Ten Years of Journals

I’ve kept a journal semi-regularly since 1998. Well, except for most of 2001, whose absence I can’t really explain:

Of course I have a spreadsheet about this, why would you even ask?

They’re kind of a weird resource, because they’re definitely biased towards the bad parts of life. It’s way more cathartic to vent about why you’re mad or sad than record in loving detail funny conversations with your friends, so I really think anyone reading them through would probably think I was manic depressive and really unpleasant to be around. Which is totally not the case, right?

I started the project of transcribing them into searchable word documents December 27, 2004. I know the exact date because, duh, I wrote this in my journal:

12/27/04: I’ve begun typing in my journals starting with sixth grade and have decided that I was pretty much an idiot.

Harsh, High School Patricia. I mean, look at this:

5/26/99: . Lisa is a BUTT! She stole my new birthday pen and wrote on the wall with it. Then she tried to put it in her trapper and messed up the feathers. I found it in math. It didn’t work because part of the paint got stuck in it or something.

Trapper keepers, feathered pens, AND calling someone a butt in all caps? Sometimes I just can’t take how awesome I have always been.

Anyway, now that I’ve completed transcribing about 10 years and 12 journals worth, I decided to make some exciting charts! Simply counting the number of times a word appears isn’t really accurate since some journals are a lot longer than others, so all these figures are based on the average number of instances of the word per page per journal. Steven’s overall total was 0.6 mentions per page, which is pretty good since I only met him in Journal 7.

Apparently I briefly knew another Steven in middle school

Looks like I was in the worst mood in 2004. I wonder how many of those are just “I hate college applications” over and over. Journal 8 was during the first year of college, so I’m sure that’s all “I love college! None of my professors take attendance!” or “OMG diary, I love the servery so much, I’m sure I will never get sick of amazing recycled cereal dessert it is THE BEST!”

Like any period of change and excitement, first year of college also marks a dramatic increase in uncertainty and stress:

“I will maybe probably have no friends :-( I’m really worried about it”

The sharp climb in worry at Journal 12 represents the 2 months I spent at home before going to Scotland for study abroad. It’s also the time period I was most prolific, since I didn’t have much to do but write pages every day about how freaked out I was to be going, how being gone for a semester would probably mean I would lose all my friends, and how–I kid you not–I was probably going to freeze to death.

1/24/08: I don’t know who Rachel and I will live with next year! How am I supposed to figure this out an ocean away? Whatever, I guess it won’t matter when I freeze to death walking to Scottish class. And then there’ll just be all these guys in kilts laughing at me while I can’t move because I’m encased in a solid block of ice, at the mercy of the harsh highland yeti bears.

Yeah, Scotland totally did not live up to these expectations. Unfortunately. Because I would love to get a picture with a Highland Yeti Bear.

In the midst of tracking instances of worry and stress, I also recorded what category of thing I was freaking out about to make this colorful pie chart:

High school Patricia really threw off this curve where “school” is concerned

Three journals from now “the future” will be dwarfing the other pie slices, just wait.

And, since this is the kind of thing I do, here is a wordle made from the transcripts of all 12 journals:

It’s weird to me that “French” is almost as big as “English”

Although now that I think about it, most high school drama I recorded probably went down in French class, so that makes sense. Individual journal wordles after the cut:

See if you can find your name! I bet you can’t, though. I’m fairly self-absorbed.

9/27/1998–6/2/1999

6/3/1999–10/11/2000

10/16/2000–9/19/2002

4/23/2003–2/8/2004

2/8/2004–10/18/2004

10/19/2004–4/25/2005

4/26/2005–12/10/2005

12/11/2005–6/14/2006

6/17/2006–9/4/2006

9/5/2006–2/20/2007

3/9/2007–12/16/2007

12/16/2007–2/6/2008

Next: Second Grade Journal

11 responses to “Ten Years of Journals”

  1. Rob says:

    I love this post!

  2. Caitlin says:

    I enjoyed this post. I stopped keeping a journal in middle school because I read back through elementary journals and it was all worrying about boys and friends that I had forgotten about. I’m a worrier. Now I try to write a sentence a day. The most memorable thing. Its half diary and half time keeping.

    • pladd says:

      I’m definitely a worrier too, but I think for my keeping a journal is really helpful for that. In most ways, it’s better for me in the moment than as a retrospective. They never really read like much of a story, but I always feel better about whatever I’m worried about after dissecting it through writing. Plus, when I read over them later it’s always good to see “Wow, look at that thing I was freaked out about that I never even think about now or wasn’t a big deal”. It’s good for perspective, I guess. Not that it completely stops me from worrying, but I do regularly think now “Okay, but when I read over this entry in 4 years am I just going to laugh at myself?” The answer is usually “Yes”.

    • pladd says:

      Also: 11/20/07
      “List of things that are SO IN RIGHT NOW:
      Finishing history papers
      Steven Wiggins
      Tea
      The Breakfast Club
      Prof. Derrick
      Louis de Bernieres
      Talking to Rachel
      Being BFFs with Caitlin Miller<--okay, not really, but we always have amazingly awkward conversations which I kind of love."

  3. Caitlin says:

    In regards to the first response: that’s very healthy. My response was usually disgust at myself.

    In regards to the second: OMG that’s so awesome! Are you kidding/did you really write that?

    • PLadd says:

      Of course! The accompanying “SO OUT RIGHT NOW” list included “sirens, wolverines hiding in the mist, Samuel Pepys, and French guilt.” I don’t know what French guilt means? Or really why I was mad at Samuel Pepys. Sometimes reading these is like being a memory detective!

  4. Brian says:

    This post is totally awesome! You’re going all historian on yourself. I’m kind of jealous: I only started a journal Jan 1 of this year, and am finding that it’s enormously therapeutic/useful/handy. Unfortunately, I’m doing it with pen and paper, which sucks for making awesome graphs. Closest thing I have is a set of charts showing how much I listened to various types of music over time.

    The “the future” thing’s gonna happen to me too. Wonder what a chart of worries over time would look like.

    Also, the October 2008 journal Wordle is DEFINITELY going to say “feta”.

    • pladd says:

      It is entirely possible that I wrote “Why is Brian Reinhart so obsessed with feta?” more than once in 2008.

    • pladd says:

      Also, I did make a worries over time chart but didn’t include it because I thought it was too confusing. But I’ll try to mess with the colors so they’re more distinct-looking and maybe post it later.

  5. TheJamesFox says:

    I love the tiny Thomas over on the side of the first one.

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