I was 12 when I received my first journal. It was cream in color, glazed with floral details and complete with a brass lock and a key. I attached the key to a chain and wore it around my neck every day. I feared if I ever removed the necklace, I would instantly lose the key and anyone would be able to break into my thoughts. I was probably right.
I wrote mostly about boys, heartbreak, puppy love, my parent’s divorce, fighting with my brother. The pages were saturated with firsts: my first kiss, my first “F” on a test, my first fight with a best friend.
I wrote about eighth grade. I was in the most awkward of stages, as most eighth graders are. It was this same year that taught me to care about my education, to eliminate bad friends from my life, and that people can be inexplicably cruel.
In high school, once the pages from my first volume filled, I bought my own journal. It was purple and the word “Dreams” was embossed on the front cover. I treated this journal as a friend; apologizing in pen strokes for a long time lapse between entries, beginning each entry with a salutation, including conversational sentences such as “you remember Chris?”, declaring my love for clean, empty pages.
I continued to write mostly about boys, heartbreak and what I now know as puppy love except the situations seemed more serious. I was now in relationships, balancing boys with friends, feeling butterflies. I developed a hatred for my parents and their over protective rules. “They say it’s because they love me, but they don’t love me!!!!!!!!!!!” I overused exclamation points.
Towards the end of that journal, I began exploring my sexuality, experimenting with alcohol, taking a few more risks. The time between entries increased.
In college, I was slightly more shy about keeping my journal. I shared a dorm room and was far too busy to be writing in my “diary.” It suddenly earned the stigma of being childish and now that I was on my path to adulthood, I need not bother. Freshman year went basically unwritten, but as I grew older, I learned that my journal could serve different purposes.
I wrote about loneliness. New friendships, lost friendships, potential relationships. I wrote about school and classes and the newspaper. I declared my dream to be a writer, to be a journalist, to tell the stories of those who couldn’t put it into words on their own. I began looking back on old journals and examining the musings to see similarities and gauge the profound ways I’ve grown.
In the thick, water-colored pages of yet another new journal, I revealed how afraid I was about the future. How scared I was of what was ahead, of what was unknown. Ironically, the phrase, “My favorite old car had no reverse gear. It taught me I could only go forward,” was scribed on the front cover.
There were birthdays and celebrations, boyfriends and song lyrics, graduations and tears, all scrawled within the confines of two cardboard covers. Memories. Experiences. Life.
I still keep a journal. This one, with crimson, parisian-themed covers and red-lined pages, I share everything. The time between my entries is longer than ever, but it’s there when I need it. And I know that. This journal has been a chronology of adult experiences, childish wishes, dreams, goals, failures. It captures the details of my move to San Francisco, how lonely I was when I first moved. I confessed that I don’t know what I’m doing, or if I made the right decisions, or if, what if.
I finally wrote about becoming comfortable with myself, by myself.
I’ve filled these pages with tales of independence, searching for what I want, what I deserve, and finally getting it. I jot down ideas, new goals, big goals, reaching for the stars kind of goals. I write about work and how it is the most exciting and overwhelming experience. I express how grateful I am for everything that’s happened and sometimes I wonder whether any of it is even real.
Now, I look back and read my old journals. I can pull them out with confidence and share them with a close friend. They are a part of me, a part of my history, that I have forever. Many of the entries still sound the same — I’m still scared and uncertain, I still write about boys and friendships, I still write about loneliness. Sometimes. But other times, I can see how much I’ve grown. How much I’ve learned from the bad relationships transcribed on the pages of old journals. How much I’ve learned from trusting and working hard and caring about my education. I now write about how much I miss my parents, how much fun I have with my brother when he comes to visit, how my parents really did have those strict rules because they loved me, and they paid off. I write about how happy I am with my boyfriend, how I still feel those butterflies six months later.
I still sit on my bed, curled up sitting Indian-style, my journal resting on my knee, my favorite ballpoint pen in my hand, and I write. I fill the pages of my journal. And wherever I am, I’m home.