It’s hard to imagine right now, but in time this crisis will be a memory. We will look back on it, “Do you remember… wasn’t that mad?”. And eventually, children who aren’t here now will ask about it (nothing ages you quicker than asking a young person what year they were born in). At this moment, we convince ourselves we’re never going to forget this time and what it was like, but we will.

I know I go on about diaries a lot. That’s my thing and I really love delving into them and hearing a voice come from them. In time there will be books, films and TV shows made about 2020. Only a few of them will focus on how it was for you and me. If you look back, it’s always been this way. But what we experience and how we feel about it is so important. Our voices complete the picture. Without us, it’s just a record of what happened, not who it happened to and what that was really like.

So, at the risk of repeating myself, keep a diary, a journal, whatever. It doesn’t have to be full of words, it can be little mementoes of your life – the receipts from the shop (and how much hand sanitiser cost you), drawings, images. Take pictures and make photo books. Make lists – what you watched, what you read, what you cooked.

Write it for yourself or for others. Whatever suits you. Some people never want to share and that’s grand. For some of us, writing things down is a great way to sort out the thoughts going round in our heads. The very act of having to think about them and organise them into words is healthy and helpful.

Write letters to those you can’t see right now. We all complain that all we get is bills and flyers. It doesn’t have to be that way. And when you post a letter, you can get one back!

We Zoom and chat. We have WhatsApp groups and online quizzes. We message each other and post on Instagram. In ten years’ time, all that could be gone. Remember MySpace? Gone. Camcorders? Gone. Can you even play the old videos you have now? At the end of it all, paper is all that lasts. Take photos and screenshots by all means, just one thing… Print them out!

And when this has passed and life goes back to the way it was, or something like it, your memories will be there and you’ll have a way to really remember all the things you swore you would never forget.

Bronagh McAtasney, diary evangelist

About the Author

Bronagh McAtasney is the creator of @NrnIrnGirl1981, real extracts of the diary of her 13 year old self. She is studying for a Master's in Public History, focussing on the unheard stories of women and has worked with the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland on projects looking at diaries and letters locked away in the archives.
She lives in Benagh with four cats, two dogs and a teenager.

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