Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Notebook

Ha - not the movie.  Fab chick flick, but what I've got for y'all today is so much more than popcorn & Kleenex.

Anyone else have boxes of journals packed away?  The ones with locks and heart-dotted-i's from your elementary years?  The hundreds of spiral bound notebooks from high school, where the i's start being dotted by tears, and the angry capitals sometimes rip through a page here and there?  The college journals that might be leather-bound graduation gifts, containing complicated prose, experimental poetry, and still the angry capitals?

Yep, thought I wasn't the only one.

Have you looked at them recently?  How'd that go?  I smile over some entries - the first time I heard the Beatles, for example, at the age of 11 and they Rocked. My. World.  Some still make me cringe, and yes, some still make me weep.  Somehow I am mostly able to forgive myself much of my youthful ignorance.  Looking back I see how poor my judgement was at times, and in other spots I am actually impressed with a few of the smarter decisions that still seem to make sense to me.

But something that each and every one of my old journals has in common is the sheaf of empty pages at the end.  Some journals are almost 90% blank, and often those are the ones where the pages that are filled are so raw I just couldn't live that pain for a whole book's worth.

My girl Heather over at the Extraordinary Ordinary wrote about those empty pages this week.  A powerful, powerful post on misspent youth, mistakes that we can't forgive ourselves, and the redemption offered to us by the blank pages, and the people who will finally help us fill the pages.  (Hint:  their capitals are a little wobbly still.)

Heather's post may not suit everyone out there - maybe you've forgiven yourself everything, maybe you filled all your pages, and continue to write the New You every day?  If so, well done - keep it up.  But this one is for those of us who find the idea of redemption compelling, and for those of us with the blank pages everywhere.


hezro said...

This is so apropos - now you simply MUST go read Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

(I do re-read my old journals and more than anything I cringe. *hehe* But I still treasure them.)

Amanda said...

While I taught English ("Language Arts") to 11-year-olds for 8 years, there was a unit called "Self Portraits." The reading material was autobiographical, and the writing the kids had to do fell into the same category. They used to love, love, LOVE it when I took in my first diary, added to on a fairly regular basis from the time I was 10 until 15, and read most of it to them. (A few things from my 15th year were *ahem* edited out.)

The first several dates include such action-packed entries as, "I rode my bike today" and "Dottie & I skated in the driveway."

Then comes the really heart-wrenching stuff like praying that my parents wouldn't get divorced (probably merely as a result of hearing them argue about some random thing) and the wretched day that "the bug-spray man killed my bunny!" (It's a long but predictable tale of injudiciously-placed insecticide.)

Mainly, though, Diary #1 is chock full of middle school DRAMA. The kids ate it up because they got to hear what a complete, hopeless, moronic, boy-chasing (but almost never catching) nut case their teacher was when she was their age. Riveting stuff, let me tell ya'.

L-A said...

While my old journals don't harbour anything particularly painful, it can be painful as in cringe-worthy opening them up again and reading what I thought at the time was high prose. Gag me with a gold nib Parker fountain pen!

Amanda - I admire your bravery bringing in old journals to share with your class! And I think it's an uber cool approach to inspire your kids to write. As an added bonus, I'll bet they also connect better with you as a result!

Elemar said...

I just read part of a journal I had to write for Junior English class in high school during some recent unpacking. Although it was written for the teacher to read (not a personal diary), I still found it embarrassingly revealing. I decided my old journals were the types of things that I'm glad I wrote but I'm also planning not to read again. Proud of you all for being able to read through your history with two eyes open. :)

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