A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Beth Underwood: Dear diary, the cutest boy in class wasn’t worth the time we spent apart

When I was growing up, I never kept a diary. Yes, that’s right. Never.

I know you’re probably shocked and dismayed, so let me explain. Surely I’m not the only one who balked at the idea of writing down my innermost secrets of childhood. Am I? Certainly, I’m not the only one who kept that first crush on the cutest boy in the class in my head. Tell me I’m not the only one who stewed and fretted over the tragedies and triumphs of growing up without releasing those words on paper.

It’s not that I didn’t want to keep a diary. Not at all. I was simply afraid of what someone might say if that diary had ever ended up in the wrong hands. Meaning anyone’s hands other than my own. Without guarantees that my prospective diary would remain private — for my eyes only if you will — I figured remaining diary-free outweighed any risks I might be taking.

It’s not that I had anything life-altering to say. Would the world have cared if I’d have divulged the contents of all those notes we passed in fourth-grade class? Would civilization as we know it be hanging by a thread if I’d have confessed to forcing my brother to eat peanut butter when there was nothing on earth he hated more? Well, maybe. But I digress.

Looking back, maybe I believed my thoughts weren’t worthy or good enough or world-shaping. In reality, they were just the thoughts of a young girl. Like every other kid in the world, I felt a little lost in a big world sometimes. At other times, I was just trying to find my way through. But I wasn’t about to figure it out on paper.

Oh, the irony that this little girl grew up to be a writer. Perhaps it was fate.

Can I tell you a little secret? I was well into adulthood before I began keeping a journal. Even now, the thought of having my innermost feelings documented unnerves me at times. In fact, I take a certain amount of solace in the fact that my chicken-scratch writing would have to be scrutinized and decoded by a team of handwriting scientists before the full contents could be read.

I’ll tell you another secret. I regret not having a collection of old diaries to read. I wonder what I could have learned from that little girl, or what lessons I could have passed on to my kids. I wonder what advice I could’ve given her?

If you’re already documenting your days, know that you are my hero and keep going! If you don’t currently keep a journal (even on an irregular basis), I hope you’ll start today. Grab a notebook or open a new document on the computer. Whatever it takes. You won’t be sorry. And if you’re worried that someone will read your deepest secrets, just remember there’s a lot to be said for chicken-scratch penmanship. 🙂

I’d love to hear from you! Did you keep a diary as a kid? Do you currently keep a diary or journal? Leave a comment below, or drop me a line at hello@bethwrightunderwood.com.

Beth Underwood is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She shares stories of everyday life that entertain, inspire, and encourage others. Her books include Gravity, a narrative nonfiction account of a small group of Tennessee National Guardsmen, and Talk Bourbon to Me, a lighthearted look at Kentucky’s native spirit. Drop her a line at beth@bethwrightunderwood.com, or visit her website at bethwrightunderwood.com.

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  1. Teresa Fryman bell says:

    I had a diary until my brother got hold of it so I burned it! That was my private thoughts , fears of life. Not for others too see! So be glad Beth you didn’t have one

    • Yikes—my worst nightmare, Teresa! I’d have burned it, too! Thanks for sharing that memory. Nothing worse than a young girl’s deepest thoughts falling into the wrong hands!

  2. Yikes – That was my worst nightmare, Teresa! Sometimes those deepest thoughts and fears are best kept in our minds! Thanks for sharing that memory. 🙂

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