"Dear Diary"

7:33 PM

Outside of writing for school, documenting my life was one of the first things that got me to put pen to paper. I started my first journal when I was eight years old with the words "Dear Diary..." and I've had a sporadic love affair with journaling ever since.

That first notebook took a few years to fill, with short and scattered entries documenting my first crushes, summers with cousins, the birth of each of my siblings, and every family holiday. As I grew older my entries became longer and more consistent. I filled book after book, and the years flew by.

But there was an overwhelming pressure. I felt the need to document my life for posterity, and to do it with flair. I though that every sentence must be elegant, interesting and perfect, because someday my great-grandchildren would be reading it, you know? And having a couple of close girlfriends with whom I constantly discussed journaling (and how up-to-date our notebooks were on all the dances we'd attended) added some more stress.

Finally, after a year of so many major happenings and changes that I could hardly keep up and breathe normally, I decided to take a break. Actually, I flat out quit, right after my best friend (and fellow "journaler") got married in 2008 and moved away. It was one of the best things I ever did.

I felt like all through my childhood I had spent my time hating growing up and all the changes that the years brought. I was always looking back on the past, recording it, and then re-reading it over and over. So I decided that I was done with journaling. I decided that life was going to be an adventure and that I would focus on moving forward into it, instead of looking back over my shoulder at what was. I poured myself into my other writing projects, and felt that I expressed enough of myself through fiction that there was no need to record it any other way. I was journal-free for over three years.

And then, last fall, right after my twenty-third birthday, I felt like journaling again. But I knew I didn't want it to be in a notebook as in days of yore, since I write pretty slowly by hand, and the pages and pages of empty lines always felt intimidating. So I looked around online, and I found "Oh Life." It was (and is) the perfect fit.

Every night I get a little email asking "how did your day go?" and I reply, sometimes in a few sentences, sometimes in a few paragraphs. There are days when I am incredibly witty and clever, and nights where I am just plain boring, catching up right before my head hits the pillow. But it's there, every day, and it feels wonderfully pressure-free.

Honestly, journaling again has been such a good thing for me. I began at the perfect time, as I was just starting to deal with some health issues and other things, and it was important to keep track of what was going on, so that I could go back and learn from it. It's given me a space to vent about people in my life who drive me crazy (without talking badly about them to other people ;), and a place to share what makes me happy. Even if it's just ice cream and old Audrey Hepburn movie.

I like the ability to journal in a simple, no pressure and no frills way. It feels like therapy.

What's your journaling experience? Have you kept a diary, and for how long? Do you prefer hard paper, or the internet? Please share your story. :)

-Amanda

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