I was one of those angst-ridden, self-absorbed (is there any other kind) teenagers. Believing that my life was of greatest significance, I fairly consistently recorded daily events, tasks, and experiences in my diary. One day, for reasons I will never understand, I left my diary open on the desk in my bedroom. Of course, that was a day when mom went into my room, and of course, that was a day when I'd documented that I'd tried smoking for the first time. Boy, did I get into BIG trouble!
Needless to say, that ended my days of keeping a diary -- at least until I graduated from high school and went away to college.
That's when I also graduated from a diary to a journal. College opened up my mind and spirit to new experiences and a greater variety of people. As a result, I questioned more things and things more. My writings to myself became less recordings of events and more explorations of impressions, thoughts, feelings. I still sometimes wrote about events, but with greater view on how those events impacted me or others. Additionally, my journaling wasn't defined by a date or day. I would go for days or weeks without writing in my journal. More often than not, my entries were focused on a topic, a feeling, a memory, ever changing goals, hopes, or dreams.
After college and for the decades following, I've continued to journal periodically. Often, the urge comes during difficult times, but it also comes at the most joy-filled times. Sitting and journaling in solitude was and is my time of true self-expression. My journal has been a sort of inanimate therapist/coach that helps me gain understanding of myself or of others. It's a place where I can vent and not worry about betraying a confidence or being judged for meanness. It's also a trusted friend with whom I share my hopes and dreams and who's helped me see which are realistic and reachable and which are best left as dreams. And, it's been my accountability buddy or, sometimes, irritating admonisher, who stares me down in black and white and reminds me of promises to myself, my goals, and the mistakes that I'd be repeating over and over again.
The important distinction for me is that a diary is a place for looking to the past and reminisce; a journal is a place for looking at the past, the present, and the future with the potential to create insights and growth.
How do you see the two?