Scoping out Tati Luboviski-Acosta's frenetic, awesomely collaged journal on HTMLGiant last week, I started thinking about all the things I've written that I really don't want the internet to see. Sure, it's usually a fun surprise to trip through old journals. If you're disciplined about it, you could even keep a record of all the books you've read, like Pamela Paul's Book of Books. But keep them long enough and the memory jostle becomes a bit more jarring: who was I when I wore this stuff?
I experienced this sort of selfhood-whiplash a while back, when I finally got around to arranging my books. Part of this involved getting my motley collection of sketchbooks, handbound diaries, travelogues, collage binders, classroom notebooks, and the like into chronological order. Then I started fingering through my earlier journals—tailing a shadowy figure I'll call Younger Me.
Younger Me never ceases to impress me with his lack of all discernment and much judgment. Oh, and his poetry. He wrote about girls and sex, of course, and wild parties and domestic disputes. Sounds entertaining, maybe some of it even lurid. But Younger Me left out too many of the details that anyone other than him would want to read. Presumably he had those tasty little bits firmly in mind while he wrote, confident that they were permanently etched in voluptuous red cursive on his brain. Problem is, I don’t know where he etched them. In the mind we share, those finer, fleshier details are lost. So much for posterity.
I journal now because it helps me understand the tacit construction of my sense of identity. No one cares what my favorite movie was when I was 16, not even me, but I am interested in who Y.M. thought he was when he wrote about it. Revisiting his entries prods my eyes with how much I've changed.
Over time, I've developed a system to highlight this. I leave wide margins with enough space to allow Current Me to annotate Younger Me’s concerns. The thought was that I’d reevaluate and expand upon significant events, building a layered record of this process of self-fashioning. These pages, with their multiple hands and inks, reveal how perception of the self, like every other perception, arises out of processes involving subject and object, observer and observed: each time you think about yourself, you're remaking yourself.
And so I return, irregularly, to the chickenscratch of my late teens or the not-quite-graceful italic of my mid twenties (thank you, Arrighi), jot down some notes in my current fashion, whatever that is, and reshelve the volume, my self to be rediscovered there in a year or three, a month or two.
Blogging is a similar monster. It's just already out there for all the webby world to remember. And judging by fascinating/terrifying resources like this one, it's not going anywhere soon.
Image from flickr user Richard Winchell