Dear Diary….

Not too hard to figure out today’s topic, is it? Many of you know – because I’ve mentioned it ad nauseum – that I’m a lifelong diarist. It’s what first spurned me on to be a fiction writer. My childhood was so rife with strife that I used my diary to invent stories about girls who had adventures, loving families, who were smart and pretty and liked. Stories and characters that were so different from me. Mixed into the pages of those stories were actual diary entries about my life at the time.

I’m 57 years old and I still write in my diary most days.

I was about 6 when I got my first diary as a birthday gift.

I can’t remember who gifted it to me but it was one of those old girly-girl kinds with the lock and key. Of course, the lock broke within a week and I lost the key ( hey – I was  6!) so everything I wrote was open to viewing if my mother ever found it. She probably did because she was a world-class snoop. Anyway. The diary had about 120 pages and at 6 I filled those up within a few months. At 6 my penmanship was huge and one, brief entry could take up most of a page.

Fast forward to the teen years.

I’d evolved from the cutsie diary to a more angst-filled one. I’d doodle for hours about things that happened to me and in the world, about how I felt at the time (fat and lonely, mostly), and I still wrote stories about other girls who were not fat, lonely and unhappy; who had friends and boyfriends and were popular in school. The entires were pages upon pages, and since my penmanship was now indicative of a teenager, I was able to write more on the page. Emotions ran rampant throughout these diaries. Negative self-worth, anxiety about weight, feeling as if I didn’t belong anywhere because I was so different. I also started chronically the major events of the day that were unfolding during this time as a footprint of history. Events like Kent State, the Pentagon Papers, President Nixon and impeachment, the bicentennial, the first test tube baby. Emotions ran high across the pages. I was a girl who felt adrift in a world that was changing so rapidly I couldn’t keep up. I didn’t even know how to.

I left home for college and the diaries from those years are full of ramblings about crazy diets, all night study sessions, my flirtations with alcohol and unhealthy life choices, and my desire to make a difference in the world as a nurse. I devoted ten pages to when President Reagan was shot, detailing where I was ( in clinical) and what I was doing when the news broke (washing a comatose patient). My writing voice was getting stronger with every entry, more individualized, more…me,  and I could see a real progression in the fictional stories I added. I could also see the change in me as a person. From introverted and shy, the kind who never spoke her truth or gave a voice to her feelings, to strong and capable. An activist for change. A young woman who wanted better in all aspects of her life. ( I am woman, hear me Roar!)

When I was engaged in the process of getting married (at 27 ) my diary writing entries from that year are full of anticipation, expectation, and a unease. Would I be a good wife? Mother? Would I lose myself in the process of joining with another? There were no stable marriages/relationships in my family history. Everyone divorced, cheated on one another, drank and was generally miserable. Would I be able to break that mold? Would I know how to?


Then, when I had my daughter, I stopped writing in my own diary and now devoted journals to her. I documented every aspect, every hour, every milestone of her growing years.


She laughs to this day when she sees that I have a scrapbook and coincidal diary for every year of her life from birth until she graduated from college.


This is the time in my life I started putting all that lifelong storytelling to use. I began writing for magazines about motherhood and the nursing profession. It wasn’t fiction, it was real life, but the storytelling lessons I’d utilized since that very first diary came to full fruition and served me well.

I still write in my diary most days, only now that term has changed, like the times, and it’s called a journal. It even has a verb attached to it, as in “I’m journaling today.” Gone are the plain lock and key diary varieties, now replaced with inspirational covers and daily motivational saying on the pages.

I could use my computer to journal. There are about a thousand apps for journaling and diary entries, but I don’t. I’m old school when it comes to recording my thoughts, desires, dreams. I like the feel of a pen scratching across the pages of a book of my own. I like seeing how my thoughts, ideas, hell, even my penmanship (!) has changed over the decades.

I’d like to think that someday my grandchildren and their children will read what I’ve documented, get a feel for the person I was from a child to an adult. I like to think that my diary entries, the chronicling of a space in time, was relevant…interesting…worthwhile.

I’d like to believe that everything I’ve archived and recorded could – and will – in some way, give a greater understanding of the life I’ve lead.




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12 responses to “Dear Diary….

  1. Oh they definitely will give great understanding to your life and what made you who you are today. And I’m sure your family will love them! I tried writing in diaries as a child and it never stuck. Now I blog. It’s not the same, but it works for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was a sporadic diarist through girlhood – thank goodness. Reading of my troubled teen years would undoubtedly send me into the slough of despond! And I didn’t keep a regular diary as the kids grew up, unfortunately. But I did keep an appointment book and I must say that I enjoy reading the highlights of our “mommy & me” days. Many little events that I’d forgotten like when the boys went ice skating on a lake WITHOUT ME TO KEEP THEM ALIVE, LOL. I also have the letters to home that I’d written on my various travels. Which makes me wonder, in the age of email, how much of life’s happenings will be lost to history without actual paper letters to save and archive?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peggy Jaeger

      Luanna – that’s a good point. I still have every letter I ever rec’d from hubby and from my daughter when she was little. Unfortunately, no one else in my family was a scribe!


  3. Peggy I’ve kept a diary as long as you have (well, longer, but let’s not go down that rabbit hole). I write–on paper, with pen–almost every night. Everything goes into it–events, activities, thoughts, rants, worries. And I kept them all. I must have had 50 books when my house was flooded and I lost most of them (perhaps a reason to go digital?). The few I saved I re-read for the first time–it was fascinating. And, as you say, it is definitely a writing exercise that stretches your ability.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peggy Jaeger

      YOu know it’s funny you mention the flood. I have 64 diaries and I’ve always kept them in one of those huge rubbermaid thingies. I never knew why I did until I read your response! SOmething instinctual must have prompted me to “protect” them. WheW! Glad I did. I’d hate hatehate to lose all those journals. I’d have been heartbroken if I were you.


  4. Hey Peggy! I guess I’m too private to write in a diary. My mom always said never put in writing what you wouldn’t want splashed in a headline in the local paper. Instead, I document my life journey in photographs. Looking over the decades of photos I’ve taken, I can tell my mood, whats happened that important to me and where I’ve been and done. While I know what these pictures represent and so do those close to me, no one else would have that kind of insight, should the pictures find there way out of my hands. Make Sense??? Enjoyed your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi, Peggy. – Nice post. When I was little I did write in diaries, but as I moved into middle school years, I spent more time with pen pals. I did journal when I lived a year in Sweden and recently re-read the five journals–and destroyed them! They seemed so silly and juvenile. I didn’t want someone to read them if I should die. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh Judy Ann you shouldn’t have destroyed them! Of course they seem juvenile–but they represent a journey to maturity. They also remind you what it is like to be young–which can help not just in writing but in raising children!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this Peggy! You’re a brave soul to save your diaries. I, too, have been journaling since I was a little girl. I also had an incredibly dysfunctional childhood and family and writing was one of my coping mechanisms. I still write in my journal/diary/notebook du jour. Now, I call them “Morning Pages” after the suggested practice in The Artist’s Way. They are my ramblings and my way to clear the junk out of my brain when I wake up in the morning. I destroy these. No need for anyone to read them. Ever.

    There’s something about writing by hand that is so therapeutic.

    Thanks again for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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