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.
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!