I am proud to say that I keep a diary. Every night, I fill a page with words that tell the story of my day, my emotions, my memories, my battles, and my dreams. It’s been this way since the sixth grade, when I was a self-conscious science nerd with a knack for putting things together, and it’s a tradition upheld by a grammar freak with an unhealthy habit of over-examining the past.
When I first started writing, it was a “journal.” I wrote when I felt like it, just doodled some days. I wrote letters too honest to ever share. I gossiped with myself. I jotted down song lyrics, some original, some borrowed. I wrote about days before I kept a journal, trying desperately to hold on to the little moments that slipped my mind.
Later, I decided to write every day. Gone were the doodles and one-sentence entries. I forced myself to fill an entire page. Sometimes, this meant I’d go deep into a thought about Alzheimer’s or my confidence or the injustice of the meat industry. Other times it led me to summarize my day. Often, I would write about what I was looking forward to, so one day’s entry had a lot in common with the ones before and after.
I write because I am a memory hoarder. I can’t bear to forget the things that have made me happy or broken me. All too often, I get lost in daydreams about the past or the future or the past and the future because I am really bad at living in the moment.
Whenever something really good happens–it doesn’t even have to be big–I want to write down every detail. I want to remember the time of day, the weather, what I was wearing. I want to remember exactly what I said, then what my teacher said, or what my mom told me. Because when I sit down with an old diary, worn at the corners and heavy with words, I want to re-live that moment.
I will admit that having a collection of diaries has come in handy. I wrote about my diary as my evocative object in creative writing freshman year, and I was forced to watch nervously as a year’s worth of my memories were passed around the room. When it came time to write about a life-changing conversation in English class, I had the dialogue and the story right in front of me.
It’s not only handy in school, though. It’s so nice to see how much I’ve grown. My worries and my dreams have been immortalized on paper, and flipping through from front to back, it’s obvious that years have passed.
Over time, I’ve become more comfortable using the word “diary” instead of “journal.” I’m not ashamed of writing down my feelings. The books have been to Maine, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and they’ve traveled across the state to Cape Cod. They go wherever I go.
The bookshelves behind my desk hold two large basketball trophies, a poster signed by guests at my Bat Mitzvah, two cookbooks, and my most prized possessions: four full diaries. I’m working on my fifth. One day, there’ll be enough to fill an entire shelf, and that’s when I’ll have my complete Shelf of Memories.