“I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?” – Anne Frank circa 1944
The calendar read June 12, 1942 and Anne Frank was finally turning 13 years old. For her birthday, her parents gave her a red checkered diary with yellow stripes.
She wrote her first entry that same day.
“I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”
For two years during World War II Frank and her family had to hide in an attic apartment, known to them as the Secret Annex. It was located behind her father’s business and she lived there with her parents and sister as well as four other Jews.
During this time, the little red diary became not only her confidant but also her survival tool. Writing helped her cope with the massive boredom and fright that filled the small attic.
After 75 years, Frank’s diary signifies the importance of documenting things even today. Amid tablets and laptops, many still use diaries to find themselves or escape others as they write without a sense of time and within a space where no one, absolutely no one, can judge.
Vicky Narvaez, a first-year student at St. Thomas University has kept a diary since Grade 6.
“I was getting bullied so I was not OK and I started using a diary to just write things down and figure myself out because I didn’t know what I was feeling,” she said.
Her diary helped her figure out her feelings and deal with them in healthier ways. She actually has two diaries.
“I have this really tiny notebook that has dates and is really, really important to me. It dates back to 2012. The other one I write in more frequently but it depends on the mood. Sometimes I don’t even write about myself.”
Narvaez uses each notebook for a different purpose. One is for more elaborate ideas while the other one is to write “whatever pops into your head that you kind of want to get out and don’t really know how to phrase it.”
Unlike Frank, whose diary has been read by thousands, Narvaez has only shared one of the stories she wrote in her diary with others.
“[Sharing the story] kind of helped because if it made sense to other people then it definitely made sense to me so it was doing something good.”
Narvaez carries the more casual of her two diaries in her backpack every day.
“There are a few things that I stick on there, like wrappers of things that make me happy or sad or remind me of things. And then the other one is safely under my bed.”
Katie Morehouse, a fourth-year student at STU also carries her diary with her everywhere.
When she was 14 years old, she was diagnosed with anxiety.
“One of the things my doctor said was, ‘You can go see a psychiatrist if you want to or a therapist just to talk to someone, or if you find it’s better you could keep your own diary or a journal.’”
During high school, she would write in it every day. Even in the middle of class.
“I actually got in trouble a couple of times in high school. My teachers would be like, ‘What are you doing?’”
Morehouse chose a diary over a therapist because she finds it hard to open up to people. Every time she writes in it she feels a burden is taken away as words leave her through her pen.
Blogging is considered a similar outlet to writing a diary. Yet it didn’t feel quite the same for Morehouse.
“I find going back to the old ways when it comes to journaling better. I like the tangible object that you can hold in your hand, it’s like a little piece of me because I pour my soul into it.”
After the two years in hiding, Anne Frank’s family was apprehended in 1944. Her mother and sister were killed in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and Frank followed shortly after. But her diary, left at the Secret Annex, was saved by Miep Gies, a Dutch citizen who hid the Frank family.
Frank’s father, the only one in the family to survive the war, turned Frank’s diary into a book in 1947, just like she always wanted.