It was a year ago, almost to the date, when I saw Elizabeth Gilbert post a picture of her 2019 journals on Instagram – all six of them. Most things that influencers boast about doing/buying/being on social media I cannot, or otherwise won’t do. Filling six blank books with my thoughts in a year – I could absolutely do that. And did. Except that only had enough thoughts to fill four books.
I’ve always kept a diary, so this was not a completely alien exercise to embark on. When I was about 13 years I decided to take journaling to the next level and write in English. I look at those diary entries with mixed feelings today. Obviously they are mainly in Pidgin English, which is endearing (and makes me wonder why I decided to do so in the first place), but I also seemed to worry a lot about Saddam Hussein for a Finnish teenager. I did not remember I had been so preoccupied by the Gulf War.
I resumed writing in my native language by the time I turned 15 and the focus shifted from world politics to events at more immediate vicinity, such as my parents not letting me go to Madonna’s Blonde Ambition concert. There were a lot of details about sleepovers and endless musings about who got to have the last slow dance with whom at a school disco. Also, we seemed to have had a school disco every other evening, which is just as well given that the Finnish TV only had three channels at the time and only my very posh friends had VCRs at home.
The last almost two decades my diaries have been an amusing (to me) mix, and proof, of how my work slowly became my identity and took over almost every aspect of my life. I was always aware of it at some level, but I have been hard pressed to find honest thoughts about myself in my journals. There is, on the other hand, no shortage of analyses on various election outcomes or office politics speculations.
During the latest massive financial crisis, I had the opportunity to work very closely with some people who had been tasked to navigate us out of the said crisis. Realising that I was witnessing European history as it was unfolding, I did keep a regular diary with almost daily remarks for a couple of extremely hectic and volatile years. Reading the entries now, often jotted down at the office before trailing after my boss here or there, is a bag of mixed emotions. “Whitney Houston died today and there are massive riots in Greece because the parliament just adopted the austerity package. I must remember to buy socks during lunch break“.
(I was also diligent with noting at each function whether there were any other women present. Very often I was the only one. As regards the principles, Christine Lagarde was the notable, unmissably bejewelled, formidable exception to the rule that financial politics in the early 2010s were very much a man’s world.)
It’s almost absurd to read about the continuous travelling circus, such is the contrast to the current global situation. I’m extremely grateful for having had the experience – as exhausting as the constant traveling felt at the time, it definitely added to the excitement of the job.
Therefore the future reading of this year’s four journals, full of stream of consciousness and nothing else, will most certainly be a painstaking exercise. It will literally be like reading an overlong novel where nothing happens. But I guess the point was to keep writing, even if just to leave a proof that the weirdest things in life can be overcome.
I’ve never kept a diary with the ulterior motive of one day writing a memoir. Most men I’ve worked with have openly admitted this to be the reason for their journaling, and I find it fascinating (some of these men have indeed already proceeded to publish their musings, but nobody’s noted the death of Whitney Houston yet). Fascinating, because they so brazenly consider everything they’ve done (even if it was merely witnessing, rather than doing much) to be worthy of a publication.
Therefore I’ll read almost any book by a woman who has a first-hand account of witnessing history being made. And yes, these are few and far between.
Back to journaling. I will definitely keep up the habit next year – maybe I’ll get to filling six books like Liz Gilbert. Maybe there will be actual events to write about. For the geeks out there, her (and my) choice of journal is the Leuchtturm hardcover.
To wrap this entry, a throwback to 16 December 1989: I had hosted a pre-Christmas party for a couple of kids from my class at home: “Everybody was too tired but the burgers were OK. I didn’t practise piano and have the exam tomorrow. I wonder if I will get Madonna’s ‘Like a Prayer’ CD for Christmas. It’s on top of my wishlist.”
Underneath I had noted the mailing addresses of Belinda Carlisle, Tom Cruise and, rather unexpectedly, Boris Becker.