Why do people keep journals/records of life?
What do they expect to happen with the sensitive materials they gather as precious books of history?
My first journal started when I was 12 years old. Someone gave me a little diary and I thought it would be fun to record a few things. I didn’t write every day but I put enough in the book to know it felt good to write.
One day my younger brother found my writings and read a few of the entries. After perusing my words, he immediately went outside and told all the neighborhood kids that his brother “loved Bonnie Dees” (I had written that but …… well, what 12 year old boy doesn’t love a little girl once in a while?). I was embarrassed by the revelation and swore to never write anything that personal in a book again.
Fast forward 47 years.
The fear of discovery is gone and through these many decades I have intermittently shared my thoughts about life, love, and a multitude of topics. At present I have six volumes of thoughts recorded in journals of some sort. That doesn’t include this blog (which I consider a form of journal writing). My schedule for writing is not consistent but I have recorded enough that I believe my posterity will get a flavor Grandpa Whitmer and what his life was like.
I would suggest that we write for several reasons.
Reason 1 – Written records give those of our family who haven’t been around us as much (grandchildren, greats, etc.) insight into some of the thoughts and concerns of our lives. Who knows but what they might get a glimpse of why they are such as they are from our experiences. Or possibly they will think differently about some of the actions they saw from us if they know what we were thinking at the time. Journals open doors to enlightenment.
Reason 2 – No one wants to be forgotten or remembered incorrectly. The older we get, the more chance our offspring’s offspring will know less and less about who we are.
One of the great regrets of this life is that I have no written record of my Grandpa Whitmer and the experiences of his life. As a boy I thought of him as a gruff, grumpy old man who had little tolerance for loud, obnoxious grandsons. Stories told by my dad indicate that my perception is incomplete and I trust that he is correct. But, oh, how I wish I had Grandpa’s words to tell me. I suspect I would really like him and recognize more of myself in how he lived.
NOTE: My dad did write a short history of his parents and family on the Family History site and I was delighted to learn more about some of the early days of his life. Things like that are so important to our children – I don’t want to cheat my posterity any more than I already have.
Reason 3 – Journals are a wonderful place to practice writing with intelligence. Some of the early attempts in my life are very embarrassing – my grammar and style were atrocious. And the things I worried about – whoa baby!!, I was such a self-centered brat. But even those offerings are appreciated because they reflect who I was at that point in life.
As I have aged and hopefully matured, my methods of transmission have improved and relieve some of the stress readers experience when writing is unintelligible (though my handwriting seems to be digressing). My journals have become a place to practice my writing in addition to being a way to share what I hope for my posterity and what joy they bring to my life.
Here are a couple of other regrets/suggestions that I would share.
What I wouldn’t give to have some writings from my dad and mom to help me see how they became the special people they are today. Their record of progression would invite hope for me and my children as we witnessed, through their eyes, the challenges that changed and blessed their lives. I’m hoping there are some hidden documents that will, one day, appear to shed light on the mysteries of their sojourn on earth.
And lastly, as I read through some of the things I have written, I am extremely embarrassed. There were events and experiences that I recorded that show just how dumb and ……. well, just stupid I can be. You know what I’m talking about.
My protective first inclination is to cover up all the missteps – I even did that a few times when I was younger. Experience has shown that those humiliating times when ignorance prevailed need to be left alone. Everyone needs to know that Grandpa wasn’t perfect. But they also need to know that Grandpa overcame the humbling events that he got himself into. There has to be redemption.
The stories of our lives are mundane to us – we lived them – and they often seem worthless and irrelevant to anyone else. Those same stories, shared with people of our lineage, become great documents of discovery and love.
I believe in writing our own personal story.
It might be a journal.
For some it is a blog.
Others do scrapbooking.
Whatever it is, the effort will be rewarded by the love the succeeding generations of your family feel for you as they read your experiences.
Please take time to write. Let them know you care. The eternal gift will be more than you can imagine.
Now, pull up a clean document in Word and get busy!!!