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I keep a diary. A simple statement, but something that can often be hard to admit. When most people think of diary-keeping, they imagine some scene out of a girly teen movie, with a writer lying on their bed clutching a huge fluffy pink pen, writing in a Regina George-esque burn book. A pastime that is inherently secretive, providing you with a way to cordon off part of yourself from the world and sequester it in the blank pages of a notebook. But my diary-keeping reality is so far removed from this scene it is practically unrecognisable in comparison.

It is interesting to consider why and when I choose to write

The first diary I ever kept was a written one. My mother needed major surgery, so aged 7-odd years old I was sent to stay with a friend’s family for a few nights. Their mother encouraged me to keep a diary of my stay, so that I could tell my family what I’d been up to when I got back. I can’t say it was particularly ground-breaking work – the entries were mostly lists of the food I’d eaten that day, and the games I had played with my friend – but it introduced me to the concept of recording aspects of my life, for whatever purpose I desired.

 Sadly, I was not the kind of child who could sit for long periods of time at a desk and reflect through the medium of writing, so my exploration of the concept of written diaries ends there. I became frustrated very quickly with the “brain-hand” divide, where I would attempt to write colloquially, but struggled when my thoughts took so long to eke out onto paper. Thankfully, however, I am a child of the internet generation, and it did not take long for me to find a solution – internet diaries. By typing, I lessened my frustration with my ability to write only at little more than a snail’s pace, and I soon got back into writing entries with a passion.

Whilst my diary-keeping has always been, and I fear will always be, extremely sporadic, it is interesting to consider why and when I choose to write. In terms of the when, there doesn’t appear to be any consistency other than it tends to be when I have enough time to type up roughly a page’s worth of text. But in terms of the why, it is abundantly clear that I turn to my diary to record very specific incidences that I want to remember, for whatever reason. For example, some of my earliest entries feature a concerned young Karolina who thinks that she is spending too much time playing videogames, and so my diary became a very inefficient sort of screen-time tracker. Similarly, an awful lot of entries feature strange dreams I have had – many of which are utterly ridiculous in hindsight, but are extremely emotive to revisit, especially since dreams are usually so transient and re-examining them is something impossible for many of us in the first place unless we record them quickly after awakening.

Some moments I have chosen to record are more sobering. I once had a conversation with my father, after I told him I had been selected to take part in a Holocaust Memorial project involving a visit to Auschwitz. He dug out a folder of documents for me, and began to tell me about my great-grandfather, who had been taken to Auschwitz and died due to the conditions within the camp. Having Polish heritage sometimes reveals stories like these, the Second World War being an inescapable incident in my grandparents’ generation and beyond. I wanted to record how I felt in that moment, listening to my father talk with pride about his family, feeling so utterly disconnected from what I was hearing but also somehow that it was a part of me. 

After getting to university, there was a notable shift in my manner of my diary keeping, not to mention the content! Suddenly my life was full of new experiences and people, and in my first few weeks I valiantly attempted to record the utterly overwhelming feeling of being both secure and ‘at home’ in Cambridge, yet being swept off my feet and unbalanced continually by situations I had never experienced before. The pace of life here also made it extremely difficult to turn to my diary, as I like to write rather long entries, as detailed as I can possibly make them.


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Instead, I began to use something as simple as the notes page on my phone to record moments, forced to adapt to the lack of time available. Whilst I do miss the luxury of reading back through longer entries and revelling in the emotions that I remember all to clearly feeling as I initially wrote them, the one upside of keeping a diary this way has been the use of emoji – whilst I risk sounding like a pariah of literature here, sometimes they can represent emotions or feelings that are extremely difficult to describe precisely. Alternatively, if I am really pushed for time I might record an audio clip instead, usually to retell a story to myself.

The fact that a diary can be so changeable, shift across so many different mediums, just serves to show that there is a form out there perfect for everyone. I would encourage all those who could to keep some form of a diary, even if your entries are as occasional as mine – whether for self-reflection, or just to laugh at your younger self – I guarantee you will be surprised at what you take from it when looking back.

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