I believe in writing in my diary every night.
Little did I know on September 12, 1959, I would begin a lifelong habit. Like many 13 year old girls, I began a diary, and now, in my 47th year of writing, I record daily events as well as feelings, thoughts, hopes and fears. Writing in my diary is part of my routine, just like walking my dog and brushing my teeth before going to bed.
When I was younger, my diary was a practical record of each day’s events. “Grandma and grandpa came to dinner. Jimmy and I danced the cha-cha to Bobby Rydell’s new record. I got an A on my ‘Julius Caesar’ test.” My diary read like an historical timeline by date without depth or explanation.
But as I got older, my diary entries became more cerebral and chronicled my emotional growth. They taught me about myself and revealed my true feelings at the time. My diary bore witness to flaws and prejudices I chose to forget. When I was in high school, I was a majorette for a few months. But then, suddenly, I resigned. When friends asked me why I quit, I told them it was because I was left-handed and twirling a baton primarily with my right hand was too difficult. That was a lie. I wrote the truth in my diary: “I resigned because I was the only white girl on the team and I didn’t want to be different from my friends. The Negro girls did not make me feel awkward. I imposed that stigma upon myself. I am ashamed that I had no guts.”
My diary has captured milestones in my life: a big event, the birth of my first child, and a small event, my father’s shock at seeing me smoke a cigarette before I kissed him goodbye and climbed up the stairs of the jet. I had the unique experience of starting premature labor aboard a New York to Fort Lauderdale flight. I sat in my window seat and wrote about what was going on in my body as well as my fears that the plane would be hijacked to Cuba, a genuine concern back in 1969.
As I put pen to paper, my diary teaches me patience and gives me a second chance, time to reconsider and deliberate. I forget about my annoyance that my son was late for lunch and write about the joy of spending mealtime with him.
My diary has also taught me trust. I leave it on the table next to our bed. I know my husband respects my privacy and will not read it.
Years ago, I believed my diaries would be my legacy to friends and family after my death. Now I want to share it with them and tell my story.
Thus, I believe writing in my diary makes a difference. Like Neil Armstrong’s footprint on the moon, I am putting my handprint on history.
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