Our theme for the month of November is “firsts.”
On my ninth birthday, my parents gave me my first journal. It was spiral bound with a multicolored sun and the words “My Life According to Me” in swirly letters on the cover. All of pages were black, which you might think would be an issue, but you are forgetting that 2000 was The Year of the Gel Pen, and paper of any other color would have been a disappointment.
This gift was a no-brainer for a kid like me, who spent all of preschool scribing book book book book book book book book book book mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom mom dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad dad the the the the the the the the the on any piece of paper I could find. (These were the only words I could spell confidently, and also happened to be some of my favorite things.) As such, it surprised no one that My Life According to Me was my favorite gift that year (sorry, Bop It). I relished the opportunity to fill its pages, some of which had prompts like “The funniest thing that ever happened to me in my whole life was…” or “My Award-Winning Designs” which included the outlines of watches, necklaces, shoes, sunglasses, and a wedding dress, which makes me wonder if I turned nine in 2000 or 1950. I thought carefully before putting silvery pen to page, each stroke an opportunity for elegance or error. Like any kid my age, my world was largely run by adults, older siblings, and the musical stylings of *NSYNC, and I had no idea how much I’d enjoy having my own platform until I did. I was the youngest and least influential member of my family, but in these pages, my thoughts were always worth voicing.
But eventually, all the pages were filled and the gel well ran dry. So, like any good millennial in the making, I went digital. That’s right: my next journal entries were typed into a Word document with a color pallet that, frankly, put my gel pen collection to shame. I experimented with fonts and quotes of the day. I wrote down my thoughts and feelings about everything from the drama at Friday’s basketball game to what happened on yesterday’s episodes of TRL and Boy Meets World.
Then one day it occurred to me how insane it was to keep a journal on the family computer. I might as well have spray painted I HAVE A LOT OF FEELINGS on the dining room table.
Ever the sentimentalist, I printed out the document in full color before deleting it, then meticulously stapled it into an actual journal, made of wood pulp, in the tradition of my baby boomer ancestors. It was around this time that my friends starting getting into Xanga, an online blogging platform which gave preteens a space to be dramatic in the most public place heretofore known to humankind: dial-up internet. I would spend my Friday nights in a friend’s basement poring over our classmates’ pages. These were not social media posts as we know them today: these were raw and unfiltered, and not in a good way. At the time, though, it was The Thing To Do, so naturally I wanted one too, but my parents had some concerns about the internet and safety and being a child yada yada yada.
Let it be known: if I ever win an award of any kind, I will thank my parents for:
(1) creating me, birthing me (go mom!), feeding me, clothing me, sheltering me, caring for me in a myriad of other ways, supporting me throughout my existence, and
(2) not allowing thirteen-year-old me to have a Xanga.
Thanks for the unappreciated wisdom of my parents, I stuck with the pen and paper through high school, where the prayer journal I made in eighth grade GEMS quickly morphed into a guide to all the cute boys in the ninth grade and beyond. My journaling became less and less frequent, with months passing between entries, each one punctuated by whichever guy lived on the front burner of my mind at the time. This pattern continued through college, the thinly veiled composition notebook with the metal cross hot glued on the cover hanging on for dear life.
But in the years since, the boy drama in my life has significantly lessened due to this thing called marriage (shoutout to that wedding dress I designed in third grade!!! Really useful exercise). Now, there’s only one boy I have a crush on, and when he makes my blood boil, we actually talk to each other about it, like with our words and stuff. This is uncharted territory for my journal, which has only known a world of romantic angst and confusion lo these many years. Which is to say, I’ve given up the practice.
But guess what? I still have a lot of feelings.
Recently, I was asked to spend a couple minutes journaling. I had to write down what makes me angry,
*scribble scribble scribble*
what makes me sad,
*scribble scribble scribble*
what makes me anxious,
*break into sweat due to excessive scribbling*
and what makes me glad.
*pause of a notable length of time*
If you need me, I’ll be setting up my Xanga account.
Catherine Kramer (’14) has a degree in English and works in publishing. Her continued existence is made possible by grace, warm hugs, and iced chai lattes.