I recently shredded a piece of my past. While cleaning out a box full of outdated papers, cards, and scribbled notes, I found old employment reviews. I considered filing them. Instead, I shredded them. While the shredder chewed and spit out the pages, I wondered if it was a form of denial to destroy the documents that outlined all the ways in which I was not an ideal employee. Was I shredding them to erase the negativity? No, I shredded them because they’re no longer relevant. I don’t plan to return to fundraising, and even if I did, I wouldn’t hand a potential employer my performance reviews.

I’m having a harder time with old journals. Part of me desperately wants to shred them; the packrat-writer part feels compelled to keep them. I’ve had this internal debate for decades, probably. In fact, I had a journal my senior year of high school that I threw in the trash. Years later, while looking for something in my parents’ house, I found my old journal. My mom had fished it from the trash. I was simultaneously angry, horrified, embarrassed. I feared she’d read it. A friend said, “No offense, but she probably got bored with it.”

It's like fairy tale. The bear looks sweet & inviting, beckoning you to sit down and read. But watch out! He'll cut you.

It’s like a fairy tale. Sweet & inviting bear, beckoning you to sit down and read. But watch out! He’ll cut you.

Yesterday, I decided to read it again. I would love to say my teenage journal is exciting, riveting. It’s not. It’s boring, filled with the minutiae of a high school senior – going to the mall, liking boys, dreaming about the prom. If it were just boring, that would be fine. But instead, it’s laced with doses of teenage angst, the worst being “I’m getting down on myself, feeling I’m too fat. I think maybe that’s why guys don’t like me – I’m too ugly.”

I vacillated between longing for connection and worrying about getting labeled a slut. How could I have worried about being called a slut when I’d only kissed a couple boys? Where did all my loathing come from? I wrote about a sweet grandfatherly gentleman I worked with who asked me “if all the guys were deaf, dumb, and blind” when I told him I didn’t have a boyfriend. I wish there were more Mr. Prindevilles in my life, and that I’d really heard them.

In the middle of this journal, pages were torn out. If I left all the anguish and doubt, what the hell did I rip out?

The problem with my journals is I only wrote when things were really good or really bad, thus they’re like manic-depressive roller coasters.

I’ve read this journal and now re-read it at least once. All it does it make me sad. That sadness is no longer relevant to my life. It’s going back in the trash, where it should have stayed in the first place.

A friend and I made a pact that if one dies, the other would take her journals and dispose of them. I’m going to save her the effort.

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