The First Journal: Reflections on the Journey That Began in 1992

“January 26, 1992 Today I gave my sister $10.00 to buy me a real journal, and this is what she chose…”

I read this line with interest, the line that christens my first “real” journal.  Somehow over the 20+ years of journal writing, the memory of my sister choosing this important first journal slipped away from me.  Perhaps the myriad vapid musings that would fill (currently) 27 journal books slowly erased that particular memory.

The book is an interesting one.  It is narrow with somewhat puffy covers.  The background design is a honeycomb pattern, each hexagon containing a different fill: some have stars, some have swirls, flowers, cartoon-like creatures, checkered patterns, doves, a bird, a goose, horizontal lines, etc.  I remember many times staring at the different designs for many minutes, trying to figure out if there was a pattern I was supposed to understand, a secret code of sorts.  Only now, almost 22 years later, I imagine that each hexagon represents the variety in a person’s thought life, which is a very appropriate representation. On the front cover, in the very middle, there is an arched, window-like frame with even smaller honeycomb patterns similar to the ones on the rest of the cover, but these are background to a large black and white cat that sits prettily in the middle of this frame.  The cat is a contrast to the mostly pink-hued color scheme of the honeycombed patterns, both within the window frame and the surrounding cover.  While there are other colors, the dominant hue is pink, making this journal a very girly journal in my now-adult estimation.  Suddenly I wonder: what made my sister choose this particular journal?  What were her other options?  It no longer matters, actually, it never did, because she chose it for me and I happily began to fill its pages with all kinds of adolescent nonsense.

I read the entries with mostly amused boredom nowadays.  In January of 1992, I was a 13-year old eighth grader in a public middle school located in a small town just outside of Akron, Ohio.  I had two close friends who play starring roles in my moody rants that season the book with (not surprisingly) a very immature outlook.  Thrown in for good measure, I also have many insipid thoughts about certain boys who had my attention throughout that eighth-grade year.  Kyle. Ross. Dave. Randy. Robbie. Richard.  Even the occasional eighth-grade teacher. I was not discriminating when it came to age … adult men were just as much on my radar as the boys my age.

What produces a low-grade concern in me now, after all these years, is reading through the often-tenebrous entries where I wished for death to take me out of my sullenness  … the rape of a friend the spring of our eighth-grade year … There is nothing particularly well-written in this journal, just a glimpse into the mind of an immature, extremely moody teen who couldn’t wait to grow up and be a “real” adult, whatever that means.

Reading these entries, on the heels of recently watching a BBC documentary about teenaged girls with anorexia, further exacerbates my indecisiveness about whether or not to have children.  This is something my husband and I decided together when we discussed marriage; both of us felt that it was irresponsible to bring children into such a messed up world.  As time has passed and now that I am being confronted with twilight of the ovaries (another forthcoming blog discussion), I am much more open to it than he is at the moment … until I watched the documentary a few days ago.  As it finished, I felt relief to not have a prospective daughter of mine staring the horrors of adolescence in the face.  And when I read the dizzying rollercoaster rides that represent my terrible mood swings during my eighth-grade year (and beyond), I think, “Wow, I survived that horrible time (as we all do), so why would I want to subject another human being (or beings) to that horror?”

This is just a digression from my original thought journey while reflecting on my first journal.  It’s these very issues that jump out to me as I read the scariness that shines out of an adolescent’s journal.  It may have caused me to briefly reflect on the terrors of raising children, but ultimately what I have appreciated about reading this first journal is seeing the changes and development that began with the writing of those first few words … “Today…” it was the beginning of something much bigger than expected.  “Today I…” How many times have you sat down to something in order to record what you did on that particular day?  Photographers do this in a sense, don’t they?  They capture a scene or an image, or create an atmosphere using their lenses, perhaps using the lighting, and they say, “Today I ….”  Other artists do, too, I’m sure.  But to be able to look back more than 20 years ago and get a quick glimpse into the growing cerebral mess that was one’s self during adolescence, well, it’s pretty amazing to consider how life has changed from that particular moment, and it’s interesting to note that we do, in fact,  survive those changes, regardless of the horror the can accompany those changes.

I look again at that first phrase:

“Today I gave my sister $10.00 to buy me a real journal, and this is what she chose…”

Ten dollars to a 13-year old is a big deal.  Entrusting my older sister to come up with something worthwhile with that money is even more fascinating.  That first journal marks an epoch of something that continues to be a parallel universe, a reflecting pool of sorts that has followed me as a shadow for the incredibly bumpy journey of growing up.  That reflecting pool formed in 1992 and the image reflected there is very different than the the image I see in the current pool.  At this point in time, I am not sure if it’s nothing more than just an older-looking face.  I’d like to think that the cerebral mess underneath the scalp is somewhat better, more articulate than the eighth-grader who bravely started this journey, regardless of its insipid and meandering beginnings.  It has been a puzzling ride full of deep emotions, from depression to exhilaration, and now mostly-calm drifting through the maze of mentation.

(C) 2013 The First Journal DOB: 1.26.92
(C) 2013
The First Journal
DOB: 1.26.92