COLM O'REGAN: Dear Diary... why journal writing's not just for teenagers

IN THE history of anniversaries, today is probably one of the least momentous in the history of momentum. But this evening when I sit down to scribble the weather, for the first time in 17 years, I will have completed one whole year of writing in a diary.

Keeping a diary is one of those habits that seems a pain at the time but when you look back on it, you’re glad you did it — like sit-ups and staying in touch with people.

I originally kept one from 1986 to 1996 — the years spanning the early watershed of human achievement, the heights of which are only surpassed some time in your late twenties — or never again.

As everyone knows, your prime is when you are about 11. Young enough to hopefully avoid serious worry but old enough to be able to accomplish most tasks. You can get obsessive about hobbies, collecting things, compiling lists, obsessively noting all the results goals and tables from most sports on Sports Stadium.

I would also dutifully record the weather that day. In case anyone’s wondering, the late 1980s were mild and damp in Ireland.

Then you cross in the Valley of the Shadow of Adolescence, some serpent hands you the apple and suddenly you are embarrassed about everything.

The diary entries get longer and are full of details about “what someone said and what I thought I heard someone say but maybe they didn’t and who was there and who didn’t turn up and what will they think of what I said and how I wasn’t allowed go and all the fun they must be having and how I was allowed go and it wasn’t that much fun after and WHEN IS THIS GOING TO END and actually that was quite a good laugh and he/she/it/the situation isn’t as bad as I thought and NO IT’S WAY WORSE WHAT A DISASTER MY LIFE IS OVER and oh look it’s spaghetti bolognese for dinner which is my favourite and now it’s the Leaving Cert and and I don’t have time to finish thi ....”

I still found space to record the weather, though. In case anyone’s wondering, the early 1990s in Ireland were changeable, mostly mild and a few sunny spells.

Cringeworthy as it can be to read old diaries, they do jog the memory about things you had forgotten — like telephone boxes and blank tapes.

These days there’s less to worry about — I mean, I have a mortgage and have to find work every day but at least I don’t have to worry about whether a certain girl likes me or not.

She’s married to me now and says, “Everything’s fine” so that’ll do grand.

Don’t worry. I have no intention of writing to my 14-year-old me. It’s such a standard trope to write letters to your past self that a certain insurance company has hijacked it to get people to buy pensions. (If I hear those ads once more I’m moving to Zurich. The city, not the company.)

Instead I’m just going to write to 40-year-old me saying. I hope you kept a diary.

And if you didn’t, start again.


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