Who didn’t start keeping a diary as a teenager? I started writing a journal when I was 13-years old and continued pretty much daily into my mid-twenties. Each diary was a hardback note book and was sometimes super-neat and at other times I filled it with pages of large angry scrawl. Unlike many people I no longer have these diaries. Some of you will be horrified that I have thrown away something so personal, but these notebooks were ditched in an early quest for a minimalist life, in fact before it was even a thing. My teenage diaries went into the bin in my late twenties and it felt good. I realised I had no regrets and after keeping the later diaries for a while longer, eventually I could no longer justify the space they took up and these hit the bin too. How did I find the strength to throw away the inner ramblings of my younger self?
I was an unhappy teenager, lacking in self-confidence and I poured my heart out to these diaries. Every day I wrote about the self-obsessed life of a miserable and often lonely young woman. Living in a village I was isolated from my school friends; many living in even more remote locations miles away. My evenings, weekends and school holidays were often spent in solitude with music, books and the radio and writing my diary. My best friend didn’t even have a home phone! Instead I wrote to an imaginary best friend in these diaries.
My diaries were the only place I recorded my unhappiness and overwhelming longing for someone who would care for me and I wrote at length about the ups and downs of unsuitable and ultimately dismal relationships. My diary kept many secrets, including the night of my unsuccessful suicide attempt and surprise when I woke up the next morning feeling dreadful and light-headed. My diaries helped me deal with the death of my best friend at the age of 14 and were where I slowly learnt to be thankful for every day I am alive.
There were good times in these diaries too. My love of school and learning was recorded and I had fun with friends but it was my imaginary friend in my diaries that I was closest to.
After a painful year in my early twenties when I survived my first marriage ending, my parents separating and my much-loved grandma dying, I discovered how resilient I was. Living alone and still isolated in my country cottage, often with no human contact through the evenings and weekends I matured and became less self-obsessed. I found strength and self-containment and started to figure out the person I could be and my diaries were where I explored some of my ideas. In my mid-twenties the love of Mr BOTRA helped me turn my life around and I started to become the person I am today. The very large pile of around 30 notebooks was a weighty symbol of the person I had been and I carried them to and from the first two houses we lived in together. I found I had less need to revisit that intense period of teenage navel gazing; that person wasn’t someone I wanted to see again. For me, throwing out those earlier diaries was an important and meaningful first step that helped me realise I didn’t need to hang on to the past. This made the second and final de-cluttering episode easier.
This extreme de-cluttering might be harder if your diaries record happier times but I grew to know that the diaries remembered a life I had no need to hang on to. I can’t undo that past and it has made me who I am but I didn’t want anyone to read those diaries and judge me for being the person I was. Getting rid of those diaries was liberating and I felt re-born and buoyant as I dumped them in the bin. It was time to move on, as they say these days!