On a whim, I started my first journal in the summer of 1994. I was 17, and Nikki at 17 was, I like to think, nothing short of incandescent that summer between my junior and senior year of high school.
Though that journal is packed up in a box at my parents house in Pennsylvania, I can still see its shiny, burgundy-toned paisley-ish design, and its pages filled with the girlish, curlicued handwriting I’m still guilty of having today. I wrote about my escapades that summer, the dates I went on, the things I got into with my friends and, well, whatever woes that 17-year-old me had.
That journal started what has become my main hobby in life, which is recording said life. Taking about said life. Working through the trials, tribulations and jubilations of said life. Twenty years later, I’m on my 23rd journal, the big leather-bound one with the dragon, the one that’s going to be around for quite some time because it’s enormous.
Being a journaler has helped me in ways I can only image therapy helps people. Instead of talking to a shrink, I write out my thoughts, my anger, my hopes, dreams, etc. and so forth. Most of it, probably a lot more than I care to admit, is probably drivel. Boring, daily-life shit that would most likely bore anyone who would read it to tears, but it is an extension of me, myself and I, and I know that I’d be lost without it, sort of like Anais Nin was when her therapists and friends told her to stop writing in her diary, to stop relying on it so much.
See what I did there, that’s what we call a nice segue in the biz …
I’d been interested in reading more works by Anais Nin, because I am bold enough to admit that I love “Delta of Venus,” her collection of erotic stories. Her sentence and story structure, language and unbridled writing style is incomparable, so I was interested to see how she wrote for her eyes only.
She wrote passionately, profoundly, intellectually. The more I devoured “The Diary of Anais Nin: Volume 1 (1931-1934)” on my Kindle, the more embarrassed I became about my own journaling. And not even just the writings of that 17-year-old fabulous girl I once was. I’m talking the later stuff, the writings of the less-than-fabulous woman who just turned 37, who also happens to be a trained journalist.
My heart lurched as I read Nin’s account of her life, which, in this volume, mostly centered on her relationship with writer Henry Miller and his bewitching wife, June, as well as her sessions with therapists Rene Allendy and Otto Rank. Her complicated relationship with her often-estranged father also takes up a large part of this book. This latter part of the book, how she struggles with her thoughts and feelings about her relationship with him is fascinating, probably because I, too, have a similar experience with my birth father. The way she handles and writes about her feelings, from letting go of that little girl who wanted to please this strange man, who started writing in a diary first and foremost for him after he left her, her mother and her brother, to how she finally sees him for who he is — and, more importantly, discovers who she is in the process — is powerful, so very powerful.
After finishing the first volume, I felt I had no right to call myself a journaler or a diarist. I would look at my dragon book and feel the urge to toss it out, to call my parents and demand they burn that box of old journals.
But instead, I began digging deeper into my psyche as I noted my recent happenings. Instead of just giving light play-by-play or “screaming” about whatever was clogging up my head at that exact moment, I thought about how things made me feel more, and found my recording helped me open up even more to myself than I ever have before.
No, I won’t be fraternizing with the likes of Henry Miller or famous doctors like Rank and Allendy, and I am almost 100 percent positive that my journals will never see the light of published day, but that wasn’t the desired outcome when I first put pen to paper in 1994.
I didn’t start writing for anyone else; I started writing in these journals all those years ago for me, and in reading this volume, I’ve stepped up my journaling game in my own way. And I think that’s exactly what Ms. Nin would want someone who read her diaries to do, to not let themselves be talked out of recording the details of their life because they feel inferior or pedestrian. It’s their story to tell, in whatever way they’re capable.
I can’t wait to see how reading the rest of her published diaries affects me, too.