In the June 2005 edition of Writer’s Digest Personal Writing, my 100-word response to a question they had posed was published, along with many other writers who had similar experiences. The question?
Has anyone ever read your journal without permission? And, if so, what happened?
Like many other journal keepers, I had been faithfully making entries in my journal since my mother had given me a leather-bound book, complete with a little key. I had a special pen – a pretty pink pen – to scribble in whatever thoughts popped into my head at the time. It was great! Kind of a clothing-optional beach for my mind. Some days the entries consisted of how I hated my brothers teasing me or the fact that I had major crushes on their friends (Russ, you were always my favorite!). As I got older, the entries grew with me. My first hit of a cigarette, my first kiss, how I hated my mother and her stupid rules, cutting classes and drinking beer. I filled hundreds of pages with words I was afraid to say out loud – to anyone. I included poems and songs that were both dark and light. I ranted and praised. I laughed and cried. I created a world where only I existed; standing on the edge of a well where I dumped out my heart and mind into a place I thought was safe.
I’m not really certain what led up to that day that changed the dynamics of my life, but I do remember coming home from school one day and finding my journals lying on my bed, all of them opened and apparently read by the one person I thought I could trust. I would have expected this invasion of privacy from my brothers, but definitely not my mother.
Yeah. I was busted on so many levels and I was surely going to burn in hell. I back-peddled, I lied. I had to explain myself, explain my motives – as if anyone should have to defend their heart.
On that day my secrets became hers. But that wasn’t enough. Apparently she was so horrified with the workings of my mind, she offered up my journals to my high school counselor for inspection, obviously convinced I was on my way to juvenile hall.
I’m not sure what was worse – knowing I was about to face purgatory or the humiliation I suffered every time I caught my counselor watching me as I walked past his office. He never said a word to me, but he didn’t have to. His eyes said it all. My secrets were his, as well.
So I had been burned torched, but I healed. And I continued to write – still unguarded – only I wrote with the knowledge that others would read my words. And although I didn’t recognize it as such, that was the day I became a writer. After all, isn’t that what being a writer really is? Writing exposes us. It doesn’t matter how carefully worded the sentences are or how well our own personalities are disguised as our characters. Our stories put our fears and insecurities out for public scrutiny. We lay out the loose ends of our souls, hoping that someone won’t start picking away at the threads and unravel what we have so carefully woven, but whether or not they do, we continue to write.
Before my mother died, I shamelessly pressed her for the answer to a question that I dared not ask for 13 years. Whatever became of my journals? She gave me a combination, but to what she didn’t tell me. To this day, I still don’t know.
So if you happen across a few wayward journals with entries written in pink, with mention of a boy named Troy, feel free to thumb through it. My life is an open book and I’m certain the makings of a great story are in there somewhere.
So I ask you the same question that Writer’s Digest asked of me: Has anyone ever read your journal without permission? And, if so, what happened? I’d love to hear from you!