When I think about this thing that has been once of the few constants of my life, I'm a little overwhelmed, I'll be honest. I can get emotional about it, really. There's my family--my parents, my sibs. There are a handful of friends I'm still in touch with. There's also Sean and my life now but that is relatively new. I've been with my journal longer than i've been without it. It's like those moments when married couples realize they've been married to their spouse for a longer time than without, i guess, to basically exactly repeat what i just said, so good comparison. I may not be married to my journal, at least officially, but I've been completely devoted to it in ways that I'm not to many other things. So much of life is fleeting. So much of it begins when we are older--say, in our 20's or 30's, or later. Much of it is lived as youths but forgotten. We take bits and pieces of it but only as far as our memory can carry, and that tends to fail us the further we go along. Save 13 years and the moments in-between my entries, I have most of my life written down. The significance of this to me makes me weep. It is one of my great treasures, and before this blog post gets completely covered in slobbery sappy tears, I'll move on to explain why.
I have always loved to write. It's one of those things you realize quite young but you don't think much about in terms of your future. Maybe some people do. Some kids write and say, "I'm going to be a writer." They dream big. I had big dreams but not specifically about writing. Either it didn't really occur to me in a solid idea yet, or it was something I always knew but on a more subconscious level. It was a part of my inner-weavings but the shape and form of which it would take was not yet known. When I think about skills and abilities and talents and things we want to be better at, I think of maybe learning an instrument. Or a bike. Or exercising. These are relevant to life in almost every way--trying new things, trying to become better, to better ourselves in whatever way. We start small, we work on it. We set goals. It's difficult. It's painful. We have set-backs. We keep going. This is life, right? But when I think about writing, it has been nothing but music for me. Just the sweetest, most melodic and wonderful experience I owe a great deal to in my efforts and life quest of finding out who I am. And not just finding out, but the making of. How would I do it if I couldn't see my past self, have a way to evaluate my present self, record my hopes for future me, and see the whole experience and various transitions--for better or worse--all lain out before me? I owe it everything.
As far as abilities and the honing of them, I know now that I am going to write in my life. I've known this for a few years but the older I get, the more solidly stamped this is in my mind and future. It's funny because in high school and college I really struggled with specific writing parameters because it was just not what I wanted to do. It wasn't the way I wanted to do it. And I was afraid because I thought that it was the way I had to do it, to be better. To practice the drills and do the sit-ups and wake up sore and want to throw up sometimes. But who I am now, as a writer (again, for good and bad) is due solely to my devotion to it. To having done it for this long. I feel like a tree, being made into a tree the way trees are made--they grow, slowly, over time. I wrote. I wrote for twenty years. To continue to. To write when I didn't know how (thirteen), to pound and plunk things out when the words didn't flow (always), to become frustrated and stuck. To write when I didn't want to (often, particularly painful times of life). Those were quite painful moments, I will say, but have contributed to some of my greatest joy and most precious lessons that are supreme gifts in my life. And that being, how could I possibly keep them for any length of time if I don't write them down?
To be included for sure is my blog, which I love almost just as much. My blog might feed a kind of secret (or not so secret) self-indulgence and desire to be known and revered but really what it does is make me really try to work on what I'm writing. We know they're not all diamonds. (There are some, however) But in my journal I give that up freely in an attempt to record thoughts and feelings and events. I'll write about everything. Anything. And not necessarily to write a good piece. Though sometimes it happens all on its own which, when that happens I sit back and think, well alright. So i'm very grateful. I'm also grateful for feeling connected to a few of you. The rest of you, welll..... JOKE. I love everyone who willingly reads my blog. And those who read it otherwise will soon come to love me, just give it more time (as if you had a choice). But I love you too. I'm very giving.
So who I am today as a person and a writer I owe to that moment 20 years ago when I sat down at my family's computer in the midst of the 1993 Christmas season, opened up Word Perfect and made my declaration to the world: I figured I should start my journal (AGAIN!!) I owe thirteen-year-old Jen my life and to thank her, I've kept her with me all these years, gladly. I am her, and I love her dearly. To close this post, here is an essay I wrote a few weeks ago as a writing project where a few of us answered a specific question:
Why do I want/need to write?
First, I love the "need" element here as I take this question into consideration. The idea that writers not only write because they love it but because it fulfills a need inside of them. Like we're all kind of diseased and writing is the cure, to take a sort of delightfully dismal viewpoint. I absolutely identify with this and I wonder if this question answers itself: I want to write because i need it. How many times have I flown to the computer to hammer out my thoughts before they slip out of my head? To put some order and sense into jumbling thoughts and ideas, to see if I can make something out of it? Sometimes it happens, sometimes not. But I am not satisfied with living life, alone. I must write it down.
I guess I was a creative child. I used to write stories and poems. In 1st grade I wrote poems, just because, and that was the golden age when creativity was welcome in almost any form regardless of any kind of assignment, and also kids say the darndest things so my teacher loved it. She rewarded me by hanging my poems on the wall with a scratch 'n sniff sticker. Propelled by the kind of motivation only a scratch 'n sniff sticker can ignite, I kept at it. It felt good. It felt good to create and I'll admit, it felt good to be recognized. But in truth, these days, I largely write for me, and it brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction. And if other people like it, well that's just fine.
Fast-forward to 8th grade when I was 13 years old and first began my journal. We got a new computer with Word Perfect and Windows '94 and I'd just completed a typing class in 7th grade, which I loved. Combine that with the intricate and terrifyingly exciting goings-on of an on-the-cusp-of-adolescence brain and I was set. This moment is very significant for me because I have consistently written in that journal to this very day. This December we will celebrate our 20th anniversary (thank you very much). It is more precious to me than gold, or whatever's more precious than gold.
My purposes in writing: To record, to document. To keep my history, not just of life's events but the feelings I felt when I lived through them. I write as a means of expressing myself. I've always thought I was better in writing. I'm certainly no Articulate Jenny-on-the-spot. I write as a way to make sense of the world in the very particular way I view it. I propose theories, questions, and try to find the humor I'm certain must exist in any situation.
I really try to live my life in the moment, to acknowledge all that is going on within that moment, so that I don't miss it. On this topic, Roxana Robinson, a writer and novelist, kind of wrote the words of my heart:
What I do is focus.
I think: Right now, this minute, I'm in the midst of my life. Waiting at this red light, watching that man in a pair of jeans and a T-shirt cross the street. Standing by the window at midnight, listening to the owl send his liquid cry through the darkness. This is my life, each second. Pay attention.
I do this partly because I'm a writer and I want to record the moment in my mind. But this isn't for my work, though it might end up there. This is for myself. I want to remember what it's like, being human, right now. Of course, I want to remember when things are great, but I also want to remember when things are dull, when I'm still sitting at the gate hours after my flight should have left, or when things are painful, when I'm in the middle of a fight with someone I love--even then. Those are the moments that make up my life. I need to know them. I want to pay attention. ... This attention gives my life meaning. If a moment is meaningless, it has no value. Then I've spent it for nothing. I've wasted it. But if I'm aware of it, the moment becomes valuable. Then I feel exhilarated.
The best way I know to capture those moments is to write them down. For me, for you, for those I love, for whoever cares. It's something that's important to me. It's something that I love. It's something that I need.
Happy 20th! *clink*