Throwing Away My Journals

Last weekend I decided to throw out most of my old journals.

I had kept them going back to high school, so many notebooks filled with thoughts and dreams and fears and anxieties. And maybe a little bad poetry. I had carried these books through moves, from the west coast to Ohio to North Carolina and back to Ohio. They’d sat on a shelf in my closet for years, reminding me of the person I had been and how much growing up I had done in the last 41 years (well, 25 years since high school).

It was a lot to carry around.

I was cleaning out my closet, and in a mood of wanting to get rid of as much as possible, I threw out my old journals. The writer/collector in me still cringes as I write this. There was so much potential inspiration in those notebooks. There were so many experiences, thoughts, feelings, rumination, transcribed conversations that I will never be able to get back. Why would I do such a thing? This past week, the week since I threw them out, has been punctuated by brief feelings of remorse and regret. I’d carried them around for so long, they even had a home in my closet. It wasn’t necessary to get rid of them, why would I let myself do a rash thing like that?

Before answering that question, I should say that I did keep a few of them. I kept a couple of my most recent journals and I kept the ones from special times in my life, like when I worked in Yosemite for a summer and when I studied abroad in Malta for a year during college. Those felt like they were worth keeping.

But as for the rest, I realized something pretty profound. Those journals, the thoughts and feelings recorded in them, got me to where I am now. They are important in that regard. I have done a lot of growing on those pages. But, and here is why I threw them out, they are not going to get me where I want to be.

I use journals as a way of thinking on the page. I’m not generally recording events or special moments. I’m working through tough emotions or teaching myself how to handle difficult situations. Or I’m just writing about whatever pops into my head because it’s early in the morning and I need to wake my brain up. For me, journaling is a process, not an end product. I never go back and re-read what I’ve written there. In all of the years I’ve carried those journals around, I never once found anything useful from going back and flipping through them.

So I let them go. And it feels good to not have the weight of them in my office. It feels good to not be hanging on to all of those earlier iterations of myself. I am absolutely grateful to all those pages for getting me to this point in my life. I am also grateful that I listened to my impulsive self and threw them all out. It was time.