I began a new journal on April 13, 1980, writing, in pen and ink on blue-lined, three-hole punched, white, student standard note paper, 1432 numbered pages, before I closed the journal with the entry for August 16, 1984. I kept the journal in two large, blue three-ring cloth-covered binders. About ten years later, after my father died, I added a manila envelope, filled with vital documents and genealogical information about my parents, to the end of the second binder.
I devoted my earlier 1960s journal, also transcribed in this blog, primarily to the political events of 1968 and later years; my new journal, in contrast, was largely transactional, with reminiscence building on the thoughts of the day. As you read this 1980s journal, keep in mind that the reminiscence is raw and undocumented, even of my own life, so I might have made factual errors. At 1432 pages, the 1980s journal is the most extensive and longest of the journals I have kept. I kept a sculpture journal in the 1970s and 1980s, in which I wrote brief analyses of monumental sculptures that I viewed. The entries in the sculpture journal are far fewer than in my other journals and scattered over years as I traveled. I have transcribed all the pages of the sculpture journal in my blog, Skin and Bones.
When I began my 1980s journal, I knew that I wanted to write frequently in it. To make that possible, I decided at the outset to try to limit myself to a single page, that is, less than 500 words. I failed miserably at this limitation; but most entries run under 2000 words. I have already published in this blog the unusually long entry, "My First Time".
At sometime in the midst of writing the journal, I gave it a title. I wrote the title on a 3x5 note card and scotch taped it to the inside cover of the first binder: "Running Away from Christmas". The title has multiple meanings. It means, most importantly, leaving my childhood behind. Less importantly, it meant abandoning my family's effort to bring me to accept Jesus Christ as my savior. I certainly tried; but I was unable to make the leap of faith. My failure was in my family a perpetual stain on my childhood. I understood that by temperament I was atheist and secular. Not until 9/11 opened a window on a new world of experience--a world from which I had turned my eyes--would my temperament change. In a sense, therefore, I think the 1980s journal is about my conscience and its early development. The literary result of my change in view after 9-11 is evidenced in my four blogs, which constitute a new journal.
Why did I write the 1980s journal? I'm not really sure. The journal must have been a product of my new stage in life. I wrote it for myself only, without intending it necessarily to be read by outside my immediate family. I did not expect to publish it. My wife read many of the pages as I wrote them. I also expected that someday my children would like to read about my life, their mothers, and the major events of their young lives. Looking through the journal today, I was pleased to see, for instance, that I wrote accounts of the births of my daughter and son. I know they will, when they read these accounts, be pleased to see the great significance of their births in the lives of their parents. They were (and are) both very-much wanted children around whom, with their mothers, I built my life. In a sense, the journal is a gift to them.
When I was several years into writing the journal, I mentioned to a college friend, C_, that I wasn't quite sure why I was keeping it. He said, instantly, look at how old we are! We were both nearing forty (he is a year older than I, though). He knew the journal was a kind of summing up and preservation of my youth, as well as distancing from it, as I headed to middle-age.
Why might you read the journal? Curiosity, I suppose. I have withheld my identity in my blogs, so you can't read it for your interest in me as a celebrity, which I am not. You might read it for what it reveals about one person's effort to understand himself objectively, taking from this enterprise whatever you can about understanding yourself. I did not try to write the journal with literary appeal, so you probably won't be drawn into it because it resembles a Jane Austen novel.
I am not sure how much you need to know about my personal circumstances as a context for the journal. Here are some salient facts. I was a few months away from my thirty-eighth birthday when I began to write the journal. The year was four years after the end of my first marriage, which gave me my daughter. My daughter was living with me six months of the year and on weekends the other six months of the year. I was very much of an active parent. It was the most important relationship in my life. I had been married for just over a year to my second wife when I began the journal. We wanted to have a child, but we were waiting for her to establish her law career. Before the journal ends, we would move to another house and have our son. In my own career, I was a tenured professor working on my second book. This book was published before the journal ends and I embarked on my third book; but neither of these events is reflected in the selections published in this blog. I had decided to reshape my career to accommodate my domestic and family obligations. More important to my conscience, than my scholarly books, was my decision to cut back dramatically, for instance, on travel to professional meetings and conferences and to stop presenting papers at other universities, activities that I could not do and at the same time look after my family. The journal is therefore, as well as being my summing up as I looked forward to turning forty years of age, an exploration of my domesticity. I was, as Erik Erickson said of Gandhi, in my householder phase of life.
I will publish such entries as might find general interest. I shall certainly not publish all 1432 pages. Not even close! The major portion of the journal which I am not publishing concerns my first marriage. I devoted much of the journal to understanding the failings of that marriage. I felt keenly that I had failed in the most important undertaking of my life. My journal articles probe my failings and the difficulties of my marital relationship with my wife with candor that is difficult for me to read, even today, thirty years after that marriage ended.
I will transcribe entries exactly, with misspellings and incorrect grammar. I will not include crossed-out information, however, that I rewrote instantly in a different form. The entries were dated with the day that I composed them. The heading dates do not necessarily refer to the content of the entry (except for transactional entries, of course). I will substitute initials for the names of persons, for reasons of privacy. My editorial comments, written for the publication in this blog, will be italicized and put in brackets, to set them apart from the actual journal entry.
The journal is indexed in four categories that are listed in the right sidebar. I am selecting some articles and organizing them thematically; these selections are also listed in the sidebar in the contents listed as "From My 1980s Journal".