my street, keeping a diary certainly appealed to my occasional bouts of retrospection.


People who've never even kept a diary before have social media accounts where they rant (albeit still edited for grammar and profanity--well, at least for some), type in a 1,000-character status update on how their day went or comment on someone else's 1,000-character status update, or just spew unfiltered random thoughts (justifies talking to ourselves).

In other words, social media have turned the world into online 'diarists' albeit with a major deviation from traditional diary-writing in keeping with the hallmark of modern self-expression: the need for an audience. 

In that sense, traditional diaries and social media aren't even equivalent. The purpose may be similar but the experience is not the same. 


Interaction V Seclusion
Famous diarists such as Samuel Pepys, Lewis Carroll, Anne Frank, and Virginia Woolf have shed insights about their personalities and thought processes in response to their environment, the past, and have helped historians document the events around their time. With the exception of Anaïs Nin whose unexpurgated diary versions have credited her as one of the first women authors of female erotica, all the other historical diarists I mentioned didn't deliberately write for publication. 

photo credit: wikipedia.org
   Virginia Woolf in her younger days

I very highly doubt that my own diaries will be published one day, and even if it gets to that point, I have to be long gone or else I'll drop dead from the second wave of embarrassment from having my personal diary being read by not just a few highschool girls but by a wider group of audience who I can imagine would be more cynical.  

Keeping a diary is my way of taking time to see myself as an observer of my own thoughts and feelings. When I read back entries from months or even years ago, I find that either  I shock myself or I turn into a prude, red-faced from reading my own writings.
 
photo credit: baliexpat.biz

 Anaïs Nin

Diary-writing is reaching out to my inner core. Writing my thoughts allows me to have a proper conversation with myself. Silently. Sometimes it's best to work things out on our own as others can only listen so much to our lamentations. People will run out of patience listening to us; our diaries will only run out of pages and our pens of ink. I love that it is uncensored, unedited, not meant for anyone's approval or dislike (unless of course it gets to the hands of the unscrupulous and nosy), and that it's cathartic and purgative. It rids me of baggages that I can throw around when there's no opportunity to offload. A diary is a depository of thoughts--thoughts that I withdraw when I need enrichment of my life through learning from my past.  


The Great Diary Project
Our generation has learned a thing or two from these well-known diarists, from the poignant to the explicit. What will the future generation make out of ours one day?

This has driven Dr. Irving Finkel, curator in the Department of the Middle East at the British Museum, to amass ordinary people's diaries for long-term preservation via the Great Diary Project. Diaries of any kind or date are rescued to be eventually permanently housed at Bishopsgate Institute in London.  


photo credit: thegreatdiaryproject.co.uk

Dr. Finkel has collected over 2,000 diaries to date and is looking into extending that to as much as what can possibly be sourced. I've come across a piece from 2001 (I'm sorry I couldn't find it again!) when he initially planned to bury all the diaries in an empty tube station for future Londoners to stumble onto a 'gold dust' of social history.

One diary in the collection was written over a stretch of 70 years, another was from 200 years ago, and still another set in affluent Richmond, south west London during the war, but seemed to deliberately not mention the war in the pages. 

My diaries might just find their way to Bishopsgate Institute upon their retirement, but in the meantime they still have to do a lot of putting up with my musings and rants.


Scribble or Type?
Going back to the question posed by the writer: are the musings we scribble on our diaries and journals [are] more worthy than our posts on social media platforms?

It's not necessarily about being more worthy, but about being more intimate. We totally own the thoughts we write on a diary as they aren't shared, not liked, not retweeted, and not discussed on a thread or commented on. It's not exposed to be validated by others but only by yourself--if not now, then in the future when you want to look back and reflect on how you felt at certain important stages in your life and see how far you've gone. 

To each his own, really, but I love keeping a secret life.







 

 

 






 

16 comments:

  1. I used to keep a diary when I was a child but realised that my mother had found it and was reading it! Then I kept daily diaries throughout my twenties and thirties, mainly because I have a terrible memory and also because it was a safer method of venting than punching somebody in the face. However, one day I realised that I'd HATE it if anyone else read them and so I destroyed them. No regrets, it's not like I was living the life of Liz Taylor. Nowadays I make sporadic entries in an online diary and don't have to worry about someone 'finding' it. It also gives me a good laugh when I read back over my more traumatic days with all their petty annoyances.

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    1. Agree..safer to vent on a diary than punch someone's face! I've managed to drill holes on mine using a pen in times of extreme anger. T'was like a horror film, with lots of lines and circles and no words at all! Maybe I'll burn mine one day. Or donate them at the Great Diary Project as my form of selfie :D I laugh too when I read entries from ages ago. Then I cringe. Haha. But it's sometimes good to read old thoughts that I don't even remember thinking...

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  2. Love this post. Writing a journal is not for the undisciplined, but it certainly is something of infinite value to those that cherish their own reflections, their own thoughts, feelings, and experiences. I think that Carrie Bradshaw and Bridget Jones put journal-writing back in the forefront of what's cool and sexy, but I wonder now if they would've preferred to unload more cryptic versions of their thoughts and feelings on to Twitter or Facebook, if social media had existed when these characters came into being. Reflection is lost on the narcissists with short-attention spans, that's for sure! I do agree that writing a journal/diary has become somewhat of a lost art -- I for one have now resorted to write just travel journals or documenting once-in-a-lifetime experiences that involve my little girl. I feel quite envious of those that are able to make a conscious effort to journalize their "inner" life.

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    1. Very well said Rhona. Thank you very much for being so insightful! On the third book, Bridget has turned into Twitter and in fact has met a younger man through that. But I think she has kept her diary and she's back to recording her weight and alcohol intake :) People who keep a diary write for various reasons but I guess the most common is to off-load and be themselves. Your little girl's lucky that you write about experiences involving her. In that case, you have nothing to envy about others who journalise their inner life :)

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  3. I kept a diary from the age of 12 to about 17, the tortured scribbling of an adolescent, with plenty of moments of raw panic and terror as I grew out of my teenage years. I have them all in a box somewhere, and will get them out one day.
    My daughter, who is 12, is journal obsessed. She writes prolifically.... Up to 7 or 8 pages a day. I would never dream of reading it, but she occasionally shares the drawings that she does.
    I hope she continues with it. I seem to remember that reflecting back on my earlier years was quite comforting.
    Thanks for this post x

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    1. Lucky you Ruth, that you managed to keep your girlhood diaries! I've moved a lot that I misplaced mine. Maybe my mother has kept it, knowing how more sentimental she is than me. That's very admirable of your daughter to write nearly 8 pages a day, rather than go online 8 hours a day :) I think that even she stops at some point, she'll get back to it coz if she has the discipline now as young girl, she'll miss the habit when she's older.
      You're welcome and I'm very pleased you related very much to this post x

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  4. This was so interesting and made me reflect on my early years and why I didn't keep a diary - I'm still not sure why I've never put pen to diary. I cant say time because a child's life is full of time, and I cant say ability because you don't really need ability to write a personal diary. You see now, with Carrie in SATC, I didn't see what she was doing as a diary because she was writing a column, so in essence it was a job for her - no doubt she probably did write a diary as well. Perhaps that was my reason: purpose, I'm not sure I knew what the purpose was for writing a diary. I guess I thought If something was interesting enough to write down, the mind would remember it?? dunno.....

    Anyway re. social media, I think this is a completely separate entity to writing a diary and again I think the purpose is completely different. For me social media is about letting people know you are there (business), being nosy of other people's business (curiosity) and having a bit of harmless interactive fun (I tweeted last night about a spider that was in my house!). Writing a diary is certainly more personal and is about documenting invaluable memories that you and only you can refer back to and I guess it's an outlet to 'post' emotions and experiences that you would never want anyone else to know.

    My journal/diary is now made up of photos - now words, some that are specifically for the purpose of social media, others for me to reflect on personally in years to come.

    Have a great weekend xx

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    1. I'd call yours a photo-diary :) You express yourself via your photos, in the same way that photojournalists speak to their audience via images rather than words.
      Perhaps it's your form of reflection--and it's not bad at all when you do while wearing high heels :D Have a lovely weekend Colleen! x

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  5. I used to keep diary notebooks but nowadays I keep an electronic file with password. It's much safer!

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    1. I have yet to get to an electronic level of diary-keeping. One day maybe. Thanks Anouka!

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  6. All your diaries are absolutely gorgeous! *-*

    I've always wanted to be the kind of person who keeps a diary or journal but I don't quite have the discipline for that! And I'm pretty sure I'd just end up filling pages of really boring non-issues!

    Hayfa
    http://www.londonloafers.com

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    1. Thanks Hayfa! Diaries are meant for boring and non-boring issues, so give it a try. It won't complain anyway :)

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  7. Great post. I used to have a diary with a lock and key, and then my brother broke it open, but still kept another one later. Now, I have a notebook journal that I often write in, but more for inspirational thoughts. Happy weekenf. xx/Madison

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    1. That lock-and-key diary seemed to have been the trend when we were younger, I haven't spotted one in recent times. You're one of the very few who still keep a diary. Well done and keep it going! Have a lovely weekend xx

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  8. Interesting post. I remember having a diary when I was at primary school, one of those with a lock and key and you have made me think about it! I haven't seen it for years. I must see if I can find it! You are so organised with your three beautiful diaries. There is something special about hand written diaries and letters in this age of texting. I'm looking forward to reading Helen Fielding's new book as I'm a Bridget fan!

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    1. Hahhaa...hope you find it :) Oh thank you, I'm quite organised in general, but I think even more so with my diaries. I think anything handwritten is special especially in this day and age. Get the book soon! :)

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