I think everyone should keep a personal journal. This is especially true of people in their late teens and early 20s. It's great for laughs 40 years later.
A journal trumps memory every time. Nothing will convince you just how stupid you were (and possibly still are) quite like having a detailed confession in your own hand.
Last Christmas, I was digging through some old boxes in the basement and came across a journal I kept for several months after graduating from high school.
From Aug. 3, 1971 until Jan. 30, 1972, I penned my daily thoughts and activities in a blue spiral notebook. It's all spelled out in handwriting and prose worthy of a chimp.
To give you some idea of how bad it is (and that perhaps you should stop reading now), on the inside cover is taped a ticket stub for a Grand Funk Railroad railroad concert I'm pretty sure I didn't go to, a Zig-Zag advertisement, and half of what looks to be a Playboy foldout.
I was 18 at the time, and already a keen observer of the world. For example, the entry for Aug. 7, 1971. While the crew of Apollo 15 was driving around on the moon, I'm entirely focused on:
"Liberty park blasting the Doors with mannys new 8track and Bammer. Saw Brenda and some other chick waring shorts. OUtasight. Hassle with some old people. [Deleted] pigs came and took manny. We ditched 'cause my ticket is now a warrent and Im old to go to jail to. Riders on the storm. Far-out."
How did a guy this inarticulate end up a newspaper columnist? Stranger still is how I became a cop. Maybe it had something to do with this entry from Jan. 11, 1972:
"Got letter yesturdy from the [deleted] army. Major bummer. Have to get a phizical. Scott saidd his cousin went to jail for not going in to get his draft phizical. [Deleted]!! Got paid yesturday. $61.70. Heavy bread."
Social obligations, high finance and a strong career path. I had it all figured out in 1972, didn't I?
But even when I kept it brief, my criminal cluelessness still comes through in entries like this one on Nov. 21, 1971: "Bunny is a right on chick and the babe for me now and forever."
Bunny? Bunny who? I've thought about it for nearly two months now and still have NO idea who this is.
Perhaps the most telling entry is this gem of idiocy from Oct. 2, 1971:
"Bammer's mom took his car because we smoked in the basement and it wasn't even grass this time. His brother took off the back wheels so he cant drive. His mom will give the car back if he goes to church a whole month. I will never go to church again forever because I would rather be dead than church."
Eighteen months later, I'm in South America on an LDS mission. Not that this made me all that smarter.
In my mission journal is an entire page of angst about whether or not the Lord would bless me because I knocked on doors for two hours without realizing that my tie was undone.
Reading this journal is emotionally punishing. I thought about throwing it away but then realized there's a bright side to it. I'm actually rather impressed that I lived long enough to be embarrassed by it.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.