First post of 2015 and I write about the most egocentric thing possible - my diary. As a bit of background information, I have kept a daily diary since 2006, but only in 2008 did it become truly a daily diary. To get pedantic about it, the terminology of this whole business of writing thoughts down in a book to keep for all posterity does differentiate between 'diary' and 'journal,' and up until recently, I didn’t think there really was a difference.
I think that matter of wording is a discussion for another time, but essentially, what I do - and what many, many others before and after me have done/will do - is a mix of what 'diary' and 'journal' suggest. Every night, shortly before I go to sleep, I write an entry into a book. The entry accomplishes a few things:
- It serves as a record of what I did in a given day
- It logs my emotions regarding what I did/observed/experienced/thought about in a given day
- It keeps track of persons of interest - more on this later
- It is a genuine and near-perfect representation of who I am on a day-to-day basis. It is honest. It recreates the individual that I was - mental, emotional individual - with the highest fidelity. It is unrevised and uncensored
For most people who keep a diary-type thing, the concept of someone else reading these texts is pretty darn abhorrent. What more personal document can there be? - and by what sense of entitlement does someone ask to read someone else's diary?
Recently, a friend of mine named ZZ asked to read my diary. We were talking about writing and how our styles/content/relationship to our work is about as different as potted plants and bubblegum. He, like many people that know me in real life, knew that I kept a diary, and then he asked to read it.
I've been around him enough to know that there wasn't any sort of ill-intent, so I laughed at him, told him how preposterous his request was, and told him no.
It's personal stuff, and it's private. And still, "Why not? Can I just see today's entry?"
So I gave him a description of that day's entry, which was a laundry-list of my activities for the day. Since I was around him for most of the day, it was no news. But then, he asked, "If it's just that, then why can't I read it?"
I wasn't going to budge, and gave him what I thought was a pretty good explanation for why nobody is entitled to read another person's diary - and that seemed to satisfy him. Here is something like it, but I've added some other thoughts:
The whole point of a diary for myself and myself only. It's the only place/object thing that contains this pure, unaltered version of myself beyond the confines of my own brain. I can share my body and I can share my thoughts by talking to other people - and that's physical and emotional intimacy there - but those things are not as private as my own brain, the sum total of all the things I've experienced and observed and gave a first, second, nth thought to. All that is private, and that's simply impossible to share. When I write that down, I share these things to an inanimate object, whose only measure of life is the one that I give in that moment, and the next dose when I read it over again.
Surely all that is too cerebral - and that's my joke of the entry - but even as I told ZZ something along those lines, I got to thinking about how it is I even value privacy at the level that I do. Surely, by all the things movies and literature have told us, diaries are private. If the heroine's sister peeks at it, she'll wallow in misery and throw a fit. If the heroine's crush reads it and finds out all the soppy details of her unrequited love, then she's mortified but the plot moves along.
Fiction establishes a precedent for taboo, but privacy and violation of it serve as points of drama. It gives a template for normal folks like ourselves to relate to and react to the words we put out, personal diaries and journals or other. Privacy - define it as you like.
Nowadays, people pour their emotions and personal matters out onto the Internet. I write these little things on this blog, and my sister writes essays. She writes extensively about her thoughts/opinions/criticism/analysis of topics that may or may not have a direct influence on her life - and still, it's more personal than anything I'd like to write for the Internet. One of my friends puts his familial agonies on the same Tumblr that has his face on it. Another friend of mine shares her love poems, but without her name or her face.
All these - different definitions of privacy. At the end of it, who could possibly, speaking from a point of logistics and practicality, read my diary but someone who knows my full name, my face, and have some level of intimacy with me? That's too much for me. And, as I said to ZZ, the only person that has looked inside that sacred document, was my sister, and only then with the purpose of finding a password that I thought I lost.