Whatever you think, be sure it is what you think, whatever you want, be sure that it is what you want, whatever you feel, be sure that it is what you feel.
– T.S. Eliot
February 4, 1994 I started keeping a journal.
In between moves a few years ago, it was uncovered. I pulled it from a box in my basement thinking I’d include an entry as part of this writing.
I can’t betray my own trust.
Twelve-year-old me wrote those pages for the posterity of us. They serve as an anchor to memories of past love, broken friendships, broken families, personal successes.
Most of all, those entries were where I was trying to figure out new ideas I’d stumbled upon or had thrust upon my brain.
Reading the entries, I can see the genesis of some of the ideas I consider at the core of who I am today. Those nascent ideas are between me and myself. Some of their more recent iterations, though, have found their way to publication. Some are still in the thought lab.
While I was keeping that journal, I was also a contributor to the student section of my local paper. Before media became social, the State Journal-Register created a space for young writers to document the world as it appeared to them and share it with our community. I wrote about ideas about which I was more confident – school lunches, music, that time a mouse got into my bedroom.
I started to find my public voice in those pages.
I still keep a journal.
This is not it.
It is worn, has been dumped in the Colorado River and stolen by a baboon. My journal holds the lint of my days and the figments of stray thoughts. I note the world and my questions about it. My opinions start there. Like the first journal 15 years ago, it holds my secret thoughts.
This is a different space.
Here, I place the thoughts I’ve played with. I’ve pushed and pulled them and shared them with those I trust to do the same.
By the time I’ve written them here, I’ve already argued against the thoughts I publish. They’re the fourth or fifth or seventeenth drafts.
Online writing should be that. It should never be the space my brain vomits with hopes the Internet custodians will clean it up.
My worry over digital footprints extends beyond avoiding embarrassing pictures of myself online. It covers embarrassing or incomplete thinking online as well.
As I write myself into existence, I work to make it the better version of myself.