In highschool I had an old computer in my room. It was my journal for two years. Sure, I used it for other things – assignments, photos – but its primary function in my life was as a journal. It held my alternately miserable and optimistic poetry, detailed stories of “what happened at school today” and many pages of me trying to work out how I felt about things. Mostly boys.
I no longer have that computer. I saved some of the most interesting bits onto my laptop when I first changed computers and then, after a while, I deleted those too. They had too much emotion in them. They kept me holding onto a past that no longer existed. Every now and then I wish I could read them and laugh at myself and feel sad over old things but I know that, at the time, I needed to delete them to move on.
I’ve always kept journals in fits and bursts. I can’t count the number of notepads that have been, at one point or another, my diary. I’ve thrown out most of them and left the rest in Adelaide. I have a habit of starting them, keeping them regularly for a while, and then leaving them for months at a time. I used to think this was a failing on my part – a lack of commitment – and then one day I woke up and realised that it wasn’t.
I write as long as it is still good and fun and useful and doesn’t feel like a chore. I keep diaries when I need to think outside of my mind, when I’m having trouble keeping track or I’m scared of forgetting something. I keep diaries to help me make important decisions or to note when something feels so important that I don’t ever want to forget it. When I have my eureka moments, when I see something tragic… and so on. They serve their purpose and then I abandon them.
Now that I have decided to be a writer of stories – rather than a recorder and analyser of events – I sometimes wish that I had kept more of those records. I wonder how important our memories are. I wonder if it’s important to remember things correctly. I wonder if keeping all those old memories and emotions would have been an asset to my writing. I wonder if they would have been a detriment to my life.
Tell me, are you a hoarder of memories in physical form or do you let your brain sift through them as it will?