In college, my journals were those small and fabric-covered, and they were a pain in the ass because I had to hold them open to write in them, unlike the black, spiral-bound journals I now use. At the time, though, they screamed creative to me, so I bought them in packs of three.
It was no secret between me and my roommates that I kept a journal. They knew of my writing ambitions, and they knew what my journal looked like. What they didn't know was whether I experienced something wonderful or maddening, I unleashed my first wave of joy or anger or sadness in ink between those pages.
I had no reason to not trust them. We were in college, after all, but then my suitemate and I got into a huge fight. She got upset because I told my mom about a medical procedure she had. I didn't know she was mad until she saw the outline of a story idea I had for my creative writing class. The story centered about three friends who had taken a fourth friend to the emergency room.
Even though the medical emergency in the story and her situation were nowhere near related, she was furious and started saying how I couldn't keep my mouth shut about anything. (I would find out later that there were other instances when I told mutual friends about some things she didn't really want told — although her wishes were never stated to me.)
Not only did I feel her accusations were out of left field, but I also felt as if my writing had been attacked, but I didn't say anything — mainly because I hadn't been prepared.
Later that night, I let my fury out in my diary. Two days later, I cam back from a school club meeting and found my journal lying on the foot of my bed. Had I left it there? Usually it was on the shelf on my headboard. Surely they didn't read it. My roommate was in bed already, and my suitemate was in her room. I thought about going over there to attempt idle chat just to see if I could tell she had read it.
But I went to bed. The next morning, my suitemate didn't go to breakfast with me even though she had done so since the argument. I had red flags going up all morning, but I ignored them. That was a Friday, and that afternoon I returned to my dorm room to find my roommate and suitemate gone for the weekend. I was staying on campus for the weekend, and just as I settled down for a nap, the phone rang.
My suitemate was on the other end of the line, telling me that I could be mad if I wanted to (thanks for the permission) but she and my roommate had read my journal the night before. Then she warned me that if I ever told anyone what I had written in that journal, she would "kick [my] ass up and down" the college campus. I wanted to check the calendar because I could have sworn I had slipped back to the seventh grade.
I spent the rest of the weekend fuming over the whole situation. I could care less about their being pissed off about what I wrote about them. They were the ones who opened the book and read those thoughts. What did they expect?
What upset me most was the violation of my most private thoughts. They were about more than my roommates — who just wanted to get their hands on it to read about themselves. Between those pages, I had confessed hopes, dreams, and feelings I had never uttered to another soul.
Those pages were my release when I felt like no one was listening or could listen, and an intruder (or two of them) had unleashed my most private emotions. Those words now bounced around in someone else's head. I couldn't have been any more exposed.
The problem was irreconcilable. The Residence Hall Director tried to tell me that I could have been sued for libel because of what I had written. Moron.
Unfortunately, I couldn't move out of my dorm because I was swamped with classwork and a class project. So I stayed in that stressful situation for a month and a half.
But when I moved out, I learned the true meaning of "living well is the best revenge." My new roommate became one of my best friends. I met and became friends with others whom I probably wouldn't have met if I had stayed with my old roommates. The journal readers, however, didn't flourish as much away from me as I did away from them.
And that felt pretty good.