My journals and personal notebooks from childhood all the way up through college did not survive.
They did not survive the intense personal embarrassment and the fatigue that I was feeling one day when I was helping my mom clean out my old room at her house.
Ever since I figured out the basic mechanics of a paragraph when I was in elementary school, I wrote VOLUMES. Day to day narratives, “Dear Diary” style, on the pages of actual diaries with locks; personal stories and reflections in thick art sketch books. Slim notebooks, printed fictional stories that were produced on a huge PC and a loud dot matrix printer. Poetry, scrapbook style journals, open letters to myself and others, zines, you name it.
They took up space on bookshelves and rubbermaid bins. The collection was too much to deal with years after they were written as I was preparing to move into my first house. I would be way too mortified if anyone else would read them because I didn’t even want to. I opened up some of the books, took some last looks, tore out any embarrassing photos, ripped apart pages and sent them through the shredder.
So now journaling on paper is back in the mainstream based on what I have seen in retail stores and online. Good old fashioned writing utensil on paper is intriguing to many and part of a sacred ritual and routine for others. It is now a more widely acceptable form of self expression and reflection even amid the many other options out there such as videos and podcasts, blogs, and social media posts. It’s a physical and concrete place to catch thoughts and ideas and be cutesy and creative if the goal is also to create a certain aesthetic.
I recently picked it back up mid-pandemic (of course), because I desperately needed the tactile, non-screen experience. After the first round of crisis pandemic teaching, Zoom nightmares, and new and overstimulating things that ate up my time and attention such as TikTok, I needed an old school method of expression and escape.
I started out with one sketchbook and then decided to have multiple options around my “me time” spaces. A small journal lives in the drawer in my nightstand. I have two more that are easily accessible for morning reflections along with a caffeinated beverage. An all things related to work journal has been quite handy as well.
Journaling also has really great healing properties. It has really helped me with the current path of sober curiosity that I’m navigating. Documenting all the feelings and the “whys” surrounding the consumption of alcoholic beverages or not has been empowering when the words arrive on the page.
I know if I continue the journaling routine, especially for the long term, I’ll be refilling shelves and bins and they’ll take up space.
I have a better understanding now. Words about life deserve the space.
■ Elementary Educator for Equity & Cultural Responsibility
■ Collector of Small Moments & Thrifty Finds
■ Wife & Mother
■ Bay Area, CA