I have a special drawer in my bedroom in a small blue nightstand perfect for holding trinkets or the occasional stray paper clip. A few days ago, I opened that drawer only to find six books staring back at me.
If only those six books could talk. In all their varying shapes, sizes and colors, they hold the key to my past, present and future. They’re my journals – or, as I used to call them when I was a naïve schoolgirl, my diaries. As I meticulously pulled each one out of the drawer, it dawned on me: They were once my lifeline, yet I now keep them hidden from view like an embarrassing beauty mark. And what’s worse, I soon realized, is that in the last six months, I’ve turned to those pages less and less for comfort. I no longer feel my hand being magnetically drawn to the pen. I no longer scribble furiously, trying desperately to get all my thoughts down before they consume me. It’s as if I’ve closed those books altogether, which forces me to wonder: Why have I abandoned something that once gave me solace and joy? In avoiding that blank page, am I subconsciously trying to avoid something deeper – a buried emotion that I want to keep hidden – tucked away in that small drawer? Out of sight, out of mind?
MORE JUICE AFTER THE JUMP…
It all started with a white book. Small. With a lock, of course. The picture of the little girl on the cover even resembled me. She sat at a small desk, writing by candlelight and the moon’s glow outside the nearby window. Maybe she was writing about her fears. Maybe she was writing about her hopes and dreams. My parents bought this diary for me at the mall after one of my many trips to the doctor. A reward for my bravery. I half felt like I was being initiated into a secret society as I turned the combination on the lock; I even wrote the combination on the inside cover for good measure – not that it would have done me much good if I actually forgot the combo when the diary was closed.
As a third-grader, though, you don’t think that far ahead.
In the first entry, I got right down to business. “All About Me” I scribbled across the top. Hair: Red. Eyes: Gray. Age: 9. When Born: August 4, 1981.
The essentials of life. The FBI had nothing on me.
“I got this diary at the mall,” I wrote. “My sister got one to (Yes, I wasn’t always a grammar queen). I had fun, fun, fun.”
Apparently, I didn’t own a thesaurus, either.
But that’s how all those early entries played out. Life was innocent and simple then, and my diary quickly became a place where I detailed my daily happenings. In the most literal sense. I invented real-time before FOX’s 24 made it cool. Hour by hour. Minute by minute. My friends came over. I spent a hot summer day at the pool admiring Jake, the cute older lifeguard. I bought toys at the mall.
My one philosophical moment came on June 29, 1993.
“I can’t wait until I am a teenager.” I could just feel the desperate yearning as my hand scribbled with the pink pen. “I can get a boyfriend. I wish I had a boyfriend right now. All my friends hate boys, but I personally don’t mind them. They are mean sometimes, but they are nice too.”
My mother still kids me about those early diary days, when it served as more of a travel log than anything. If a family historical fact was ever disputed, my diaries would be the judge. For example, we went to a naval museum in Pensacola, Fla., on June 18, 1997. Where were we four months later, on Oct. 12? Lounging in a Holiday Inn in Dubuque, Iowa.
Oh, and I’ve had the same e-mail address since April 1, 1997.
And then I grew up. And so did my diaries. They became sophisticated journals. Those pages became my safe haven, and I soon began to see deeper emotions pouring through its pages. No one judged me. No one censored me. I was going through the journey of life, and finally commenting on the scenery around me.
I questioned whether I had what it took to be editor of my college’s newspaper. I mourned my grandmother’s death. I even mused as I came to terms with my disability, when I felt so different and isolated from my peers, or as I wrote “a reject.”
And for a good four months, all I seemed to write about was my father.
“I’m still so angry at father,” I wrote. “What was he thinking? How could he just leave us like this? I miss him so much, and I hate this empty feeling. I think I’ll always carry that emptiness. Why does life have to be so hard?”
That naked vulnerability scared me, so apparently, that’s where the writing ended. I haven’t taken pen to paper since January. Honestly, I’ve lost my newest journal.
Something tells me I’ve lost more than that hardcover journal. I’ve lost myself. As I approached those deep emotions, maybe the 9-year-old little girl in me instinctively felt the need to run, like I wasn’t ready to face those feelings.
We run from relationships. We run from jobs. We even run from ourselves. We want to “check out” when things get too heavy. Instead of sitting with our primal emotions, we fear them.
So I went back to that blue drawer, and at the very bottom lay a new, unused journal, with a pristine smooth colorful color. I held it in my hands for a moment and thought once again about all I’ve been through with these journals. I missed our intimate relationship. The pen. The smooth paper. It’s all part of the private tango, the lifelong dance you embark on with yourself. Even seeing the way your handwriting changes over the years is part of the chronology of your life. You grow, you mature, sometimes you regress and maybe for a bit you lose yourself along the way like I have.
But you can always find yourself in those yellow, tattered-from-time pages. You see the person you were and you find the person you’ve become. You’re home once=2 0again. So tonight, I think I’ll sit down, maybe keep a box of Kleenex nearby, and go home.