The Perks of Keeping a Diary and Blogging

Lately, I have not been feeling like myself. But then I wonder, what is “myself?”

A few nights ago at dinner, Tom said to me, “You are cheerier than usual.”

I looked at him over the flame of a small votive candle. 
“Am I normally not?” though this was a dangerous question and one I did not want him to answer honestly.

This last month, perhaps longer, has been trying. I have cried more than anyone in my situation (a good relationship, making slow but certain progress in school, surrounded by friends, most of whom I met through Tom, and with kind, patient parents who came to visit and found my boyfriend charming if not the city) ought to, for reasons both big and small and sometimes, for no (apparent) reason at all. I have started fights at midnight and made both of us bleary eyed with exhaustion. 

Tom shook his head, “No, you’re usually pretty cheery -” he paused – “You’re always cheery. But tonight you’re super cheery.” 
I was indeed cheery that night – we were having a pizza date in the East Village – and the night before. For two days a certain peace had washed over me – I had, I thought, accepted things that I was either to accept or reject.
I was cheery too, yesterday, when we, along with two friends, drove an hour to the New Jersey countryside to do east coast fall things: a brisk hike through a crisp, golden forest, a small lunch of cider hotdogs and doughnuts, and a corn maze through which we entered and hours later – chilled, exhausted but triumphant – emerged. 
Some days, when outings are planned and the weather is fine and there is nothing to do really, but move your legs and breathe the air and listen and add to the chatter, it is easy to be cheery. But by the day’s end, you are tired and one misinterpreted word from your lover’s mouth can push your fatigue into a darker mood.

I over think things. I know this. But by now, at the age of twenty-eight and having gone through what I think, what I hope, are similar times, I should know now how to tell the difference between my mood in a time of change and uncertainty versus my general temperament. I wonder if it’s something physiological. Some chemistry I don’t quite understand but which I try to temper by taking fish oils and Vitamin C and making sure I get enough sun on my face and skin and eyes… But nothing. In short, I should know the answer to, “Is this how I am?” or “Is this how I am right now?” 

This morning I struggled for the answer while zoning out in lecture. I thought about the diaries I’d written when I was younger and when, I assume, I was “happier.” Happier in that I didn’t think so much, didn’t plague myself with thoughts about the future, which won’t reveal itself anyway, not it’s full face and shape, until it arrives. I looked forward to things most children looked forward to: the weekends, or more specifically, the hours after Chinese school. I relished warm Thursday afternoons in early summer, when I’d finished my homework and there was nothing left to do but climb the tree outside my window, then swim, and eat dinner. Maybe, if my mother allowed, I would watch some television. I counted down the days to winter break ski holidays with my cousins, and Christmas and Thanksgiving and Halloween! I’d anticipate the end of the year at the start of fall, and allow my excitement to build backwards. 
When I was sixteen a particularly nasty mood hit me – a petulant, tyrannical dark cloud that screamed, “out with the old Betty and in with the new!” – because back then, I used diaries as an attempt to reinvent myself, to just myself – and I threw those diaries away. 
I have no written record of what life was like before that age. It makes me sad to think that I might be writing over words I’d written before, on some ream of recycled paper I bought from Staples. 
Shortly thereafter, I started my first blog. A Xanga. I wrote in it for a few years before another mood struck and I began a new Xanga. Another mood, another time. A few years after that, something changed again, and I was on Blogger, as Very Highbrow, to which I am still faithful and intend to keep. 
Some things don’t change, as much as I would like them to – not because they can’t, but because they shouldn’t. But from time to time I want to reread my old stuff, revisit the old me, because the old me is always, still me. 
I remembered the password to my old archives for my second Xanga, but could not for the life of me remember the first. Xanga, now defunct, had archived all my old entries, but I could not access them with neither the password nor the email I had used over ten years ago. I have tried at least twice a year for the past three years to remember or retrieve that password, but the archives remained infuriatingly out of reach: just a small password box in the way. 
And then in class today, zoning out, I heard my professor say a few familiar words, among them, my old password sans the numbers I attach to the end of most password. I sat up, startled.  
I opened my computer and a few minutes later, voilà: Betty at sixteen, seventeen, eighteen. Betty from a decade ago downloaded onto present Betty’s computer in five seconds flat. 
Just a few pages of code but several hundred thousand words explaining, exploring. A person growing. 

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