Like little soldiers, they are all lined up in a bookcase, different heights, colours and shapes, some rougher around the edges than others. My journals. Twenty years of my life, mostly left unread. They used to be stored in a trunk, tossed inside randomly whenever one was done with and the cover of a new one, still empty of stories that hadn’t happened yet, beckoned. A year ago, I took them all out, scattered them on the floor and organized them in chronological order, a task more daunting than anticipated.
The decision to keep a diary was more like an impulse, one Summer on a Greek island. At the village only convenience store, one of those jumbled places that sell everything, from coffee to shoelaces, I bought a slim, lined exercise book, with a blue plastic cover and a little plastic window inside which the student was supposed to write his name. And so it began, writing something everyday, stuffing the journal du jour in my bag, recording god knows what. Whenever I travelled, I would buy one, as a memento of the trip, a memory trigger every time I opened it to dirty it with my thoughts. The nicest ones are leather-bound, or the handmade ones, with nearly transparent sheets, although I ended up favoring the black Moleskine, at a time when Moleskine had just been reintroduced on the market and only came in a sober black cover with off white lined pages.
I never, never reread them until the day I decided it was time to organize them. I could only get through the first three, over the course of a couple of weeks and then I abruptly stopped. I felt as if by reading until the end was akin to fast forwarding my life and perversely hastening my demise.
The little I read reminded me how fragile our memory is – I didn’t remember half of the people featured in them, so high is the number of souls we cross path with who end up not having much of an influence on our lives. It was slightly voyeuristic to read about decision making in the process or the beginning of affairs knowing what the outcome was. Most of all, what was apparent was the therapeutic qualities they possessed – whatever was on my mind, whatever obsessed me or worried me was worked out on the page, day after day, sometimes in a few lines and at times pored over several pages.
A couple of years ago, I found myself on a Greek island once again, in a much less carefree spirit than twenty years before. Not much seemed to have changed on this particular remote outpost. The corner store where I would buy the coffee for the “briki” that came with the house I had rented sold everything, from coffee to shoelaces. The woman behind the counter only spoke Greek and was gruff but helpful. On the shelves of her modest store, I uncovered a stack of exercise books, all with blue plastic covers and a plastic pocket on the front. I caressed them, thinking fondly to the students who would be striving over their homework on the same exercise books their parents used. Exactly the same ones.I couldn’t resist buying one and I briefly thought I had come full circle and maybe it was time to give up the journalling process which, now that I blog nearly everyday, has slowed down considerably. But I decided against it – I picture myself, older and crankier, on a rocking chair re-reading what I hope will have been a well-lived life.