When catharsis and expression collide

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When I was little, I was a serial journal keeper. I would obsessively jot down each detail of my life: what the weather was like, who I’d played with at break time, which flavour of yoghurt had been in my packed lunch. I had one of those Girl Tech password journals, the garish pink and purple ones that you unlock with your voice. I wrote in it religiously, using an invisible ink marker pen. 

Looking back on it now, I understand why I was so insistent on writing in invisible ink. It promised an extra degree of privacy. I’m not sure what deep, dark secrets my seven-year-old self thought she was hiding, but being able to keep them concealed felt comforting. Indeed, this is the beauty of keeping a diary. It’s the only truly private form of literary expression. It’s an intimate process of writing to yourself, for yourself. A way of documenting your innermost thoughts, feelings and experiences, without having to share them with anyone else. 

I still keep countless little journals hidden around my bedroom. I have one where I keep all the cards and letters people have ever written to me. In another, I store mementos that I can’t bring myself to part with: ticket stubs, receipts, photographs, newspaper clippings. My favourite Moleskine notebook is filled with things people have said to me in passing that I don’t want to forget; a collection of minuscule moments that I crave to capture in time. Even the Notes app on my phone is clustered with song lyrics, compliments from strangers, and dream anecdotes. By writing down and pasting in pieces of my past that are packed with sentiment, I feel like I’m able to preserve them forever.

‘By writing down and pasting in pieces of my past that are packed with sentiment, I feel like I’m able to preserve them.’

At the start of a new year, I always start a new diary of some description. For 2022, I’m compiling a scrapbook. University passes by in a frenzied blur of summative essays and drunken nights out, and I want to make something that can help me slow time and remember all the good things that have happened. I’m never the same person at the end of the year as I was at the beginning. Each experience that unfolds along the way, whether it be good or bad, shapes and moulds me into an entirely different person. Keeping a journal is immensely cathartic to me, as it helps me trace my steps and watch the ways in which I’ve evolved. 

Writing a diary is an innately cathartic process. It offers the opportunity to slow down, to suspend precious moments in time, to reflect. It helps us cling onto the moments we feel nostalgic for before they’ve even finished flickering by. It allows us to look back at who we have been, and project forwards to who we wish to become. In a world that moves so quickly, a diary is the perfect way to distil yourself in each page that you write. Each line melts into the next, like a dot-to-dot drawing of the memories that have comprised your journey. By the time you’ve filled the last page of your notebook, you have crafted an item that is intrinsically you. It is your own unique experience; you are and will always be the only person to have lived it and felt it in precisely the way that you have. And that’s a beautiful thing to preserve.

A diary is an outlet. A place where you can be entirely honest, offload any anxieties or bitterness, and air the feelings that you don’t wish to articulate aloud. There is no fear of judgment or prying eyes. It is a platform that allows you to find permanence in the transient. And at the end of the year, it’s deeply rewarding to relive your highs, your lows, your mistakes, and your crescendos.

Image: lilartsy via Unsplash.

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