A Secret Revealed

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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.

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10 thoughts on “A Secret Revealed

  1. niharika

    hey, i know how u must be feeling. even though i have a very worn out story….my brother will do anything to get his hands on my cell phone, my journals etc. dat’s y i started blogging. n i write all my innermost feelings n stuff in my journals so it’s bloody embarrasing when he reads em!!

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  2. Great story, I’ve been in situations similar to that but damn I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone read my journal. You know I had a roommate for 1 semester that we just couldn’t stand each other and it all blew up into a huge fight. I moved out to my own dormroom and she stayed lightly in our circle of friends. I couldn’t really stand to be around her but our friends were the same. Then a year or 2 ago we met up again…totally different people and now she’s one of my closest friends. Life is weird.

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  3. I honestly prefer to set up little secret blogs all over the Internet to daring to keep a physical journal in a notebook.

    Once, years ago, I caught my husband out in the “shed” (a rural garage, lol) where he was supposedly straightening up but was instead holding one of my journals up to a sliver of light so he could read it. He jumped guiltily when I came in. It had been an old journal, written before I’d even met him, but it had silly stuff in it like “how far” I’d gone with each guy I’d ever dated (neatly listed), embarrassing stuff like that. I wasn’t as mad as I was shocked. I’d always assumed he would respect my privacy.

    To this day (this was 15 years ago!) I can’t bring myself to keep a notebook journal. And in fact, when I first started blogging it was off limits to my husband; I told him it was like my secret diary and he appeared to understand, but when we were having problems and I wasn’t communicating well he felt justified to dig it up and he read some very private, very hurtful things. I’ve since stopped revealing such private matter in my main blog and resort to the anonymous secret blog route.

    I could be mad, but I do recognize the difficulty. My kids have scribbled stuff in notebooks which I’ve found and thought I like to think that I respect their privacy – I can’t resist looking! I want to know what their thoughts are. I can see now that having that temptation visible like that is just too much for most of us to bear.

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  4. Diana,

    My journals now are not so much what I use to unleash anger or joy or sadness, but my husband doesn’t go near them. He reads what I ask him to read and that’s it. But I try to tell him whatever I would write in my journals.

    What I still find shocking about the whole incident from college is that they got pissed off from what I wrote. They deliberately went looking for evidence that I was complaining about them, and when they found it, they got pissed off. It still amazes me to this day.

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  5. I’ve never kept a journal. My blog isn’t even really much of a personal journal, it’s constrained by the readership which includes my parents and even a couple of colleagues read it.

    I think it’s hard to keep some dark thoughts to yourself, but sadly human nature is to read private writing, in spite of the guilt complex that gives.

    What’s true about what you say, and remain perplexed by, is that people who should not have read your journal hold you accountable for what you said in it. They shouldn’t have read it in the first place, and if they did they should have confronted you with what you said reasonably, but mostly excused themselves for such treacherous behaviour.

    -Fruey

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  6. My relationship with my boyfriend changed after he found my old diaries that I kept during my student days. Had they been his diaries, I would not have read them, but he read mine. Guess I should have been more careful about where I put them. I kept my blog from him but he found it sometime last year and I know he reads it. Hence my blog will never be as personal as my diaries were and I try to keep it lighthearted.

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  7. Fruey, yes, there are things I wish I could express here without worrying about losing my job. In fact, I have gone back and deleted old posts that could have been deemed derrogatory by my employer had someone found out. A coworker of mine suggested that I delete them, not because The Powers That Be knew about my blog, but just in case they did in the future. I hated to do so, but I need a paycheck

    Weenie, I’m gonna get a little philosophical here for a moment and suggest that if you have to hide emotions or past experiences from your boyfriend, the two of you have some issues that you need to work out.

    I’m not gonna say that my husband and I have this perfect relationship, but rarely do I feel like I have to hide something from him. I’m lucky to have him as my best friend and confidante.

    But that’s all I’ll say about that.

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  8. Those are the reasons I don’t keep a journal. The thought of people reading them mortifies me more than the need to spill out my my emotions. I tried the whole “write it and burn it” but that was wholly unsatisfying.

    It really sucks that you couldn’t trust those closest to you, but honestly the ol’ cliche “you’re better off without them” rings realllly true here. In the end it was a blessing in disguise.

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