Today I am grateful for old journals. I started journaling when I was eight, and although I recently decluttered many of my old journals, I kept that first one. In it, I gave every day a grade, and described why I chose that grade: “Today we got ice cream!!!! A++++++”

In my imagination, I’d kept detailed journals of the stories of my life as I moved through middle and high school. When I recently opened the spiral bound volumes from those years, I was reminded of an expression my mother used to use: “nature draws a merciful veil.” They were pretty… angsty. A lot of that writing could have stayed behind the “merciful veil” of time, and I would not have been any worse off for not remembering.

But what my old journals show me is that I created a space – starting at the age of 8! – where I was allowed to tell my own stories in my own ways, where I was allowed to speak the truth as I saw it, not as I was told to see it, and where I truly allowed myself to be myself, my whole self, and nothing but myself. Well – sometimes I would try on identities or language there. For a little while I even tried on a different spelling of my name. But that was my space. Unassailable. No one would correct me on what happened, or tell me that my own memory of my experience was wrong. It was mine. 

Standing here at age 49, I think, “I did that for myself.” It was not a small thing then, and it’s not a small thing now. I made space for my own voice. 

I decided not to keep those old journals from middle and high school. They are from a time in my life that is over, and those angsty writings did not spark joy, to put it mildly. Decluttering old journals felt like an opportunity to let the pain of that time go.

But I did decide to keep a commitment to myself: I will always, always make a space for my own voice. I don’t need to share that voice publicly, or even aloud. But I will always create time and space to hear myself. 

And here’s one more thing I will commit: I will trust myself. I get to decide how I tell the stories of my own life. My mother gets to decide how she tells the stories of her life. My daughters get to decide how they tell the stories of their lives. But I alone tell myself the story of mine. 

Those are the gifts of my old journals, even the ones I didn’t keep. And for those gifts, I am truly grateful.