The Return to Journaling

The Return to Journaling

By Grace Brady, Head of Recruitment

Like hordes of introspective individuals before me, I decided to buy myself a journal for quarantine.

I have always held journal-writers in high regard. I imagined them gripping a mug of imported chamomile tea and flourishing a fountain pen with the gusto of an enlightened up-and-coming. There they’d sit, minding their own business from the height of my mind’s pedestal, gazing upon the world moving around them with an air of curious detachment. I envied their ability to slow their thoughts into sentences that their fingers were fast enough to capture.

I caved and shelled out the $20 to buy myself a leather bound notebook, complete with leather cording to close my darkest secrets away from the outside world’s scrutiny. Buying a new one had been necessary, because I’d been so embarrassed by the pre-teen musings that littered my first one that I had ripped out the pages of the last one. By the end, the spine of the journal was a flimsy mess, clinging desperately to the remaining twenty or so pages; time for a fresh start.

My previous inclinations to journal had always fallen on two distinct spectrums: as a way of dramatizing my uneventful life or a need to dispel the weight of the world’s events across crisp, lined paper. This quarantine — our unanticipated hibernation at the peak of a blooming spring — seemed the perfect combination of the two.

For those of you who might not know me, I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve. I rarely struggle to identify the emotions I feel on a day to day basis, and I hardly ever try to hide my feelings about things. But if it’s true that my emotions exist for outward projection and consumption, then my perfectionism hides at the core of my being.

My biggest fear is to come across as cliché or cheesy. When I first began to write at the start of quarantine, I’d find myself beginning each new passage with a classic “Dear Journal…” This was then followed with a grocery list of the day’s events, a cheerful synopsis of the better aspects of my boring home life, and a few smatterings of vague, existential ruminations.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if this is the relationship you and your journal maintain, by all means, please continue. Like I said, I’m new to this adult journaling world and can’t possibly critique anyone else’s process yet. All I know is that, the following day, I’d read back my boring, detached writing and take a thick Sharpie to it all. My perfectionism was (is?) such a blazing force that I couldn’t allow even my most private spaces to contain anything inauthentic or cringe-worthy. Though I might know my stance on something, I struggle to articulate it in the exact way that I want to.

As things in quarantine began to escalate, both on a worldly and personal level, the necessity to put the ridiculousness of everything into tangible words was ever pressing. And it felt, as so many things around me began to crumble, that things might be easier to control if I could parse out meaning in between the lines of my handwritten thoughts.

I’ve since ditched addressing my “Journal” by name. Instead, I only write in it when I have something to say. That was really where my issue was — I was forcing myself to write each day, even if nothing eventful had happened (and trust me, nothing eventful was happening from my Connecticut quarantine life). And in turn, on the days when momentous occurrences came into fruition, the journal entries felt cheapened by the superficial writings that surrounded it. In the same way that TV series don’t show their characters going to the bathroom, my journal didn’t need to know what I ate for lunch that day — there were more important conversations to get to.

I suppose, if I were to dispense any advice your way, it would be this: remove whatever filter you have clogging your brain. So much of the creative, reflective energy that I harbor is stopped and ruffled through by the insecure TSA agent of my brain — if the thoughts endanger my self-induced reputation, they’re sent right back into the depths of my psyche, bags packed tight.

I’ve since taken measures to care less about the product as much as the process. Believe me, it is not easy, but it just takes a few random remarks to set the tone. I’ll leave you with a small excerpt from my journal, because I’m actually starting to like some of the randomness that blooms here when I allow it:

“there’s this sort of rich purple that comes from sunsets
though the sky is alive with color
the shadows are washed in a plum
that forms from the forgotten spaces
where light refuses to linger, and
a warm, heavy darkness lives.”

Followed by the classic:

“literally what is going on right now?”

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