It’s been about 16 years since I kept a diary, and when I did, I was younger even than 16. I thought I was going to be the next Anne Frank (tragic death aside) and that generations would find my diaries, marvel at the unfairness of my life, thrill at the mundanity of a rural adolescence and find humour and wonder in my daily musings on camogie training, the new priest, and which of my friends was in a sulk on that particular day. Not to mention the highs and lows of having a crush on every boy in the class, something that, surely, was unique to me.
Because that, dear reader, is it in a nutshell, aside from the odd agricultural show, or the “gorgeous” pair of Adidas shorts, navy with white stripes and red detailing, purchased in the local town’s sports shop. I am cringing even writing that, if only because they are still at home in my mother’s hot press, as she says, “in case” I need them again. I’ll probably need them when I return, triumphant, to the camogie pitch in the Pensioners’ All Ireland Club Final (B), 2050. By then I might have shrunk back into them.
It was in the name of research for the show that I pulled out a few old diaries from my bedside locker and began re-reading them last weekend.
Purely through the vagaries of twitter, I’d come across @NrnIrnGirl1981, an account which updates the old format of published diaries by tweeting daily entries from the diary of Bronagh McAtasney. Perhaps it’s because Bronagh was that bit more urban than me, or maybe due to the political environment of Northern Ireland in 1981, but her diaries are a lot more interesting than mine were. She’s interested in music, she’s aware of the enormous events surrounding her – one entry says “Robert Bradford was shot dead yesterday & a Catholic was shot in revenge” – although, to be fair, we’re about equal on the Mass front. Both of us went to mass a lot, even though the diaries are about 18 years apart. Although the latest entry, at the top of the page, reads, simply, “Ordinary”, to me, Bronagh looks pretty interesting.
Or maybe that’s the problem. Maybe, I realised, reading them, I’m not actually very interesting. Now, like all of us, I’ve had quite a few life experiences since I was 12. But a background consisting of a no-more-miserable than usual adolescence, the usual amount of crushes, rather a lot of GAA matches and mass, reading numerous books, and being annoyed at my mother doesn’t really make for a great dramatic heroine.
The main aim of the diaries, as I recall, was to get me writing. Well, that part worked. Reading them now, I can’t believe anyone pays me to write anything. (And long may that continue).
The second was for attention. I assumed that, one day, I would do something incredible enough that my diaries would be worthy of public attention. Clearly, that hasn’t happened yet, and unless I commit a horrific crime they are unlikely to ever get more public than this. Thankfully.
These days, very few people keep diaries, beyond the ones that you write doctors’ appointments and revenue tax deadlines into. On the show we tried to find listeners who do and only a handful showed up.
But so many of us now keep blogs, and tweet and facebook our every move, that there is hardly a need to keep a diary. And now, no matter how mundane or dull or plebeian our daily moves, there is no filter. There is no wait for discovery, there are no relatives to quietly hide them and save us posthumous embarrassment when eventually we shuffle off this mortal coil… and we’re doing it to ourselves.
I’ve never been a great supporter of the argument that we are oversharing constantly – the world changes, after all – but after reading what I wrote as a 12 year old, I wonder about that. Should we really be displaying our mundanity for all to see like this? Not every tweet can be witty or brave, not every Facebook post insightful or sharp.
Right now, of course, I think I’m gas. Hilarious. That hashtag about the jelly star biscuits being taken out of the Afternoon Tea is comic genius, the tweet about water charges clearly has an insight nobody else can offer, and the constant retweeting of headlines from intellectual news sources definitely makes me look smart. Or does it? Will 45 year old me look back at 29 year old me and cringe, as I’ve just done reading my diaries? I suppose time will tell. For now, more intellectual inquiry, fewer #dinnertweets. For now.