The Best Stories Are Our Own

In this box lies a decade’s worth of my journals. Stories of the last quarter of my life.

Sometimes, I wish there were more journals, more years of stories. As I get older, it is more and more apparent to me how fickle memory is, how easily the past is forgotten. But sadly, the journals I kept from the ages of 8 to 26 were stolen and I didn’t start writing much again until I turned 28.

As much as I love these books, these keepers of my stories, there’s also the temptation to discard them at some point in the future, to set myself free from my own storytelling. When I was 25, I read I Dreamed of Africa in which conservationist Kuki Gallman describes the ritual of setting her journals on fire before setting off on a journey that would change her life – moving to Africa with her new husband. I was enthralled with this idea of turning one’s past into ash, letting the phoenix of one’s new life rise up from the embers. What absolute freedom, to let go of the old stories and choose a new one!

I hope there is something in between for me. I cannot bear to let some of my stories go. As I write this, I’m in the process of transcribing some of these journals so I have a digital backup, but also as a way to flesh out some very precious memories and give them the honor I believe they deserve. Many of these memories come with a faint bittersweet tang, sometimes enough so that I have to step back and let myself get back into the present before continuing.

I feel that my “bonfire of journals” might be more a different kind of transformation – perhaps from simple, self-involved journal to layered, heartfelt manuscript. I have been ruminating on many projects involving these journals - from memoirs to novels. I’m not sure what I want to do yet, but there’s something of the phoenix there, something of the drive to “burn” these memories (as in giving them to the page) and let them transform into something else, something new and triumphant.

Regardless of what I choose to do, or rather, what I’m inspired to do, I’ve learned to cherish these precious books, even the ones filled with struggle and whining. These are the stories of my life. These are the stories I told myself, the stories I believed. There is no more accurate a map through the forest of my soul’s journey, though the accuracy is not so much about what was true, but what I believed to be true.

Cherish your journals, your memories, your stories. Let them live in you and share them with others. The more you see the power of these stories work through your life, the more you play with the energy of Storyteller, the more you will see how much power you really have over that story.