Diaries of Past Lives

I used to keep a journal back in grade school. It started out as a personal diary that I began keeping in 7th grade, and it probably grew to about 20 or so hand-written pages in a notebook before it was confiscated by my math teacher. He had the audacity to insist that I should be paying attention to his lesson instead of writing in my notebook about how much I hated his class. The nerve. I was told I could reclaim my notebook at the end of the semester, but when that time came, the teacher had either misplaced it, burned it, shredded it, or sent it to the FBI. Regardless, I never saw it again.

In the meantime, I had begun writing in a new notebook, picking right up where I had left off. That one continued through about 8th or 9th grade, and had grown to considerable size by the time I tore it up and threw it away during a particularly emotional episode. Strike two.

I didn’t keep a journal for a while after that, but began a new one as part of a creative writing class in my senior year of high school. We had begun the class under the direction of one teacher who gave fairly detailed instructions about what we were to write about (“Today we’re going to write in haiku…”), so there wasn’t much room for real self-expression. Things changed when that teacher was abruptly laid off mid-semester during a round of budget cuts, and our class was put under the direction of another teacher who already had far too much on her plate. Gotta love the public schools.

She’d usually let us go outside and write about whatever the hell we wanted in whatever format we wanted, as long as we had something to turn in at the end of the period. I don’t think she was too happy about suddenly having another class to teach, so she kept things about as low-maintenance for herself as possible. As it turned out, she happened to be one of the better teachers I had in high school, and her feedback was greatly valued.

I continued writing in it off-and-on after high school, and then finally made the switch to the computer about a year or so later. That continued for about the next five years or so, and I even transcribed the old handwritten journal into WordPerfect as well. Since I didn’t yet have a computer of my own, I was keeping everything saved in password-encrypted files in order to protect the contents of said files from prying eyes.

By the time I finally got my own computer, I had pretty much lost interest in keeping a journal. The old WordPerfect files were simply copied into an obscure folder in some dusty, seldom-accessed corner of my hard drive, where they sat all but forgotten.

This was years before the word “blog” was invented. When I finally jumped onto the blogging bandwagon, I was using MySpace and didn’t really feel like copying and pasting all those old journal entries onto my blog via MySpace’s clunky interface. Besides, that blog pretty much only existed to keep my long-distance friends up to date on what was going on in my life, and the details of my high school and early college years didn’t seem particularly relevant.

However, when I decided to make the switch from MySpace to the blog you’re now reading, I gave some consideration to copying in all my old journal entries, in addition to all the old MySpace blogs and other assorted blog-like writings of mine. Imagine: 15 years of David’s navel-gazing in written form, all organized by date and category in one easy-to-navigate site. How convenient for those who have far too much interest in my life and/or far too much time on their hands.

My first step earlier this evening was to open the old WordPerfect files. This proved to be a challenge, as I had forgotten the password I had used to encrypt them. I tried dozens of possibilities to no avail, and eventually downloaded some software that claimed to be able to crack password-encrypted WordPerfect documents. Since I didn’t feel like shelling out the $50 for the full-blown version of the software, I was forced to settle for the trial version, which only gave me the first two letters of the password: BA

BA? What the fuck, I thought, I don’t think I’ve used “BA” for any sort of password, ever. I then spent the next half-hour trying to think of all the words that begin with “BA” that I might have used as a password a decade ago.

Bar? No.
Barf? No.
Backup? No.
Basket? No.
Ball? No.

And so on. I was completely baffled. And “Baffled” didn’t work, either.

Finally, after dinner, it hit me: Banjo. It referred to a stupid inside joke between my high school friend Kevin and I. It tried it, and it worked. Open sesame.

When I began reading through some of the old entries, though, I realized that some things are best left in the past. Much of it was just plain juvenile, like the stuff you see on most 14-year-old’s MySpace blogs. Lots of pointless teenage angst, and lots of righteous indignation about things I considered myself an expert on at the time. (Thank God I never write like that now… Ahem.) There were also more than a few personal letters that remain nobody’s business except myself and the original recipients, and there were a few topics broached that are nobody’s business except on a need-to-know basis. Above all else, though, I realized that while my blog entries have always been written for a public audience, my old journals (save for a few early entires to be read by a harried creative writing teacher) were written strictly for my eyes only. And so they will remain.

But I’ve removed the password protection, just in case I change my mind at some point in the future.

In other news, I’ve finally gotten all my old photos organized into galleries and published on the site. Check them out via the link on the left-hand side of this page and let me know what you think. Most of them are fairly basic travel snapshots, a few are horribly amateurish, and a few of them approach something that might resemble professional quality. You be the judge. Someday soon I’ll get myself a half-decent digital SLR camera and learn how to use it properly, and you’ll hopefully see a substantial improvement in the quality of future gallery additions.

That leaves my portfolio as the one big piece of this site that remains to be built. Most of the content exists, but it will take some time to do all the usual formatting crap. I also have some minor graphical tweaks in mind for the site in general, but I’m not sure when I’ll get around to it. Stay tuned.

For now, though, I’m heading to bed.

Leave a Reply