Sunday, May 15, 2011

Using Your Journal to Become More Objective

When I started my first volume, I belonged to a cult.

My diary was intended to be something beneficial to historians. Here they would find that there were sages, even at the cusp of the century, who knew all along of the significance of Hale-Bopp, the impending fall of the Roman Catholic Church, and the ascendancy of its true successor. 

I made predictions. I laid it all out boldly, not wanting some sort of half-ass, subjective, Nostradamus fame. In my awful pettiness and vanity, I also made some pretty sure bets on myself, and some pretty good bets against my enemies. Joe's obviously wrong about the stock market. Jane's kids are going to turn out to be spoiled monsters.

You'll probably be shocked to know that it didn't work out. So was I.

I was more shocked, though, to see my cult-mates re-imagine their own past expectations when their (space)ships didn't come in. They had all, in their most recent telling, always expected things to go exactly as they went. I became pretty depressed and disgusted with those life-long friends, but I also noticed they weren't the only ones re-imagining. Everyone does it. Almost as often as someone switches jobs, they begin to say that they had never intended to keep the original one, but only used it as a strategic stopover. Almost as often as a man is rejected in love, he begins to say that he was never really in love with the girl anyways. Because I had written so much--made myself so utterly falsifiable--I didn't have this luxury. Perhaps my journals would be of the utmost import after all. Well, at least personally.

So I kept at it. I still make predictions. I force myself to. Constantly. And they seem to be getting better. I credit this discipline with moving me, politically, spiritually, intellectually,  and interpersonally, to turbulent waters into which I would've never ventured if all my former selves hadn't been laid so bare in their cluelessness.

Still, though, in moments of weakness, I think of scrapping my journals and re-writing them, deliberately revised and plotted like a good novel. I justify this to myself by saying I want to type them up, and "make them prettier", "correct the prose", or "add context." So humbling and grueling are the gifts of reckoning honestly with being so wrong.

Recently though, while squinting,  I do think I've caught a glimpse of my new country. It is a place of honesty and irony, vulnerability, and a good appreciation for how ridiculous we all are. It's a place where it's a lot easier to sleep.

I predict I'll make good friends there.

Time will tell.

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  (Or, you know, a house. If you're just like a bored billionaire or something.)

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