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Jack Zaleski, Published March 16 2013

Zaleski: A long time ago I wrote it down

I’m dismissive of the “social media” phenomenon. Disdainful, really. I find it shallow, juvenile and without boundaries. I thought it was a generational thing: Old people didn’t get it, young people did. But that’s not it. Many of my friends and acquaintances are hooked. I used to think better of them.

Then, the other day while rummaging through old files in my desk, I pulled from the dust a 50-year-old spiral notebook. It looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I opened it, and the memories came rushing back like a Red River flood. It was a personal journal I’d kept from mid-July 1963 to the end of September of that year – set down on blue-ruled pages in rather impressive legible script, and, I proudly add, pretty good narrative writing for a high school junior. I began to read.

After an hour with my embarrassing personal history, I was drained by an emotional trip that careened from out-loud laughing to long-forgotten pain that nearly brought me to tears. It was a jarring romp through a time of teenage angst, infatuations and intrigue. It was a blissfully biased report of first loves and first heartbreaks. It was the first chapter in a decades-long saga peopled by a unique gaggle of achievers that came to be known (and still are known) as “the group.” It catalogued the beginnings of friendships that have endured to this day.

I’d forgotten about the journal. And even as I read my own words, some of the names and places and incidents I wrote about could not be retrieved from my memory. The intensity of emotion in the scribbling suggested they were important, but I could not remember who or where or why it all was so compelling at the time.

So what does a yellowing journal have to do with social media? Just this: It was my social media all those years ago, although we didn’t describe it that way. It remains today as an admittedly incomplete and unapologetically slanted report of the summer of ’63, and only of that life-changing time. The last entry was dated Sept. 29, 2:45 p.m., then nothing more. Not a word. I don’t know why I stopped writing.

Of course, the effort and attention a handwritten journal/diary requires are not the same as posting on Facebook or tweeting nonsensical missives that pass for communication on Twitter. And that stuff will disappear into the ether. I, on the other hand, have had the singular pleasure of retrieving a ragged notebook filled with extraordinary memories – because a long time ago I wrote it down.

Contact Editorial Page Editor Jack Zaleski at (701) 241-5521.