letters from europe (and my former self)
One of the most grounding things you can do is read your old journal entries. Getting a backward view into who you use to be, what emotions and situations plagued you at the time and how far you have come — optimistically speaking. I have kept a journal ever since I could write my name on paper. Scribbles turned into words, then eventually complete sentences and stories. I had a lot to say back then. So much that my parents made a house decree in hopes of getting a break from my endless chattering. I was to write down everything I was thinking rather than say it out loud.
There still remain stacks of notebooks in the back of my mother’s closet — housing my most precious thoughts, sealed in time. Some of my favorite entries include a poem called “50 million question grandma” and an essay on how to avoid credit card debt. A bit narrow in scope and reference as the single source of information was my parents, but quite intriguing from the perspective of an 8-year-old child.
More than anything, those journals capture my youthful perspective. Most words are observations, with little assessment. Moments of anger or sadness captured in the form of what happened rather than how I was feeling and why. That eventually evolved over time as I learned to use writing as a tool to balance my mind and allow me the space to make my thoughts whole.
Recently, I read the entire journal I kept while backpacking around Europe last summer. A little more acrimonious than the poems and stories I wrote as a child, the pages are filled with endless rumination over love and loss, purpose and self acceptance.
One entry seems to capture it perfectly:
October 1st, 2015 (Positano, Italy) — If anyone were to read my journal, I think they would find me to be an emotional mess and not even realize that I had been traveling the world for the last 3 months. Perhaps by a mention of location, but these pages are mostly filled with the tragedy that is my love life. And while it took me flying halfway across the globe, I have learned nothing makes the world turn more than love, or the absence of it in anyone’s life. I should include that from where I sit I can see the coast line, tiny box houses precariously perched atop the hillside peeking out above a low layer of clouds. I can smell that it rained all night and morning and hear the gentle sounds of people talking around me…
Those three months traveling and writing helped me process, organize and prioritize my life. Allowed the waves of optimism to coincide with extreme anxiety in order to find balance and happiness. No longer letting my former self step in front of who I wanted to be and what I wanted to accomplish. More than anything they capture a period of time so imperative to who I am today. And while sometimes I want to go back and smack that disparaging girl I once was, I must respect the journey as much as destination.