On burning 30 years worth of journals at the end of summer

Summer is drawing to a close and, looking back, this was a great big one personally. I shifted from hiking during the June, July & August for the most part in favor of going car camping and meeting up with old and new friends. There were a couple of exceptions however but those were mostly at higher elevations in the mountains with some hiking friends of mine. Sum total though, it’s been a mix of both solitude and camaraderie.

Toward the end, however, I decided to burn about 30 some years of personal journals that I’ve been lugging around with me for a long time now. Well, I should mention that I’ve been on a minimalism track at home while amping up my reading habit as well. When you have a bookcase full of volumes, stuff reduction goals can sort of collide. I was looking for more space on my shelves one day for, yup, more books when my gaze turned toward a whole block of personal journals. I had read an article by a woman who burned hers in an attempt to keep her private thoughts from her kid as she was facing the curious years. I liked how she thought about this and presented her mental goodbye, however. Mine was not about hiding information though. I’m not that private. If I were I would not have bared all, so to speak, in places like social media for so many years, written my personal thoughts on this blog for nearly ten years, or share so openly on the AHA Support Network the way I do. While I try to be as proper as I can, privacy is no longer in my nature I suppose.

I chose to take my box of journals out mid-August this year on my last car camping trip of the summer. It was under the full moon of August 15, thinking about all the versions of myself that got me to where I am now, standing beside a roaring campfire in the heat of the summer night under the stars that were beginning to peek out tossing notebook by notebook into the fire. Honoring the younger men I used to be, in the process, for the struggles they faced, the trouble they caused and a life lived.

One of the other campers asked what I was doing, “why are you burning books?!?!” I told him the nutshell version of what was up and, of course, his response was something like, “well, that must be cathartic.” It was not. Not the intention at all. There was only appreciation and gratitude for the messes I’ve stumbled through on my mind in front of the fire under the moonlight that evening. Hell, at a certain point, I went out for a night swim to cool off, skinny dipping, of course, enjoying the feel of the water while floating and looking up at the night sky. I returned back to my fire ring and continued to bank the fire higher which dried my naked form in short order giving me more than a few moments to think about, not just myself but, all of the friends whom I wrote about in these pages as the caught flame and burned brightly for a few moments. More than a few of my friends are now dead. Alive only in my memories. Relationships. First times. I’m adventurous so there have been a few of those. Problematic epochs in my life. Disasters. Triumphs. Explorations. Failures. More than my share of fun.

If anything, I felt reminded of life. The man I have become and the ones I have no idea about as of yet. All I know is that it was a perfect way to close out an incredible summer. I feel, more than anything, stronger and more centered as a result of not just this collection of experiences but an overall course of direction that I hope to follow now through 2020. If anything rings true, there will be a ton of changes for sure, but at the core, I think there will always be gratitude for both what has passed and what I have today.

I can only hope that everyone out there in the world at large experiences something similar in whatever way they find it.

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