I remember my very first journal. I also remember getting in trouble for writing in it.
To begin this story, I must first explain the wonder I had for something called the Scholastic Book Club. I was in third grade, and there was a newsletter of sorts that listed all kinds of amazing titles that families could place an order from. The books purchased arrived at the school and were distributed amongst the students to take home, read, and enjoy. I looked forward to it. I glowed like a pirate finding hidden treasure when my name was called by my teacher and I was handed a stack of new books.
I remember what my first journal looked like. It was purple and blue. It had a winged horse on the cover and script-y writing that simply labeled the book as a diary. It was a surprise. It hadn’t been on my wish list when the order had been made.
I asked my teacher what a diary was. I had no clue.
When I learned it was a way of recording what you did each day, I considered this a very neat idea and immediately set to work on filling in what I could remember. When I took it home, proud of the effort I’d made on this new project, I received a huge life lesson that went something like this: don’t assume anything.
The journal I’d written in, had been intended for someone else.
As an only child, it was easy to make that mistake. What, you mean it isn’t all about me?
Not only was I crushed at being yelled at after feeling the pure joy of a new discovery on Scholastic Book Club Day, but I was the kid that always wanted to do good and please others. Doing something “wrong” or “bad” felt like the world ending. The diary, as I found out, had been ordered to serve as a birthday gift for the daughter of a family friend.
Well, it was ruined now. I had ruined it.
There was nothing to be done but let me have it so I could continue to destroy it.
It ended up being a moment that changed my life.
I would never be the same.
The purple diary morphed into different versions throughout the years, (Mead notebooks, cloth covered journals, and those fancy leather bound books with gold-leaf pages) but it served two very important purposes for me: it gave a very introspective kid a way to just process everything that was happening in her world, and it helped seed the habit of writing daily as she got more serious about writing.
In 2016, I was faced with a moment where I had to decide what to take me into “my next life”. I was standing in a 2,400 square foot home filled with some 20 years of memories and I was looking at the best case scenario of moving into a space of about 540 square feet–yet I had no idea where I was going or how I was going to get there. Parked on my driveway was a storage crate to put my belongings in until I figured something out. If it didn’t fit into that crate, it couldn’t come with me, forcing me to make some really difficult choices.
With the house going on the market and needing to be staged for potential buyers to walk through, I used the garage to go through box after box of items I’d held onto for years. In one of those boxes, was my collection of journals. Among them? This first purple diary. I held it in my hands and laughed at being yelled at for something that had given me unexpected–life-long–joy.
Keeping company with this diary were travel journals of trips made across the United States and to England. There was a journal that spoke of my quest to navigate big career dreams in Los Angeles. And of course, there were pages of grief describing the passing of friends and relatives. I couldn’t help but think that the third-grader who had held the diary in her hands for the first time had no idea the box of journals this first book would find itself in, nor the places and events her older self would experience and record.
Our lives are filled with many amazing moments.
In deciding what I wanted to take with me, I kept that first journal and the travel journals. I took pages from the good memories and made the decision to let go of the painful bits.
Those darker pages made a ceremonious swan dive into the paper shredder.
I’ve gone through periods of my life where I’ve collected journals to write in, only to put them directly from the shopping bag onto the Shelf of Good Intentions…where they’ve collected dust.
It remains a mystery to me, how hard it is to maintain activities or rituals I know bring me joy. Why do some soul-depleting tasks steal away our focus and gain a higher ranking on our to-do lists?
And this is part of my quest with this blog. To continue rediscovering and creating those joyful moments and to encourage others to do the same.
When my storage crate of earthly belongings had been taken away on the flatbed of a truck, and the house I’d once called home was reflected in my rear-view mirror, my primary focus was on trying to survive. Unfortunately, writing for pleasure had to be put on hold and learning how to write different styles of resumes filled my days.
I became stuck in a moment of trying to be something I wasn’t. The line-in-the-sand moment came when a New York Times Bestselling Author remembered me from being in his writers group some two years prior. After speaking with him, I walked away and made it as far as a public courtyard where I burst into tears.
My heart knew what it wanted. It needed me to respond. Still in grief from a divorce, I felt paralyzed. I didn’t know if I had it in me to keep at it and pursue it. But luckily, over time, I listened to what my heart needed.
Sometimes we don’t know what will transpire to get us back on the path we need to be on. A mistaken assumption, a conversation with someone from our past, or it might even be a YouTube video that sparks an idea.
It was a YouTube video that mentioned a book that sounded interesting, which led me to a bookstore, which led me to taking one of those empty journals off The Shelf of Good Intentions and begin to “ruin” it.
I’ve been ruining it every day for the last 70+ days. And it feels spectacular.
More posts about journals and writing to come…
Thanks for reading and for meeting me here.