On Keeping A Diary

Sometimes, being in touch with yourself is just as simple as keeping a diary.

Scratch that. Keeping a diary isn’t simple, especially for people like me. Call it strange, but sometimes my thoughts would resonate louder once I write them down. I’d like to describe myself as extremely contemplative. I would always jot down my feelings whenever I felt troubled, angry, or stressed, so imagine if those thoughts echoed louder than what I wanted. I would have a screaming, moping, grovelling me bouncing around the walls of my mind. Just going through the pages would make me squint and cringe (well in this case, wouldn’t we all?). Despite that, I religiously wrote till the wee hours of the morning, when I wrestled against slumber towards completing a page, leaving a paragraph unfinished. If I rambled long enough, I would complete six pages and still feel it was not done.

I guess it’s safe to say that I had an angry diary—not because I was an angry person, but because I always retreated to writing whenever I had strong feelings—feelings that I felt I could not share because they were at their rawest form. If I had an annoying friend, I’d be monstrous in expressing my annoyance. If I had a bad day, I’d swim in all the nitty-gritty just listing down everything that would have been a possible cause to my day’s ruin. When the day ends, it would be time to write again, I end up hesitating to open my notebook, because I know it would be seething with feelings.

Two years ago, I felt that writing in it was too depressing that I did something really drastic: I stopped writing entries altogether.

I did it for a number of reasons. For one, being an extremely private person, I was scared enough that someone would find it and read through the pages. This was even if I knew how to hide things really well to the point I couldn’t find them myself (I lost a beloved ballpoint pen that my mother gave me for my birthday because of it). Two, the diary sounded so whiny. I was embarrassed to admit that I do get whiny at some point. Plus, I really thought that my diary was smoking with too many sad or angry things. Let me repeat, I’m not an angry person. The diary just became an outlet for all my rawest feelings. Now it leads me to reason number three: keeping a diary meant keeping a link to all my weaknesses. It goes without saying that we don’t want to show others that we’re weak, so we do our best to keep a straight face to say everything is alright. Also, recording everything on paper felt like reliving moments again and again. Imagine if I wrote about something embarrassing and if I came across that entry while browsing. I didn’t want that.

So I hid the diary. I placed it in a bag and hid it in a place where I felt I wouldn’t look in too much, and it sat there for ages. I thought that it made things easier for me, and at first, it did. Soon, I didn’t worry about my “smoking” diary running after me. This was until I felt the setbacks much later on.

The thing about being very contemplative is that the thoughts that come to my mind stick around anyway. I realized that I was used to having conversations with myself. I analyze the world through reflection, in a place where nobody could reach me. I do have a set of friends that I talk to at a regular basis, but it’s something else when you speak your own mind without having to worry what other people say.

I also realized that one way to put one’s thoughts away was through writing. I approached this solution wrongly, though. I did write, but not through a diary. I jumped right into creative writing, but I wasn’t satisfied with my works. They ended up looking like diary entries themselves. Whenever I tried to write as creatively as possible, they came out as inner thoughts or ramblings. Although I shouldn’t discount that every written piece is always a reflection of the writer’s thoughts, I just realized that I wasn’t in sync with myself. My personal feelings came in the way of my works.

I lacked a personal space for expression. A blog was out of the question, all the more with social media. Without my diary, I stunted my growth for more reflection, and to express myself more freely. In a world where almost everything is made public and judged, there is little protection for one’s sentiments- unless he or she chooses to find an outlet where nobody will have to look.

I ended up having a stack of notebooks wherever I went. If I didn’t have them, I wrote on edges of memo pads or post-its. I left trails where it was unassuming for others to bother looking. Little by little, I realized that lacking a diary meant not being able to know myself.

While writing this piece, I chose to dig out my diary again. It wasn’t smoking as I expected. With hesitation, I leafed through the pages. Even if some entries were cringe-worthy, I almost forgot that the things I wrote about weren’t all that bad. There were entries of a happy me thanking the universe for a good day, for good people, for unforgettable moments. There were even doodles I laughed at, drawings that I didn’t think I’d make myself.

Sometimes the gems you find are in places that you least expect.

I decided to write another entry, dated two years and eight months later from the last. It was short, and not at all angry. It was the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done for myself, even if it was very simple.

A way to face the world is to know oneself first so he or she can try knowing the rest of who and what is out there. In my case, the first step was finding my way back to my diary.

About the Contributor

Gabrielle Pantaleon is an accounts executive. She spends her free time painting, reading speculative fiction, or looking out windows to watch the sky change colors throughout the day.

This contributor is a customer of The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf®.

Photo by Rom Santiago. For more his works, visit his Instagram.

See all of Gabrielle Pantaleon's posts →

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