If you ask me whether you should keep your journals and love letters,
I will tell you, unequivocally, yes.
We’ve spent the past four days cleaning out the basement. It’s to the point where the neighbors are probably wondering whether we are getting ready to sell the house (we aren’t). But we’ve been here eleven years now and neither of us has ever sat down with the stuff we’ve carried forward from our younger years and gone through it with intention. There has been a lot of letting go. Good letting go.
But there has also been a lot of holding on.
For me, some of that holding on has included a tenth grade journal I stumbled upon and all of the letters my high school boyfriend ever wrote me. I cannot part with either. The reasons are complex and tethered deep in my heart somewhere. As you get older, I will try to explain why I cannot let go of the musty paper where my first love said the things I will carry with me always, even if subconsciously, and even though he is not the one I married. Though, maybe I won’t need to explain. Maybe you will come to understand it all on your own. You, at the sweet age of eight, already keep a journal yourself. It’s where you sometimes allow your innermost thoughts to spill forth unfettered. Keep doing that. And when those pages are full, or a particular journal stalls out (as they sometimes do), tuck it away until a long time from now.
Here is one reason to keep them which maybe you can already understand: you can look back some day and see the ways you’ve changed. And, perhaps more importantly, the ways you haven’t. You will see the strong, platinum strands of whom you’ve always been sparkling from the darkened corners of long ago.
An excerpt from mine, one I wrote on March 24, 1989, some 27 years ago, when I was fifteen:
There are a few things that often boggle my mind about life. One is that time is such a precious thing. Every second that passes will never come about again. Time is unrecyclable. We are constantly living in the future, in a sense. If you look at it from a short term sense, there is no present because time is always slipping away. It’s an indescribable thing, but I understand it.
The passage of time is a theme that I still consistently contemplate, all these years later. Reading about it in my yellowed journal this weekend granted me a kind of solace I wasn’t expecting. It reminded me of the importance of being true to myself and honoring the ways my heart and mind work, even amidst the noise of everything else. I wish the same for you, many, many years into the future. And so when you are ready, close those last pages for good and don’t look back. At least not until you need to make some space and remove the unnecessary things that stand in your way, all while hopefully catching a glimpse of those still glimmering threads of yourself from the past.
In case you missed it yesterday, my essay “In Sickness” was featured on The Manifest-Station. I almost never write about my marriage, and so it is a somewhat vulnerable piece. I hope you will stop by there and read it. – K
Copyright (c) 2016 Kristen M. Ploetz