During the first two months of my sophomore year in high school, I was inspired to keep a journal. My closest friend was doing it, so monkey see, monkey do. It was a useful way to keep track of my life, to practice my writing, and to get out thoughts and feelings I would not otherwise express externally.
For the record, it was not a diary. Diaries are for girls: Journals are for boys.
I kept journals for the rest of high school and into college. After the first year, however, my desire to record my life waned. I didn’t feel a need to write down as much as I did before, and it took me a while to realize why this was. I initially credited this to keeping busy or being lazy. Writing everything down became a burden and chore and it did not represent the same things it did in high school. So I stopped.
The truth is… I never stopped writing. My journaling took on another form, one I didn’t realize until a few years later.
When I began my first semester of college, one of the first things I began using was the relatively new-to-me medium called e-mail. I think I first discovered e-mail when my mom started using AOL in the mid 90’s. I didn’t really think much of it and was much more interested in the capability of talking to my friends online instantly. But e-mail quickly became a favorite way to communicate with my friends when I couldn’t IM.
School transitioned my habits and relationship with e-mail. As per the instructions from the IT office, I setup Outlook Express to download all my mail from the server so that I could store it on my computer. In 1997, I doubt we were given much storage space in which to store e-mail archives.
This practice of downloading my e-mail never changed, even with the rise of web based systems such as hotmail and yahoo. I always wanted to store my mail on my computer since there were times I would receive mail that I wanted to refer back to, even if it was just for nostalgic reasons.
E-mail became my journal. The fact that I am able to keep everything I receive and send is my log. To this day, I have thousands of e-mails and over 10 years worth of it sitting in my Outlook Express. I don’t save everything written to me or sent to others, but I always try to save meaningful mail, whether good or bad, to represent those moments in my life. This is also a way for me to jog my memory about someone I haven’t spoken to in a while or to recall certain things we said to each other.
I still have my journals boxed away. It’ll be interesting to someday get back into those and read the memories I kept and see what I said about the things I did, the girl I dated and the people who affected my life. I sure hope I surprise myself; I hardly remember much of what I wrote but I do remember the way I wrote and how I kept track of certain things.
Keeping track of my life is more important than ever. Realizing how quickly my memories fade scares me.