I’ve been keeping a journal since 1991, when at age nine I was a gap-toothed kid tearing up the playground in New Delhi, India. That first book, a black plastic bound lockable book (the key long since lost, the lockable bit cut off), took me all the way through 8th grade. It chronicled not only those years as a little kid (“Dear Diary, Today we got a puppy!”) but also my first period, my first love, my first experiences of isolation and loneliness in middle school, the dreams I had of boys and movie stars whom I’d rank with drawings of hearts and lips.
Journaling became a serious thing in high school. It was a way to exorcise confusion and depression, and I tore through book after book. My first love turned into my first heartbreak, friends appeared and disappeared and reappeared in the pages. I moved to France, pined for home, moved home, pined for France. I moved to New Orleans and wrote the first few years into a gorgeous bound journal of hand-made paper, a gift from my senior-year therapist. More heartbreak, adventure, wildness, bohemia; my inspirations were Anais Nin and Henry Miller, and I strove to write with the same kind of transparent rawness. College came and with it, more books. Black leather bound moleskins full of drawings of the Nile, scenes of my life in Cairo and my travels through Turkey. Longing for a love back in New Orleans, then home again, and the books follow the slow unwinding of my first adult relationship. I kept writing. I began to ask questions about meaning and spirituality. The tone began to shift as I pointed a finger at myself, asking “why?” When I became Muslim I sat down with those books and followed myself through the years. Some of it was beautiful, but there was also so much darkness, so much I didn’t want to remember. I took a black marker and redacted passages, hoping to erase them from my life. I started a new book when I met my husband, turned the proverbial new page. There’s so much we can do with a blank page, but it doesn’t erase the volumes that came before it.
It’s not so easy, unremembering, but these days I’m acutely aware that it’s not just me who will read these books. My journals, if they haven’t been eaten up by moths or calamity twenty years from now will be a window into who I am and was and am becoming.
Eight months ago, I started a journal for my child, beginning shortly after discovering my pregnancy. I’ve faithfully marked the changing seasons, the changes in my body, the first little movements, the first time I listened to his or her heartbeat and excitedly shared the experience with my husband. I’ve described all the feelings of joy and fear, and also some of the feelings of ambivalence. I’ve written about my deep love for this child’s father, and I’ve written about the challenges we’ve faced. Writing for him or her, I’ve censored myself in certain ways, but I’ve also gone into great detail explaining things that in previous journals, written just for myself, didn’t need explaining. I’ve mapped out the constellations of my relationships with friends and family, I’ve described my parents in the ways that I wish I could have gotten to know my own grandparents, I’ve connected dots that are only self-evident to me.
In writing to my child, I’ve hoped not only to give context to my life at this time–a time before I am a mother–to someone who will only know me as that. The ways in which they relate to me, at birth, at age five, ten, fifteen, fifty, will be shaped by the mother-child relationship. I am also me, Krystina, and this journal among all the other journals with their beauty and ugliness are a window into that person. Sometimes I look through it myself.