I’ve always had a journal. They are kept in chronological order on their own bookshelf. Before each birthday I read through them all — an attempt to rediscover who I was in order to understand who I am; a sort of Joan Didion-esque take on the journal; “to keep on nodding terms with our past selves,” kind of deal.
My incomplete nature is reflected in the way I keep my journals. I usually abandon them before they are finished. They are like the exoskeleton of the many selves that arise within me. Each time I molt, a new journal is needed.
This past summer, while wandering around a second hand bookshop in New York, as I usually did after my internship; I felt an impulse. I was suddenly drawn to this bright teal hardcover notebook. I wanted it until I discovered it was a blank journal—- it had no lines. It was a rule I had: never own a blank notebook. This rule was made out of fear. I have always been terrified of the blank page, the way it can stare at you and mock the nullity of your pen. But something inside me, this new self, was determined to free my mind from all the lines and barriers. This new self wanted the ability to roam, and to make mistakes, and to move backwards, and to replay, and to travel.
You always think you need lines— until you discover how much fun it is without them. So I bought the notebook. And, for the first time in all my years of journaling, I have been kicked out of the journal. For the first time, the pages have run out before I was ready to leave. Within those pages between the teal hardcover object, I have never lived more fully, openly, or happily. I see my growth, expansion, and exploration teeming off the pages. Of course there were rough moments, but this journal served more as a celebration of my strengths rather than the usual reveling in self-doubt.
One thing I did differently was I allowed people to enter my life. I made room for them on these pages. Whenever I would go out to a bar or a party, once I grew tired of practicing the art of small talk, I would usually find myself bored. When that happened I would hand the person my journal, open to a blank page, and give them the opportunity to mark something: a quote, a drawing, a thought, a memory, a problem. It was a way to get to know a person in a setting that isn’t conducive to doing so. It’s now the way I like to get to know everyone. Within these pages, I have drawings from new and old people I have met who have moved me in unchangeable ways. Some who have within the pages gone from stangers to family to enemies to family again.
Since my journal has filled up and been completed; I, who am usually incomplete and unfinished, have become confused. Not just confused, but completely uncentered, like a wanderer moving in all sorts of directions without any anchor. I have bought 3 journals, and even made a beautiful one out of cardboard and stationary with the help of a book-binder. None of them feel like home. I feel like a stranger in my own body, a feeling that hash’t crept into my flesh in a long time.