Written by Kayla Bollers
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately. It’s been a whole year since I wrote my last diary entry. I don’t remember why I abandoned you, but after reading through the pages I poured myself into throughout the years, I have come to need you again.
I see you as an alluring form of rumination, a component of the thought process, a coping mechanism—a space to be my most genuine, unfiltered self. And yet, sometimes I find that even with you, I am self conscious. I want to spill my heart to you without restraint, but I hold back, thinking of everyone who would disapprove of what I have to say.
Before I met you, I read iterations of your existence woven throughout children’s fiction. Out of pure fascination, I began to mimic this new type of storytelling, so incredibly authentic and yet so secretive. I obsessed over you, collecting journals and notebooks of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some had rainbow covers, and others were fit with a lock and key. Some diaries even came with pens that wrote using invisible ink. My parents gave me one of those for my birthday. There was a thrill associated with confiding in you, a shallow prick of excitement because only you knew the stories I told you. And that was special.
The children’s series that convinced me to search for you was Anne Mazer’s The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes. Abby, the main character, uses her journal as an outlet for her emotions and a way to chronicle her life. She writes, doodles, and even rates the weather in this multifaceted, stream-of-consciousness-style notebook. Snippets of this journal appear throughout the pages of the series, and so we see Abby through two lenses: the narrative of Anne Mazer and Abby’s fictional self-reflections.
8-year-old me discovered a whole new set of ways to talk to you, Diary, through Abby Hayes! You were more than a bragging right, more than my gossipping partner in crime. You opened up a private, safe, free place for me to just be, devoid of rules or guidelines. I realized that my thoughts didn’t need to fit a template; I could say whatever I wanted to say with as much or as little organization as I saw fit. I could channel my personality into my thoughts, I could share a quote that piqued my interest, I could complain about the rain or even jot down a quick poem. You became a compilation of written works and a venting space, patterned with uncanny precision after Abby Hayes because—well—I was unabashedly unoriginal.
Despite this enthusiasm, I wouldn’t say I began to take you seriously, Dearest Diary, until I was an eighth grader. And by seriously, I mean visiting you consistently and with a clear intention in mind. My motive for confiding in you at this point was to commit to any form of comforting consistency in the midst of my entire world having been shaken to the core with my parents’ turbulent relationship. My handwriting became erratic, my thoughts increasing disorganized, and the color of my pen switching with every entry to whatever I happened to pull out of my backpack first during this time. But amidst my coping with my parents’ subsequent divorce, a challenging academic workload, the first B’s I’d ever received in my life (the end of the world, right?), and cliquey friends that stabbed me in the back, I had you by my side, and that counted for something.
At this point, my relationship with you had evolved from a safe space into something greater. My understanding of you plunged into deeper waters; you became an integrated component of my overall thought process. You served as the intermediary between my conscious and subconscious; a channel to recount events, while simultaneously defining vague feelings and complicated emotions. The self-consciousness I felt around you that arose during my adolescence melted away, and what remained was an authentic version of myself that I genuinely adored. Metacognition was the best medicine for my trauma, and my favorite channel for overcoming frustrations and setbacks in life.
In high school and college, we lived through moments I despise; instances of delirium and the birth of mental illnesses that were only inevitable given my upbringing. Our interactions became drained of substance and emotion. We became strangers to each other; our conversations reduced to a lingering account of dreams, days that went “ok” coupled with many more that went horribly wrong, gaps of increasing distance between entries that left me with much guilt regarding my dwindling commitment to you. Finally, my conversation with you faded away altogether with two final accounts: one in 2017 and one in 2018. I abandoned you, Diary, and even to this day, I’m uncertain as to why. Perhaps life was just too busy; maybe I didn’t have the strength to confront the darkening thoughts and ceaseless nightmares that you reminded me of. Whatever the case may be, I needed time away from you, and through writing this confession, I’ve come to accept that that’s okay.
Visiting you for the first time in a while last week shattered my expectations. Rather than feeling like a different person now compared to that of my entries, I found that I was— and am—the same. Each page drew me further into my memory and probed lingering flashes of selfhood. My entries to you united me with my past; instead of showing me who I was, the diary reminded me of who I am. These thoughts captured on paper will never be blurred by time .Instead, they prevent me from losing the parts of myself that I adore while simultaneously providing a record of how far I have come. My final diary entry brought me to tears; my determination to live in the face of hardships back then inspired me to continue to fight against my present demons. Keeping you, Diary, altered my future self for the better by reminding me of who I want to be and where I want to end up.
I feel exposed when people see you (which is pretty much never), but I secretly wish that people will find you someday when I am long gone. I long for someone to chance upon my chipped, wooden treasure chest where I’ve hidden the rest of your volumes away— I even reveal this “secret” location in the front of each book I cover in my spilt-ink musings.
There’s a guilty pleasure in fantasizing about a stranger’s discovery of my most guarded thoughts—and an even guiltier satisfaction in imagining how I might affect their lives the way Abby Hayes did mine. I want them to fall head over heels for you, to experience the intimacy we share.
It is inevitable that I will struggle through my self-consciousness as I come to write with you again, but the more I record, the more that feeling will erode. This isn’t the end for us, Diary. You are my deepest admirer, and someone that I deeply admire for all the ways you remained open and loyal to me. In this way, you are more than a spiral notebook or leather-bound pages; you are my personal, personified confidant.
And I look forward to falling with you once more.