Dear Queer Diary: So Long, Farewell

Dear Queer Diary_Rory Midhani_640px

There’s something strange about ending a journal. For weeks, months, maybe even years, you’re writing — making lists and sketching kittens and recording quotations and keeping track of school and work and friendships and loves and then suddenly, you turn a page and there’s only a few lines left.

And depending on how big you write or how many words you use, you can finish your thought or your entry. But then you close your journal and put it on the bookshelf, and you know that the next time you look at it, things will have changed.

Those of us who have a bookshelf stacked with filled journals know that each notebook is a volume in a bigger archive — a chapter in the longer story of what came before and what comes after. There’s continuity because journals are about our days, and each day is followed by another and then another and then another, all the way through years and decades and maybe a century, if we’re very lucky.

(Via Diary of a Little Flower)

(Via Diary of a Little Flower)

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I strategically manipulated my high school diary to end with graduation: the final lines describe walking down the hallway with my best friend crying after we said goodbye to our favorite English teacher. It isn’t truly the final page of that red, soft-cover notebook. During the time I used that journal, I created multiple appendices centered on books I had read, movies I had watched, and a pro-con chart about whether or not I should take a gap year after high school (cons: “I’ll be 24 when I finish college!”; pros: “I’d have some time to reflect & define myself w/o some institutional molding.”).

In spite of these extraneous topics covered on the pages just inside the back cover of my notebook, the final page in the journal proper seemed to have a certain importance, and I can remember carefully measuring the space I had left and deciding how much detail to include in order to fit the most important bits. Even though I knew my life was far from over, I wanted that sense of an ending. The final words I wrote on June 3rd, 2008 were “Good night!”

Several years later, a journal from my semester abroad ends much more abruptly. There’s a list of expenses that includes 3 pounds 95 pence spent on mulled wine followed by these two lines, squished at the very bottom of the last page: “Oh my notebook! I have filled you up, I think, faster than any notebook before, and I have enjoyed our time together, both at home and in the great world abroad.” (Yes, I am aware my journal-writing voice is slightly out of the ordinary.)

The subsequent notebook ends, somewhat fittingly, it seems, in the form of directions from the New Haven line of the Metro North to Laguardia airport. I was flying home after my final semester of college, moving on from dorm rooms and dining hall meals into the simultaneously frightening and hopeful expanses of real life. At the end of this notebook, there are three empty pages. I can’t remember why I didn’t fill them in.

(Via Alkeemi)

(Via Alkeemi)

A few months ago, I messaged about this very topic with a lovely Straddler by the name of Liz. For her, too, the ending of a journal is something significant: something that feels like it must coincide with major life events like break-ups and school years. Yet at the same time, she also feels the need to fill a notebook completely, leaving no page untouched. I sympathize with both of these inclinations.

In writing our lives, we look for meaning, giving our days, our passing fancies, our thoughts and desires the shape of a story, parsed out in sentences, pages, and entries. Whether we know it or we don’t, by writing, we give ourselves permanency, declaring with every mark on the page: “This is me! Here I am! Read! Listen!” In that sense, the larger project of a diary is never over. There will always be more notebooks waiting for the next entry, the next volume, the next cry of “Here I am!”

It’s not a coincidence that we’re talking about endings, my journaling geniuses: this is the fiftieth and final installment of Dear Queer Diary. But before we write off into our respective journaling sunsets, let us make a solemn vow. No matter how many journals we finish — or how many journals we don’t quite finish, but instead abandon for pretty girlfriends or new jobs or trips around the world — let us never stop beginning new notebooks, writing things down, and giving shape to queer lives in ink and on paper and on screens.

If you’re with me, put your hands on your hearts, link your pinkies, and uncap your pens. I have about four pages left in my current journal, and I promise to fill them with my all my dearest, queerest feelings.


Dear Queer Diary is a column about the joys (and occasionally, the pains) of journaling. We crack open our tiny notebooks and break out the rainbow-colored pens on the regular, so get ready to limber up your writing hands and document all your beautiful feelings!

Header by Rory Midhani

Maggie is a freckly, punctuation-loving queer living in the Boston area. She supports her book-buying and tea-drinking habits by teaching America’s youth how to write topic sentences and spends her free time writing postcards and making sandwiches for her girlfriend.

Maggie has written 53 articles for us.

22 Comments

  1. Wait, what?! I have filled one and a half journals since the start of Dear Queer Diary, and I have loved every minute of it. I’m sad to see the column end, especially because I feel like it changed my life in some way.

    On the subject of journals ending, I was coming around to the end of my journal right before my birthday this year, and I decided to start the new one on my birthday. New year, new beginnings. That means there are a couple of blank pages left at the end of the last one, but at least I know they’ll be there if I ever need them.

  2. Oh no! What a shame this column is ending, I really love it :'(

    Is it because you have different focus now Maggie, or was it always going to be 50?

    Related – I’m about to sell my boat, Swallow. The blog/journal I wrote about finding, buying, moving, renovating and living on it documents a lot of blood and sweat and many many tears, and it’s coming to an end. I’ll be moving onto a different boat but am undecided about whether I’ll carry on writing about life on the canal… it all feels really very sad actually and, reading back over the past year today, I’m not really sure I can go through with the sale.

    http://narrowboatswallow.co.uk/blog/

  3. Loved this final post. As a very incostant journal writer (I tend to write quotes, lyrics, articles but very little original stuff) I wanted to thank you because all this has been very inspiring. I think I’ll try again and start a new journal these days.

    About endings: the only “journal” I have ever filled completely ended when I had just discovered this site, and on the last page there’s a big “you do you”. You are always on my mind, AS. It’s meant to be.

  4. I’m so sad this time is ending but so grateful that it happened. Thank you for your dedication to this series! It’s reignited my love of my journal and made me feel more connected to the Autostraddle community. Can’t wait to hear what you’re up to next!

  5. Sad to hear the column is ending it was one of my favorites. I feel more committed to my journaling because of the column. I just got a new journal and I haven’t decided what sort of journal it should be yet. I do know that I feel a little more open and adventurous with it cause I’ve read so many interesting journal ideas during the span of the column.

  6. Great ending to a wonderful column. Loved reading your posts. Thanks for inspiring a bunch of us (including myself) to start journaling! I think I’m going to start keeping a paper journal along with my app journal now…

  7. maggie! i’ve loved this column so much. thank you for inspiring us all to write the way we want. i promise to fill up the last 20ish pages of this journal i’ve been working on for the past 2 years, and! i promise to trust myself with the future contents of this beautiful new journal i’ve been terrified to write in.

    xox

  8. I’m so sad that this column is ending! As you know, it’s one of my favorite things about Autostraddle. As you may not know, it was the first column I read on the regular here; I used to come and go from Autostraddle, but Dear Queer Diary is what made me a regular at this site. Thank you so, so much.

  9. Maggie,
    I would just like to say that I have enjoyed your posts so very much.
    So much so that I had to create an account just to comment on this last article.

    Please keep writing, because even if it wasn’t about journaling (which was such an awesome topic) I think it would be amazing. You have such a gift of creating a community of people from something so simple. Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into this.

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