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

Taciturn Alchemy: A Journey Commences

Personally, I loathe inefficiency.  I am disgusted by the wasting of time.  I am not always the most efficient person per se, but I try to be, and it frustrates me when I have to spend a lot of time doing something that, in my mind, should not have required so much time. I believe this frustration comes with the Pragmatist that exists within me, the part of me that tries to live life in a practical, efficient, and “common-sensical” manner.

The problem with this is that the Pragmatist (as I have called “it” in other writings) is at incredibly strong odds with the Artist that lives within me.  The wannabe Artist that exists within me has been there since my early childhood, a creature that was prolific at one time, cranking out elementary school creations that were entered into art contests and subsequently garnered awards.  Mind you, this was elementary school stuff, nothing great.  But this Artist loved being an Artist.  Even now, in my mid-30s, I still hear stories from family members who vividly recall me sitting at the coffee table “for hours” drawing pictures and talking to myself, creating stories about those pictures.  Somewhere in the not-too-distant future came the actual writing of thoughts and stories in my own home-made journal which I created from a too-big sketch pad.  I remember ripping out those blank pages, folding the sheets in half, and there began my first “journal”.  I hid in the tiny dark bedroom closet and wrote thoughts (by flashlight, I suppose) about my crush on the two Kyles I knew, my best friends, and intimidating classmates at school.  Eventually, I acquired my first official (bound) journal.  This was in 1991, my eighth-grade year.  From there I began one of the most incredible journeys of my inner life, the journey of taking the swirls, splatters and utter messes within me and transmuting them into more sensical words.  Somehow this helped me to not only remember the great things that I experienced (with all the wonders and horrors of adolescence) but also to give me clarity.  Sometimes the clarity comes much, much later, but it eventually comes. I find this to be the case even now.

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I could go on about this, but the bottom line is that the Artist was there from a very young age.  The Pragmatist came later, in my early 20s when I began living on my own.  The Pragmatist started a war within me that rages to this day, and more often than not, the propensities of the Pragmatist defeat the aspirations of the Artist.  I am not the only one to have this problem.  It’s just that I look around me and notice all of the highly talented people who are waging this battle in their lives, too, and yet their talent shines through their hard work while somehow still allowing for pragmatism to coexist.  I don’t have the talent and I haven’t quite figured out this balance yet.

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So it would seem that time, in my case, is even more precious.  When undertaking a new endeavor of any sort, naturally one must allow for a period of learning. I have a long way to go when it comes to learning how to develop the numerous desires that I have for creative expression:  the whole blogging thing, drawing, painting (still an artist at heart), improving my writing, keeping a writers’ group going strong, etc.  I become very impatient when something slows me down, and there are many things to hinder this old creaky artist-in-hiding.  It doesn’t help that I am a Respiratory Therapist, in a field that doesn’t allow for much creative expression.  My husband is a full-time student, so I’m not going anywhere for a while. Do I sound like I’m whining? I don’t mean to.  I know there exists in most writers/artists the struggle to balance the everyday with the intense need for creative expression.  I am merely sharing my own personal struggle.

The struggle has really manifested itself today with getting this blog started.  I am a newbie.  I am on probation, waiting to see how much I like this venue.  I feel like I am past the flirting stage and into the fun dating stage.  If it stays fun and becomes more substantial, then we will continue the relationship and see where it leads.  But it is after 1:30pm on a Sunday, and I’ve spent a half-day just figuring out some of this stuff.  I started out working on a very old laptop (it was a hand-me-down, and I think it’s about 10-years old).  I sigh with relief each time it allows me to even open the Internet browser.  It is very slow and I cannot open more than one window at a time because the whole thing locks up.  I am also working with WordPress on an app that I just installed on my smartphone (and I’ve only been a smartphone user for six months).  It would not allow me to post pictures from my Drop Box account for some reason, so I had to wait for my husband to go play soccer in order to grab his much newer, much more efficient laptop which allowed me to do (in about an hour and a half) what I’ve been trying to do in about four hours.  Naturally the Pragmatist looks at all of this with disgust and says, “What a waste of a day.  You could have been exercising … doing laundry … creating this month’s budget … grocery shopping … etc.” (and yes, all of these items are still on my to-do list for today).  Now I am so tired that all I want to do is lie on the couch and watch reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond” on my smart phone.  Maybe I will.  Maybe I’ll thumb my nose at the Pragmatist and say, “You know what? It will be worth the frustration and time spent getting it all set up.”  And even if I’m wrong, I can take solace in the knowledge that I tried something and overcame the fear of trying it, even if it doesn’t work.  I need to keep trying to doing this.

Hence the name Taciturn Alchemy: where reticence transforms as something common into something special (thank you, Merriam Webster). This is the journey I hope to undertake here.  I hope we all enjoy this process together.

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