Sleeping Dogs

After the Great Book Cull yesterday, I decided to tackle another storage ‘issue’ that we’ve been having at home for the last few *mumble* months. I finally faced the two boxes full of random stuff from my parents’ house which have been sitting in a corner of my kitchen, taunting me and getting in the way, for far too long now. I think I was avoiding dealing with them not only because I’ve been very busy these past few months, but also because those boxes contained a lot of deeply personal stuff from my adolescence. They included a lot of documentation from my college application, notes from my first year at university, letters from old friends whom I haven’t seen in years, old art supplies (including dried-up paint, of which I have a Kristeva-esque phobia), and – inevitably – diaries.

 

Pen writing words 'Dear Diary' in notebook

If only my handwriting was this neat!

 

I had entirely forgotten I’d kept diaries from around the time of leaving school/entering college – it’s a time in my life I’ve largely blanked out of my mind, some of it deliberately, for a variety of reasons. It was a hard time for me, as I’m sure it was for most people. However, as soon as my hands fell on these diaries I began to wonder if, at some level, I’d known they were there, waiting for me in the boxes I’d put off dealing with for months and months. Certainly, as soon as my eye fell on them, I remembered exactly what they were, and I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. They’re here, beneath my desk as I write, and I’m torn between reading them in full or just wrapping them back up and putting them away somewhere else, for a few more years.

I did have a look through some of the diary entries yesterday. I must have been a pretty picture, sitting on my kitchen floor surrounded by mess, fingers blackened with dust, reading about a life I lived and which I had barely any remembrance of. As I read, it was like forcing the hinge on an old, swollen door, and throwing it open; memories started to pour in, just like sunshine into a long-locked room. Letting the light in wasn’t so bad, but looking around this room of my memory was hard. The new sunlight highlighted the dust and mess in my inner room, making it very clear that I hadn’t been here in years, and that these memories had lain undisturbed, encrusted, for far too long. Perhaps it wasn’t a bad thing that I was finally taking some steps around these memories again. Certainly, the place could use a clean-up, and I really had to do something with those grimy windows…

I read about old mates, some of whom I still treasure, and I read about a fight I’d been having at the time with a person who, thankfully, is now one of my closest friends again. I read about my first, tentative steps into life in Dublin, and remembered exactly how terrified I’d been at the time; I read about long-forgotten feelings I’d had for boys, and I read about pain I’d been going through at the time which I’d also, thankfully, forgotten about years ago. Some of these pages were easier to read than others, and not all the memories were bad, but I did have to put the diaries away after a little while, promising myself I’d come back to them again at some stage.

What struck me more than anything else, though, was the shocking quality of my writing – I obviously figured myself as some sort of tortured artistic genius, and I peppered my entries with long words and flowery phrases, probably imagining that, one day, they’d be donated to a library or something. Such notions! I was quite embarrassed, actually, at the turns of phrase I’d used and the purpleness of my prose. It was nice, though, to read about my youthful dreams (which are, largely, the same as my current, more aged dreams); at least I’m still on the right track, even if I’d better get a move on in the ‘achieving my goals’ stakes. One of the sentences I did read lamented the idea that I could be ‘twenty-five and still in college’ if I wanted to achieve a particular life goal, which made me laugh. At the time I wrote the words, twenty-five seemed Methuselah-ish; now, it’s a dim and distant memory. It’s amazing the difference a few years makes on your perspective!

Reading the diary extracts put me in a strange mood for the rest of the day. I was reflective, and perhaps even a little angry (though I wasn’t sure at what, or whom). Perhaps I was just annoyed that all those years have had to pass, and I’ll never again have the wide-eyed experience of my first solo trip on a bus, or my first glimpse of the sunlight glinting off the river Liffey. I guess memories are precious, even if some of them hurt to recall, and I’m sure in a few days, once the dust has settled (so to speak!) over these newly rediscovered diaries, I’ll be very glad of some of the experiences they’ll bring back to me.

But I’m not doing any more tidying around the house for a while. It’s just too risky!

6 thoughts on “Sleeping Dogs

  1. Sam Seudo

    Congratulations on your success with the Great Book Cull! 🙂 Personally, I’ve always found that there’s something very cathartic about off-loading some of my accumulated “worldly goods.” My problem is that I often get rid of things that I later wish I still had, rather than keeping things for which I later find I have little use!
    I’ve also been keeping journals for the past five years or so, and I look forward to reading them some day. I imagine they will stir up a few memories that may be better left submerged, but I’m still excited by the idea of interacting in such a direct way with my past self. Other than emotions and experiences, I also record creative writing ideas in them – many of which have never made it behind the brainstorming stage. Maybe someday my journals will serve as a source of inspiration if my imagination needs a boost in my senile, old age.
    And, who knows? Maybe your diaries will be the inspiration behind your next WIP…once your current one has hit the bestseller list! ;-D

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      That’s my biggest fear, right there – I’m terrified of throwing away something I’ll later need (despite the fact that it’s been sitting in a box for fifteen years and I’ve never once looked at it); culling, clearing out and throwing away does not come naturally to me. I’m a hoarder – but at least I can admit it. That’s the first step, right? 😉

      I intended to include a mention in my blog post of how I’m almost glad I’ve uncovered these diaries; my protagonist is about the age I was at the time I wrote my journals, so perhaps a bit of my own teenage self will creep into my depiction of her. Having said that, I’m in ‘preparing for final edit lock-down’, so am ignoring the WiP at the moment. I hope you do manage to get some of your ideas beyond the sketch-stage, I’m sure they’d be wonderful!

      Oh, and when I do become famous (and, hence, rich) I’m employing you as my professional ego-booster. Thank you for the support! 😀

      Reply
  2. mauriceabarry

    So interesting to see the ‘other selves’ we have tried on from time to time. That’s the beauty of blogging and journaling. The main thing is for us to look back and reassure ourselves that the parts we like the most are still there.

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      That’s the challenge, isn’t it – to keep growing, but to hold on to the good bits of ourselves as the years pass! Thanks for your comment. 🙂

      Reply
  3. aanderand

    A fellow hoarder raises his hand and admits it. Although, I have had to reduce my load of stuff over the past few years there is still is much to do. Congratulations on the first steps.
    Lately, I have been lamenting the fact that I have not kept a journal (is journal male and diary female?) all these years. Yes, there would be a lot of pain to be relived but also a lot of growth and hopefully details of life that I can now only recall in fuzzy memories. So the comment ‘my imagination needs a boost in my senile, old age’ has a ring to it.
    Closing in on the final chapters of my NaNo, It’s getting exciting not only in the novel but the fact that I probably will be a winner. It gives me confidence that I can complete the other goals I have set out for myself.

    Reply
    1. SJ O'Hart Post author

      I don’t think there’s a gender aspect to keeping a journal/diary… but maybe we should start that trend!

      I’ve always kept a diary/journal, except for the past few years when I’ve just been too busy. I guess that’s why I love the blog so much, because I’ve always had that drive to record. Am really glad to hear you’re doing so well with NaNo, and I’m delighted to know it’s giving you confidence to get out there and achieve all the goals you want to. Good on you! 🙂

      Reply

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