Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Dear Diary.

The last time you shopped for a five-year diary, which may have been just last month or perhaps December of 2005, or perhaps never, you probably did so with some trepidation, knowing that five-year diaries -- and well, even the concept of writing anything down on paper -- have become increasingly obsolete.

I just filled my sixth five-year diary (yes, friends, that multiplies out to 30 years of crazy) and needed a new one. Not getting a new five-year diary was not an option. I've come this far in chronicling every damned day of my relatively boring life, and am not about to stop now. Contrary to what many people believe about a new year, it is really an opportunity to affirm that change is bad.*

Despite the fact that many of my five-year diaries have metal locks on them, or embossed script, or gold-edged pages, they are devastatingly unspecial and banal. They more often resemble an accountant's ledger, if you will, of my life.* Take a sample day: Did I work? Did I go to the gym? Did I eat at a restaurant? Did I have some notable sex? Did I watch a movie? Did I finish a book? Did I talk to my mom? Did I meet a new person? Did I have a generic, oppressive emotion? Wow, yeah. What's on television?

Still, the diaries are a handy reference point for me. Every once in awhile, I will thumb back to that vacation, or that holiday, or that date, and get a useful thumbprint sketch. Occasionally, phrases capture slow shifts and sudden revelations: "I feel sort of stateless, [my mom] and I have a new gap in understanding." "I broke down and said I wasn't feeling like I could try." "I'm sort of addicted to his presence in my life right now." (Note: When circling grand proclamations, it's prudent to use the words "Sort of.")

To me, journals are different than diaries. The word journal, post-1990s, is a little icky. It sounds like a yoga retreat assignment (to be expressed in the verb form "journaling"), or a positive-thinking exercise. I love yoga and positive thinking, but would just as soon leave journals out of it. The best journals do not have structure, themes, or self-aware labeling.

I was faithful to a system through my teens and twenties: journals were for long-form and diaries were for short-form. The long-form is now a Word document on my computer, rather than a book. But the short-form remains handwritten. I still believe there is value in putting a pen to paper every day, even if it's only for five or six lines.

So imagine the warm and happy surprise of coming across this five-year diary. I literally almost wrote a fan letter to the designer of this book, Tamara Shopsin, and apparently I am not alone.

First of all, Shopsin's diary simply revives the form. It looks clean and alluring, rather than antiquated and inexplicable. It has six lines allotted for each year, rather than the customary four or five, which, as it turns out, is just the right amount of space to make you feel more expansive, to make you share more, to make you try, when you're writing about your day.

It has the requisite ribbon for saving your place.

And -- I love this, because I used the "notes" space at the back of my last diary for this very same thing -- it has a BOOK LOG section at the end.

Do not let your days slip away unmarked. Someone -- your spouse, your child, your parent, some alien in a museum, maybe even you -- will want to hold onto something and look back at you someday, will want to find you through a looking glass.

* My sister, a propos of nothing, recently sent around a link to a Meyers-Briggs test. A former boss of mine was obsessed with this test. I'd taken it once for her, and then another time in my latest round of kareer konfusion, and yet I still could not for the life of me recall which type I am supposed to be, though I had a hazy memory that I'm an INTJ, so I took it yet again. My result was ISTJ, aka the "Duty Fulfiller," aka the most Boring Spice of all possible personality types. ISTJs are also not known to love change. Among the recommended occupations for ISTJs: Accountant. However, the test indicated that I was one percentage point off from INTJ. So do you know what I did? That's right, I took the test a-fucking-gain to PROVE that I was, in fact, an INTJ, or "The Scientist". What is the personality type for someone who doesn't like her result on a stupid personality test, and so takes it again so she can prove she is a different type of nerd than what the original results indicated?

Music: "The Scientist"

Photos by sirmchin


  1. Anonymous10:55 AM

    The Meyers-Briggs test alone could be an uncmo. I distinctly remember taking the corporate version of this test for the first time and having it tell me I was completely unsuited for the job I was in. I asked the moderator his thoughts and his response was "once aware of your strengths and weaknesses, any one can adapt their personality to do any job. (pause) Butttttt...."

    same thing when you look into best relationship matches for your type. Meyers-briggs is always there to reinforce to me that I'm in a relationship with someone naturally incompatible with me. oy.

  2. I agree. Tests in general are an UncMo, even though the testing gods have been kind to me historically and really I owe my whole college pedigree to decent testing skills and nothing more. THAT'S WHY IT'S IMPERATIVE THAT I GET THIS PARTICULAR TEST RIGHT.

    I, too, wondered about relationship matches for the M-B but was afraid to look. I refuse to take your bait.

  3. The Meyers-Briggs test alone could be an uncmo. I distinctly remember taking the corporate version of this test for the first time and having it tell me I was completely unsuited for the job I was in.nice post thanks for sharing.

  4. Good for you! I have never been good at the grind of a daily diary, though I do love the random access of dates in my past when I drill down into my pile of diaries and yes, journals. I just can't have my heart set on a particular day - instead I delve into junior high (ouch!) or high school (slightly better, but not by much) and get lost for a while. Then I resurface, mostly relieved to be a grownup.

    I had a One Year Diary when I was a kid, a Paddington Bear one. My mom suggested to me that I could stretch out its useful life by writing the year at the top of the page I was writing on. I did, which results in a hilarious hodgepodge of Significant Moments every time I open it. Everything from fights with my brother when I was in the first grade, to updates on my sex life (or lack thereof) from later on. There's a feather in there from our parakeet, lost March 23 (1985), but returned home 3 days later. Annual updates on the age of President Reagan (on his birthday). And an illustration with silly caption of Norm Mayer, the guy who threatened to blow up the Washington Monument. Naturally I am hoping this weird assemblage of moments does not wind up in any sort of archive as it would only prove that I am a loon.

  5. Thanks, photo mugs. Deborah, that is a great hodgepodge of moments that I think would be *perfect* for an archive -- or maybe for a Mortified show!!


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