When I first decided I could record things about my life (a.k.a. Dear Diary), I ended up with a log of what I ate. Apparently, food was the highlight of each day. I churned out list after list of fairly repetitive breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks in between. And so I spent a chunk of grade school collecting Garbage Pail Kids and Care Bear stickers, and keeping track of what I ate. One of my first realizations about myself was that I loved hotdogs and I loved stickers, and I remember thinking I was bound to outgrow them, since even as a child I found such fetishes childish. A few months after I started my food log, I decided to junk it. Many years later, I would learn about the pairing of ingestion and catalogue as art stunt/statement and rediscover the, as it turns out, esteemed creator of Garbage Pail Kids. But back then I quickly came to the conclusion that my food log was insipid, and simply thought Garbage Pail was much more amusing than Cabbage Patch.
In high school, I didn’t keep journals. I also didn’t say, think, or do much, so.
Med school drove me to journal writing, three pages a day, first thing in the morning. I was anxious and needed not to be. I woke up, wrote page after page of mantras to reassure myself, and felt better. But then I left med school, and the writing ritual that came with it.
In my twenties I traveled a lot, and I figured I should keep track of things I might never do or see again. Thanks to this mindset, I have presumably gushy notes in illegible handwriting of the hours I spent reading through Copy D of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in the Library of Congress. I also have lengthy chronicles of my angst (apparently, you take your angst with you wherever you go)–annoying to read and difficult (due to abundance) to omit to get to the cheerier travel parts, which is why I can’t quite reminisce about my youthful travels with the aid of my journals.
These days I carry a battered yet still gorgeous marbled notebook stuffed with receipts and post-its and a couple of postcards and photos. I write my lectures in it, plan my schedule in it, draft poem projects in it, tally up my savings in it, and still, occasionally, chronicle my angst in it. It’s not the most organized thing in the world, but it gets things done, and there really is no point in compulsively compartmentalizing when daily life insists otherwise. I’m actually quite happy with it, and it goes wherever I go.