Sunday 2 September 2018

Diary Hoarder

Having revealed spousal and familial hoarding habits, I should admit that I cannot get rid of my diaries.

This may be unusual. Many women, upon finding a teenage diary, have a quick look, shudder and tear it to bits. And I do understand this impulse, as last week I found an excruciatingly not-to-be-sent letter I wrote to a young man I had had a crush on. Happily, it was clearly an attempt to write my way to sanity, but all the same I tore it up and divided the pieces between two trash bags.

But  I would never rid myself of my teenage diaries, for I don't want to lose the funny, innocent girl who used to be me. For one thing, I took an oath as a child that I would never forget what being a child was like, and if you have your diaries--and I began my first at 7--it's harder to do that.

I actually do have a look at those diaries for time to time, for now that I have friends who are up to 20 years younger than me, I enjoy having a look to see what I was doing when they were born. In Polish Pretend Son's case, I was either at a dance, sleeping or writing about the dance. I keep forgetting to ask his Polish Authentic Mother about the exact hour.

But I have been tempted to burn all diaries written in the 1990s, for I never read those. When I mentioned this to my dear friend Trish, she said that would be very sad. And I think she is right, especially as they are my last link to the person I was--and the person Trish was--in the 1990s. In the 1990s we both struggled to become proper artists, to conquer depression and to find happiness. I found it very, very hard----another reason why I don't want to burn those diaries. It would be like drowning those young women in the middle of their desperate swim for unseen shores.

(Graduating from a Canadian university in the mid-1990s was like being shipwrecked. Discuss.)

Then there are the diaries of my three-year theological training, during which I was usually happy and life was both structured and interesting. A professor passed along a request from the Catholic Register to review a book, as she hadn't the time, and that is how my career in Catholic media began.

And there are even diaries from my time in an American PhD program, which I sometimes think I could turn into a novel, if I could summon up the courage to return deeply into the horrors. The one great problem with my wonderful faith-filled Canadian theologate was that it gave no preparation at all for the shark-infested sea that is (or was) American academic theology.

Finally there are diaries from my surprising new life in Scotland although the written records are rather patchy as by the time I met B.A. I had been blogging for two years and I have blogged ever since.

The physical result of all these diaries is four large boxes jammed with hardcover notebooks. Had I become part of some amazing literary circle they would hold some interest for future scholars, but so far I haven't,* so I strongly doubt it.

There is little of historical interest even in my teenage diaries, as I recorded very little of the worldwide events and cultural novelties around: an excited reference to the whole family getting a DVD player one Christmas, a colourful illustration of the outfit I wore to a dance, a haircut based on that of Veronique Beliveau, the casual description of Italian-Canadian slaves to teenage fashion, as "Ginos" and "Ginas".

That's rather embarrassing now, come to think of it.  

I suppose it may interest some that there was a nostalgic 1960s revival in the 1980s and that bubble-dresses made a brief reappearance. (My mother made me one, and it was awesome.) It may even be of interest that there were still enough women religious working in the "reference library" of my all-girls high school that my then-best friend Tashie and I made up cruel nicknames for them all.

However, I suspect that this will be of interest only to me, and that my heirs will burn my diaries without a qualm--or even just shove them into trash bags, the horror.

*This is now an arguable point, however. Since I married I have become part of the Catholic traditionalist movement, and that does have some very well-known authors and journalists associated with it. It is hard to say, however, what kind of lasting influence any of us will have, and I myself am a very small potato. I might not even be a whole potato. I may be a single french fry--or a tater tot.

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