A Month of Writing Practice

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One month ago I vowed two things: I would not look at social media for a month and I would write everyday.  I did this because of Austin Kleon’s “29 Day Challenge” for February. Austin Kleon is an artist and author of some great books, including “Steal Like An Artist” and “Keep Going.” My mom printed out four copies of the chart and we all chose a thing we would do for every day of February.

I knew immediately that I wanted to give up Facebook and Instagram for a month. I don’t like the way that I compulsively check my phone and sometimes spend more time than I want to mindlessly scrolling. I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t have a reason to spend a lot of time on my phone. But I also knew I didn’t want to just take something away; I needed to add something too. I was struggling with writing a memoir and I was only sitting down once a week or two to tackle it. I decided to choose writing to replace my phone addiction.

I don’t have a lot of time in my day so I realized I would have to make some time to write. I often fall asleep when I’m putting Mina to bed at 9:00 so I decided to wake up at 5:00 every morning (except for twice a week when I work late the night before). That gave me almost two extra hours a day.

I predicted that I would write more, read more, be more present, feel more grounded and alive. That all came true but to an even deeper extent than I expected. I also thought I would stop wanting to check social media about two weeks in. I was wrong- I never lost my urge to check Instagram and often I would pick up my phone to check my email and then I would just Google dumb stuff or look up images of cute celebrities. Apparently there’s a part of me that just needs a mindless escape. I wish that weren’t the case. I was surprised that I still spent some much time on my phone even when there was nothing to do on it.

Another thing that surprised me was how much I wrote. I gave myself permission to only write one sentence if I didn’t have time that day or if I was feeling uninspired. But writing every day became its own addiction and I always had a lot to write. After a week I started to effortlessly fill pages when at first I would lose steam after a paragraph or two. The act of writing, of spending regular time with my journal in the quiet of the morning, was satisfying in a way I haven’t felt in a long time.

Here are some excerpts from my journal during that month.

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2.3.20

A girl walks by in a long hot pink coat, sleeping bag-like, with yellow hoodie underneath, tote bag and blond hair piled in a bun on top of her head. I think, maybe someday I can wear my hair like that. I’m starting to make the movement of tucking my hair behind my ears. 

2.4.20

Woke up early this morning and read “The Creative Habit” by Twyla Tharp where she talks about routine and daily practice. I miss social media but also not. Without it there’s a lot more time in my day. 

The other day at work Ben picked me up, just lifted me into the air when I went in for a hand shake, he moved towards me and swooped under my arm and I was up above everything, surprising me and him in a way that felt like a tear in the space time continuum, like a portal to another reality had opened. I didn’t realize it was a possibility to be picked up like that. I don’t think it’s ever happened to me before. 

2.3.20

Opening the curtains this morning with Mina she looks outside at the dark and gray rain (how it’s been for the last few months) and exclaims, “A beautiful summer day!” “Indeed!” I reply. “Not a cloud in the sky!” And we both collapse with laughter. 

2.7.20

I was talking to Emma last night at work about writing my memoir and I said how it’s been hard to write anything of apparent value. I said I feel like I have to have some new experiences to help me connect with the old memories. When I sit down at the computer and try to write with my brain it just feels flat and dry- I need to get moving, be outside, be in touch with my senses. I don’t want my brain to write the memoir, 

“I want my body to write it, through my brain.”

She looked a little confused when I said that but it struck me that, that’s it. That’s what I want to do, whatever that means. 

I picture myself alone in the woods for a week, maybe in a cabin by the coast. Hiking every day, drinking fresh stream water, eating wild mint, scribbling nonsense. 

Or walking the bouldered hills around Ramona, inhaling sage and dust, getting scraped up by scrub oak, remembering the land I grew up on. 

Or spending a day by the creek in Chico, watching the emerald water glide over stones and feeling the life I lived there. 

Jumping into a mosh pit, playing the songs I wrote as a teenager, walking the streets of SF, Seattle, San Diego, Eugene. 

The body remembers what the mind forgets. 

2.8.20

I feel juicy with energy from the past. Last night I found myself playing old songs I wrote on the guitar: Mr. Friday Night, Vintage Life, Plum Folly, etc. At The Station, which always makes Benny tear up. 

Today I just want to bust out old journals, type up excerpts. I’m always unsure how to use journals, whether to take directly from them or just as a trigger, a prompt, a fact checker. 

2.10.20

I like this, this writing every day. Scarfing down broccoli pasta after yoga and Zumba, felt so good on my body. When I exercise I often think of it as time away from my real priorities, art and writing and music- but I thought today of how I want to move my body as a way of reconnecting to the past, a way of tuning in to the writing. Taking care of my body serves the art. 

I feel relaxed, centered, clean, fresh, open to deep breaths. The sun is out. Spring seems close by. 

I observed the feet of the man in front of me in yoga. He was about 60. His feet were clean, smooth, dry. His skin had that shiny quality that I recognize from my mom’s feet, maybe’ dad’s too. Worn smooth from age and use, like a river stone. 

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2.11.20

Sitting by the fire, cold feet, dressed in black, full of Thai food. Mina humming “Eleanor Rigby.” Benny making a buck-toothed LEGO creature. Reading Twyla Tharp I’m jealous of her commitment to creativity and the assuredness in her life’s work. Her willingness to work tirelessly. 

2.12.20

My early morning time was a bit thwarted today- I had a bad dream, the first one in a while, the kind that make you jolt awake and your whole body is tingling. My mind dwelled on it for a while until my silent 5:00 am alarm went off (just vibration) and as I reached to turn it off I saw Mina’s little head up and looking for me, she had had a bad dream too. 

I cuddled her and told her a story of a beautiful baby dragon who could sing and the five year old girl who befriended her. She fell back asleep but just as I was about to get up Mochi strutted into the room yowling, stepped all over Mina and stood on my stomach. Eventually I got up and it’s worth it for this, just these few previous minutes. 

I keep wondering how to make the memoir smaller and more manageable, or how to give it a “spine,” as Twyla says. An original driving idea that you can come back to when you feel lost. Not the story, not the theme, but the secret scaffolding that gave it its original structure. 

I keep thinking I need a retreat, time away from my real life to loosen up my brain and get weird. I kind of want “get weird” to be the motto of writing this memoir, since Jenny Slate’s weird writing was what inspired me. She was in my dream the other night- she had the same wallet as me, the vintage green one with the gold clasp. I thought it was an amazing coincidence, she didn’t think it was that unusual. What is a wallet? A way to carry your richness, what’s important to you. I thought mine was unique and original, she knew it wasn’t. 

2.13.20

I slept hard last night, as if drugged. Lots of dreams. It was difficult to get up but I did after a couple hits of the snooze. 

Yesterday I sent an email to old friends (Amy, Diana, Tyana, Emma, Cadence, Thomas) inviting them to a virtual writing group. I think that will help me with getting to some good stuff. We will write one 15 minute prompt per week and do short responses. 

2.16.20

Hard to wake up this morning, my silent alarm was going off for a while before I heard it. I was dreaming of a dark wooden saloon, drunken men, guns, sex, a race for the bounty. A man named Loyal who was tricking them all by offering free drinks so he could find the money. 

But even when I have trouble getting up I still do because I love this so much. This quiet alone time. 

Fridge humming, green tea, the fire dancing behind glass, robe, slippers. I didn’t write in here yesterday but I did write a page of guidelines for the writing group that will start Monday. So far Amy and Cadence are for sure in, the others are less responsive but still interested I think. 

2.18.20

Had a dream the other night that I was taking care of someone’s baby. I took it to a tattoo shop and got it a neck tattoo- a pair of fanged jaws with the word FANGZ (our friend Alex’s artist persona). Immediately after I was horrified at what I’d done. Now this baby was going to have an ugly neck tattoo her whole life! When the mom returned she was appalled. “Is this a real tattoo?!” “Yes, I’m so sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking.” 

Later in the dream I was getting a back tattoo, a huge pastel colored skull, delicately shaded with a lot of detail. Mark Ryden comes to mind. The tattoo artist said it should have some kind of phrase or mantra with it but we couldn’t think of one. 

“Maybe you could just put ‘Party on Wayne’ and ‘Party on Garth’ somewhere in there,” I told her. 

Why these vivid tattoo dreams? A tattoo is a permanent mark, a label, a visual manifesto of one’s identity. I labeled a baby (new life, project, endeavor, adventure) but it wasn’t mine to label. My own tattoo was bigger than expected, beautiful. I was worried about the cost. I didn’t know if I wanted words with it. Funny, since I’m so into words these days. 

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2.20.20

Wow. Been reading this incredible book called “The Wander Society.” All about a group of people who have made wandering a kind of spiritual practice, a way to be present and aware and open to the magic of all things. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about with my writing- I keep feeling like I need to get up and move, be outside, connect to nature, and that will lead me to insights about my writing. I had the sense that if I get more in touch with the present it will help me write about the past. 

I’m honestly not quite sure how to fit more wandering into my life but now that I’m aware of it I can look for spaces in my day to wander. In the book they say you can even wander sitting still because it’s more of a mindset, an openness, an observational quality. They encourage you to allow yourself to be bored. This also coincides with my efforts to use my phone less. 

I might have some time to wander today. I’m skipping school to go to a haircut demo hosted by Bishops. So maybe I’ll get to that neighborhood early (Alberta) and wander around. 

Windy outside- it will be another sunny windy day. I breathe deep, feeling alive. I can already feel my feet moving, my blood pumping. Wandering gives you a reason to explore a street, a meadow, a bookstore. Sometimes I feel pulled to a place but think, I have no reason to be there. Now I do have a reason- to explore, to be curious, to be open, stray. 

(Later, same day)

I’m at Proud Mary, a brunch spot on Alberta, a beautiful open space with cement, wood, plants, skylights, rough-textured ceramic bowls. I just ordered a cappuccino and sardine toast. The cappuccino is thick and bitter and incredible. 

On the way here I listened to a This American Life episode on delight and it blew my mind in a similar way as the Wander Society book. There is a man who spent a year searching for delight, chronicled his daily delights, studied delight, went deep into his own delights and what delights him. 

I thought, I could combine wandering with a mission to find delight, be open to whatever might delight me, and take note of it. Almost immediately I was delighted by several things:

A restaurant on Killingsworth called Ole Frijole, a concrete building painted an electric, sizzling red orange, intensified by the bright sun and blue sky behind it. 

And on Alberta, a person crossing the street dressed entirely in yellow, even pale yellow round glasses, taking pictures of a bus stop. 

And an adorable tiny pale green cottage by a bar. I tried to figure out what it was and all I saw was a sign in the window advertising Portland made kilts!

I love the idea of always being ready to notice, appreciate, welcome delight. I think sometimes I allow a flicker of delight but quickly move past it. I’d like to practice savoring delight, lingering in it. Feel deserving of it. 

When my food came I closed my journal, I didn’t pull out my phone or a book. I was fully present with my meal, taking in the environment, eavesdropping on conversations. Being present and open and grateful is a state that’s been missing from my life for a while. It feels like my natural state, who I really am, and I’m happy to be finding my way back. 

2.21.20

My wandering experiment turned out great. I felt so open and alive, allowing myself to be pulled by this or that, going into shops not to shop but to see what I might discover. I was more talkative with strangers, made more eye contact. Gave $1 to a woman who asked me if I could help her get something to eat. Signed someone’s petition. Let my gaze linger, paid attention to background music, let things be symbols. It was like I was in a new city, interested in everything. Or on mushrooms, open and ready for anything, ready to be affected, enlightened. I was vibrating. When I got to work Charlotte asked me how my day was and I said, “Oh my god. I had such a good day I feel like I’m on another level of consciousness.” 

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2.23.20

I have to tell you, twice lately I’ve been stunned by my own beauty. The other day when I was taking myself out to brunch and I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror and then yesterday in the bathroom at school. My longer hair is just gorgeous- I love the curly wild texture, the darkness of it with hints of silver, the way it frames my face. And my face looked flushed, awake, sparkly, strong, mature, alive. My skin is healthy and pink. This has been a somewhat transformative month for me in general. 

2.25.20 

Yesterday when I walked Mina to school we tried to spot signs of Spring. “Daffodills! Sign of Spring!” “Cherry blossoms! Sign of Spring!” And then of course she made it funny- “Trash on the ground! Sign of Spring!” “Dog barking! Sign of Spring!” 

2.29.20

Hi, it’s me. I’m here. It’s dark and quiet early morning and there’s Mochi purring on my lap and I hear a little rain outside. This is my last day of the write-every-day challenge and I know I will continue. But I can allow space for other things like visual art. 

I feel tired, internally windswept. When my alarm went off at 5 I set a new one for 6 and tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t. 

Wind makes the house crack. Mochi gets up. I don’t know what else to write. It’s probably time for another wander soon, somehow. 

Hi, it’s me. I’m here. My eyes feel dry and bleary. My neck and shoulders are sore from 45 degree haircuts and shaking cocktails. 

I’m here and I’ll keep being here, I’ll keep showing up. I’ve begun the long process of re-meeting myself, re-committing to a creative life. I have this, I have my mornings, I have my journal and my writing group and my wander society. Every day I will try to show up for myself however I can. I know that it pays off, I know that I need this. Even if it’s just to sit here in the still-dark and hear the sound of my own breath and say to myself, “Hi, hello. It’s me.” 

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A Gorgeous Education

 

In two weeks I’m going back to school. Not a University, not Nursing school, not Art school. I’m going to Beauty School. Part of me still can’t quite believe it. Because on one level, that fact is not in sync with the person I am, or at least the person I’ve always thought I am. Even though I’ve been cutting hair for over 20 years. Even though I love cutting hair as a hobby and I’ve even starting charging for it. Even though my current idol is Jonathon Van Ness, the hair styling fairy godmother from Queer Eye. There’s a little voice in my head that sometimes whispers, “In a world that is literally crumbling, is that the best you could do? Is that truly your highest ambition? To become a hairdresser?”jvn2

The lovely Jonathan Van Ness

In 2008 I was 26 years old, working at a breakfast restaurant in Chico called The Sin of Cortez. It was a fun place to work, hip and edgy with Mexican inspired brunch and good coffee. Although I’d been a barista before, this was the first place where I had started to get good at latte art. I liked my coworkers and my boss (although the kitchen staff was a bit sketchy). A good multi-tasker, I knew I was well suited for this work, even on the weekdays when my job included hosting, cashiering, serving, and busing in addition to my barista position. But I remember one day when I vowed to myself (and to a nearby coworker) that this would be my last food service job.

My boyfriend (soon to be husband) and I were on the verge of moving to San Francisco to start a new life and see if we could make it somewhere else. I was excited about the move and saw it as a chance to pursue a different line of work. I had been working in mostly restaurants and coffee shops since I was 18, and it seemed time to move on. I didn’t know exactly what I’d be moving on to but I had always been an artist, musician, and a writer and I thought I could pursue those hobbies with more intensity and maybe something would come of it. My sweet boss at “The Sin” offered to write me a letter of recommendation to land a server or barista position in SF but I didn’t take her up on it. I was done with food service so I wouldn’t be needing it.

Once we moved to SF (cramming ourselves into a basement studio in a five floor apartment building in the “TenderNob” district) Benny immediately went to work at Cinematico, an animation studio he had connected with by a Computer Graphics Professor at Chico State. He was thrilled to be freshly graduated and already working a job in his field. Me, I graduated with a BA in Philosophy so I had no set path to follow, only some artistic interests and the ability to think critically about abstract ideas.

One month, two months, three months went by and I hadn’t found work. I knew I had to find something soon if we were going to make it. The rent for our cramped studio was more than the entire three bedroom house (with backyard and fireplace!) that we had been sharing with Benny’s friend and brother back in Chico. I don’t remember what kind of work I was even applying for, but it wasn’t long before I was darkening the doors of nearby coffee shops and restaurants. I applied to Peet’s Coffee and was hired at the 3rd and Mission shop.

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Tuesday Tie Day at Peet’s. Not sure why I was compelled to appear so demonic for this photo.

It turned out to be a great job. My coworkers were a rowdy, creative bunch who reminded me of my Drama class pals in High School. The pay was higher than I was used to, I got sick pay and vacation pay, and I enjoyed getting better at espresso drinks. But a part of me felt defeated- new city, same job. I remember once a younger coworker being surprised that I was 27. “I thought you were younger!” she said, and I snapped back in a sort of jokey way, “Oh, because I work at a coffee shop?” I was sensitive to the fact that I was in my late 20’s and still doing the same work as my first job. (My first job was a coffee shop called Pannikin down the street from my dad’s apartment in San Diego.) I was smart, creative, and had a good work ethic- why couldn’t I find a “real” job, something more grown up?

Along the way I made half-hearted attempts at my pursuit of more creative work. I applied to work as an arts and culture writer for The Guardian, a free weekly paper in SF. To do this I had to submit several examples of my work so I wrote a personal essay on folk music and attended a few art and music events and wrote reviews of them. I interned at an art gallery doing things like making the little title plaques that go next to the art and other things… I can’t really remember because that place was so unorganized and somewhat abusive (I got yelled at a couple times for doing things wrong when even though they were never clear about what I was supposed to be doing) that I was there for only a few weeks. After moving to Portland I tried two more internships. One was for a wedding magazine called Oregon Bride and my job was, incredibly, to feature a weekly pair of shoes and match them with a wedding venue (???). As someone who has never worn a pair of heels in her life, I was totally at a loss. My other internship was for a culture website called BePortland (“Don’t just live here- BE Portland”) where I had assignments to go to cultural events, music and art shows, plays, etc., take photos with my nice SLR camera, and after the show go home and compose a well written review/description and upload my edited photos. This was a pretty cool way to get to go to free shows and have an incentive to stay until the end (I had a bad habit of leaving shows before the headlining band because I was sleepy), plus it was rewarding to see my article posted on the website the next day. However, there were downsides to the internship (besides the big one of no pay) and I only lasted a summer.

“Well, I guess my only other option is to get a Master’s in Creative Writing and teach at a community college,” I said to myself. I was working the cheese counter at a specialty foods market when I started my first term at Portland State University, as a Postbaccalaureate since I hadn’t officially made it as a Grad student. I didn’t want to teach necessarily, but I liked writing and reading and knew I couldn’t count on making a living as a writer. Kinda funny that, after not finding meaningful work with a Philosophy degree, I decided that my fall back would be an English degree. I took three terms at PSU and enjoyed my time there until I discovered that there were a lot of flaws in the school system and I didn’t think I wanted to be part of that. Also, after reviewing my peers’ papers, I realized that being a writing teacher would mean reading a LOT of bad writing.

I quit PSU and instead took a 9 month course at the Independent Publishing and Resource Center (IPRC) on Comics. Prior to starting at PSU I had been committed to drawing a daily comic which I had managed to do for ten months until school and homework got in the way. I had missed comics and I wanted back in. “Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing,” I thought, and it was certainly a thrill to be assigned comics to read for homework and drawing exercises in class. I hadn’t taken many art classes at Chico State so it felt too good to be true.  At this time I was working at Lardo, a sandwich shop downtown.

The comics class was going really well and I started to wonder if it might become a career down the line. But one night the IPRC had a showing of Cartoon College, a documentary about comics and cartoonists. Many of them, even the big name cartoonists like Chris Ware and Lynda Barry, spelled it out very clearly: you cannot make a living as a cartoonist. That, and the terrible idea that I’d had to sell calendars featuring my drawings of Portland scenes (nobody bought them so I was $800 in the hole and had an embarrassing amount of them stacked around my house), cemented it for me. I would keep my creative life and my work life separate. As separate as possible.

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Aaaand then I had a baby. That solved everything. I’m joking, but I’m also kind of serious because it did, for several years make the whole question pretty pointless. My priorities became 1. Take care of this baby, 2. Make money however possible, and 3. Make art if there’s any time left. I had taken time off from Lardo, but a few months after giving birth I was back there a couple shifts a week. When Mina was three I started at another restaurant called Guero which was a big improvement. The people there feel more like family than coworkers, the food is delicious, the space is beautiful, and even the customers are lovely. However, most of my coworkers are younger than me, some even 15 years younger. And, as is the case for almost every restaurant worker everywhere, they’re just working there for now because they’re on their way to somewhere else to do what they really want to do. Food service jobs are a limbo zone, they’re a placeholder. Maybe that’s not so much the case in really nice restaurants, where serious chefs aspire to be. But in places where I work, people are always moving on to something better. I wonder what it would be like to work in a place where people are there on purpose, because it’s their dream, because they worked hard to get there.

I don’t want to be 40 years old and still in limbo. So I’m moving on too. Maybe it’s not the biggest and best thing I could be doing. But the truth is, I’ve never been a big dreamer. I’ve never been attracted to the idea of “making my mark on the world” or “leaving a legacy.” I’ve never wanted to be famous or important. I’ve never been selfless enough to be a savior of humanity, or a pioneer for a purpose. I’ve never had that one thing I just have to do. But I like to cut hair. And I like the kind of conversations I have when I’m cutting someone’s hair. The kind of conversations where things are said, and then there are long silences where I’m just attending to them, touching them lightly on their heads and neck, brushing hair away from their foreheads, trimming carefully around their ears. I like the casual intimacy of it, and the way people are changed before my eyes. I like when they close their eyes and say, “It feels better already.” I like how a weight is lifted. I like at the end when they go into the bathroom to see themselves in the mirror and they call out, “It looks great!” I like how I can be creative and skillful and be helping people at the same time. Maybe I’m right this time. Maybe this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

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Try To Remember

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After a long hard day, Benny comes home from work and gives me permission to escape while he does bedtime. Mina is tired and clingy, holding tight to my leg and crying as I’m trying to rush upstairs, a beer in one hand. As I write in my journal I hear her sobbing desperately, “MAMAAAA!! MAMAAA!!” and try to resist the urge to go and comfort her.

I write a page and a half, then stop, a few tears spilling down my cheeks- wishing that writing was still fun and fulfilling, that I had exciting things to breathlessly write about, like when I was younger. I put the journal aside and rummage around in a box of old journals, which is what I do when I want to remember what it felt like to be young and free. I find an entry that was part of a timed writing practice I used to do in college that was led by my favorite Philosophy professor, Terri Elliott. Sometimes he would grab a book, flip it open to a random page and point to a sentence, and that would be our writing prompt.

9. 28. 2002

“Keep going, you’ll end up in your mother’s womb.”

Womb. Mother. Keep going. My mother. I was a cesarean birth. My mother, holding my naked baby body by the armpits- her long hair, my short soft fuzz on big baby head.

Keep going down that road, searching for a way home and all you’ll find, all you’ll find is where you began, curled up, eyes closed and slowly grasping fingers. The way back to the beginning.

She hears me,  I think. She listens for my heart and when it’s tender and bruised she calls me- she gently prods and quietly asks, and my tears flow, my heart blooms and embraces hers.

I am grateful.

Her art on my walls, her careful splatterings of paint and collage, words, little books that describe her day, her thoughts, her wonder of my life and my doings, of my love… Her ways of expression so similar to my own- as are her ways of sorrow and her ways of confusion. Her joy. Her joy, my joy. For her I am grateful.

And I hope for now, for my womb to remain vacant. I hope for my maternal ways to be reserved for loved ones and myself. I wonder about children and what strange things they are. Childhood, how that was not you and is not you and yet you know it was and is, and you wonder of your parents and their lives before you were born and it’s hard to imagine until you reach the age that your mother was when she got married.

I dream of my parents, of their meeting and falling in love, I see and feel through their eyes, as if memories can be passed down to your children, I think they can. We all have these previous lives hidden within us that we take for granted, but at one time it was your only life.

Think of your mother, pregnant with you, sitting in a chair at home. Alone, silent, gazing out the window, or at her own hands. Imagine her there- her young face, her clear eyes, her thoughts of life, her fear, her quiet love for you, resting inside of her. You are a womb yourself. You carry your own life inside of you, clusters of sweet jewels, a gleaming pomegranate. You forget sometimes, why you are alive. You forget what has lived before you. Take time to sit still and you will remember- the knowing of it pure and solid like a warm stone in your lap.

 

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My Time Machine

I’ve been listening to a lot of the Mortified podcast lately. My mom got me into Mortified several years back, and since then both she and I have performed in Portland branch of the event. (If you don’t know, Mortified is a nationwide movement of people getting onstage to read from their adolescent diaries.) When I did it, I chose the time period of when I was about 17 and it’s intense stuff, losing touch with my friend group and becoming kind of a loner. Listening to the podcast, I started to get curious about who I was in middle school, and what I wrote about getting my period, my first kiss, how I felt about the first day of 8th grade. So I dug into my boxes in storage and found my 8th grade journal, delighted with the detailed descriptions of this awkward and tender time. And when I got to the end I wondered, “Wait- THEN what happened?”

So after some searching I found my 9th grade journal, and 10th (I skipped 11th because I had already gone over that recently), and then got lost in the turbulent roller coaster of 12th grade. Then of course I had to move onto my first year of college and so on. I didn’t read EVERY journal, or even one entire one, but I did a lot of sequential skimming, piecing my past together loosely in my mind. I got an urge to create a timeline of the significant events in my life.

I might still do that, but meanwhile I managed to, for the first time in my life, compile all my journals together into three sturdy boxes, labeled by time frame and arranged IN ORDER. Dang. Twenty five years of journaling, at times almost excessive. I’ve slowed down quite a bit in the last ten years, and that’s why it was so mind-boggling to find thick journals that only spanned a month or two.

Having such densely packed accounts of my experiences is such a gift; it feels like a time machine that allows me to be 12 again, to be 15, 18, 23 again. When I put the journal down I’m left dazed and disoriented, swimming in a strange stew of mixed emotions: yearning, regret, shame, confusion, wonder, joy, and also a compulsion to somehow “make things right” with people who I hurt or abandoned. There’s an urge to reconnect with people who used to be essential components to my life. But I also don’t want to get too caught up in the past, I want to move forward and create new artifacts for my future self to delight in.