I love ink pens & journals or as Montblanc categorizes them: ‘Fine Lifetime Companions’. My 1st journaling experience was when I was 12 years old. Okay, I mean, at 12, I wrote in my One Year Diary. I’ve come across the diary from time to time. It’s one of the few things I’ve managed to hang onto from my childhood.
My twelve-year-old self had lots to say: “Trudy Williams had a party and invited boys.” One phrase that appeared in my journal again and again was “I washed dishes, did homework and went to bed.” Other repeat phrases were: “I don’t like cleaning my room” “I love Girl Scout meetings” and “I hate going to bed at 7:30.” I wrote in great detail some days and other times, I just listed who I liked or disliked. You remember, preteen stuff.
About three months into my year’s writing, I detailed what happened when my dad fell out of bed. I later found out he had a heart attack and was transported to the hospital in El Dorado and later the Veteran’s Hospital in Little Rock.
After a month, he passed. He was a retired high school principal in El Dorado. The diary, I’ve kept some 50 years helped me understand what I experienced, as we grieved the death of my dad. It is enlightening to get a glimpse of my thoughts, ideas and feelings so long ago.
The Value of Words
Thanks to the journal, I can go back and look at it what happened when I was 12. Amazing! Within the next 60 days after my father’s death, my mother’s mother died. I continued writing in my diary throughout the summer. I went to California with my cousins (Bessie, Carl, Jr & Waymon) and then spent the school year in Chicago with another set of cousins (Elvie & Bobby).
As an avid reader, I was always looking for something – anything – to read (cereal boxes, labels on cans, etc.). That summer, in Chicago, while looking for something to read in a china cabinet drawer, I found a card, which read – “We’ve adopted a baby”. When I looked inside, I saw my name. I never told anyone I saw the card, until my sophomore year in college.
Upon returning to Arkansas from Chicago the next year, my mom had moved us to Little Rock. Once I was out of college – nine years after I saw the card, my mother (persuaded by her sisters) told me I was adopted. I never told her I already knew.
Today, I encourage my students to write because I know it will help them sort out what’s going on in their heads. It could be sorting through events, activities, concepts, and/or ideas. Writing can help immediately and in the future when it helps you remember.
Recall is better when you write the words down. It cements the event in your mind and helps you process that event or information. Taking notes or even writing a word or two ensures the imprinting of key concepts. Linking new concepts to things you already know make it more likely you will recall the information later.
James PenneBaker, a pioneer in Writing Therapy, researched the connection between language and recovering from trauma. You might not know if there will be traumatic events to write about, but you could gain insight into your own thinking, if you choose to keep a journal. Several of my friends kept journals through their Breast Cancer journey. They shared them with me and others, which helped us know what might lie ahead. These journals and our friends’ step-by-step walk with us were invaluable.
Upon looking back in your journal, you might now see how that ‘bad thing’ you thought happened to you was really a blessing in disguise. Or, you may learn just how naïve you were about things you were so sure of and life’s growth experiences could become crystal clear. (An Incredible Adventure post)
Lessons from this early diary experience:
1.) Take life seriously,
2.) There is power in putting pen to paper, and
3.) Pass this writing experience on.
I know, when I open my journal, pick up my pen and start writing my thoughts, I’m thankful for the simple act of writing. I could be writing what’s coming up, my to-do list, how someone lightened my day or a love letter.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” Anais Nin