For the past couple of years, I've been fairly diligent about keeping a journal. I will now take a moment to self-righteously pat myself on the back. It's exciting to think that my children, grandchildren and other progeny will be able to read about my life when I'm gone.
See, my awesome, wonderful grandmother died a couple years ago, and for a while my aunt (basically serving as the de facto trustee of my grandma's personal property) wanted me to scan the journals and share them with everybody. I thought this was a great idea. About a week later, though, she changed her mind. I pressed her, thinking, aren't we all entitled to these records?
My aunt decided not to share them because they were uncensored accounts of my Grandma's life, including expressions of irritation, frustration and anger at various people in the family, that might be uncomfortable or even devastating to spread around for everyone to see.
Honestly, my response to that was, well, she can't have written anything bad about me--because what could she possibly say? Humility is just one of the many sterling personality traits that I demonstrate on a daily basis. My aunt did assure me that everyone was represented at some point or another on my Grandma's cranky list (which as you might imagine I still have some difficulty believing).
I was still kind of kerfuffled about this until I talked to my mom about it a couple weeks ago. She said she wanted to look at the journals, too, but if she saw something negative about herself, it would just kill her. That was the first time I seriously considered how I would respond if something negative had been written about me (no matter how far-fetched that idea is).
If it were up to me, I would love to go through the rest of my life never hearing another negative thing said about me. Probably if my dead grandmother said something bad about me I would go on a chocolate binge so severe that it would only end in my eventual explosion into a million pieces.
I've taken a professional lesson from this experience: it's a good idea to specify what you want done with your journals after you die.
My personal application of this lesson is hard though. Sure, I feel guilted into keeping a journal for my progeny, but if I'm going to talk about my life somewhere, I'm only going to talk about my real life. I don't want my progeny to get the mistaken impression that I didn't struggle, have to work hard, and have to overcome many obstacles. (Probably this fear is also a product of my fabulous humility--I make my life look eas-ay!)
I'm torn between wanting my progeny to know that life is hard and that the myriad negative feelings we come up against are normal, and not wanting them to burn me in effigy when they find out that a lot of those negative feelings in my life will end up coming from them.
Don't get me wrong: neither my grandma (I assume) nor I have filled up every page with hateful vitriol about how much the people in our lives are driving us crazy. But it does come up occasionally--and that just us being honest about life. I don't know if there's any living situation where the people (or things) we share our life with wouldn't sometimes drive us crazy. I super wanted to put the clip from Castaway where Tom Hanks gets into a fight with Wilson here but it's not on YouTube. And now I feel SPOILER ALERT sad about Wilson.
Anyway, as I wipe away stupid hormone stupid Wilson stupid Tom Hanks tears, my proposed solution is as follows: hire a third-party to scan or transcribe the journals exactly as written. Place the original hard copies, one scanned/transcribed hard copy and a reasonably shelf-stable electronic copy in a safety deposit box for fifty years, after which point, copies will be disseminated to any living relative who has an interest. It seems ridiculously convoluted to do this, but it fulfills my need to write candidly now, while giving the progeny an honest account of my life with the distance to handle it.
What do you think? Should you only write things in your journal you'd be comfortable with other people reading right now? What are you going to do with your journals after you die? Should we just scrap writing journals at all and let our selfies tell the story?
I think journals should be written candidly because it is very cathartic. For that reason it might not always be a good idea for others to read them. I look back at my high school and college journals and am reminded what a hormonal hot mess I was (and still am sometimes). It might be good for others to read it some cases I suppose.
My mom was an avid journal writer and when she passed her journals went to her best friend. She said that my mom wanted me to have them when I was ready but she gets to decide when that is. Before I mailed them to her I read a few pages and there were a few things about me being a butthead and it just made me laugh. I know I am a snot at times, like we all are, and she and I did have our struggles and I loved seeing it from her side. I know in spite of all of my craziness she loved me!
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