Power in Your Personal History
Read it back — the stories of your life are what make you
I remember the very first journal I ever had. I was young, probably ten or eleven years old when I got it. It had Harry Potter’s name all over the front of it, golden letters set before a green field of velvet. The cover wasn’t real velvet, it was just a cardboard material — but the shaded print made it look like it had texture. Made the jagged golden letters look three-dimensional, too. I thought it was cool to have a book that was supposed to be all about me with a famous young wizard’s name on the front. Maybe people would be tricked into believing that I was magic, too.
I never griped about the emerald green background, never once connected the dots that those were the tints of Slytherin. Probably for the best, I’m Gryffindor and ain’t no one gonna tell me otherwise.
I remember when I first started writing on the very first page, my chicken-scratch jargon lettering down the lines. I wrote about how my day was, simply enough. I briefly replayed the activities of a ten-year-old, in all their utter-most importance. I went to school, I played with friends, and I had little ten-year-old opinions about all of it. I remember drawing a zig-zagging lightning bolt, just like the one on Harry’s forehead. I penned over it several times to darken the lines. I grinned from ear-to-ear, and when I closed my little green book, I had no idea what I’d just done.
No Isolated Incidents
I’ve been through a slough of other journals since then, and I haven’t filled every one of them up. Sometimes I stumble on a new leatherback that rubs in my palm a little better than the last, so I cut my current volume short.
Now-a-days, my entries have grown in length from the time of my green little book, but the content remains unchanged. No longer ten-year-old problems and impressions, my pen jots down twenty-six-year-old stumbles. Ideas a bit more fleshed out, opinions a little more convicted, sentences that make a tad more sense. I’ve grown and adapted through waves of doubt, self-hatred and love, I’ve uncovered mysteries, asked a million little questions. I’ve grown my hair past my shoulders, and shaved it all off. I’ve talked with God on the page, I’ve written poems to my stupidity and odes to my success. But the whole time, year after year, I’ve held onto one thing through it all: my pen.
I am currently writing a book dedicated to these stories. A telling of a man who has always made penance on paper. My book has forced me to time travel back down the bleeding lines of my journals, pouring through my own scribbles and scratches. As I soak in my own history, there is one thing that’s abundantly clear: the story of my life has been building off itself in ways I never could have imagined.
Theories I started threading long ago are popping up in completion today. In 2015, I wrote to myself. You gotta write, dude. That’s just it. Then I flipped the page the next day and continued on in conscious ignorance. But unconsciously, my mind took note, made a little diary of its own back in the corners that I can’t see. Today, six years on, I am making choices that seek to realize that dream. I’m tapping letters in Chapter 11 of my book, and I’ve never felt more fulfilled.
As I fill my head with human experience, wrestling with relationships, my own expectations, gratitude, love, my standing in the cosmos, my ambition — I’m finding these have always been the themes of my life. The subject matter I fill journals with. And every new notebook is clearing the mud a little more than the last. Not one page in my journals is an isolated incident. They’ve always been connected, always been intertwined far more than I think.
It’s never too late to start planting
They say that it doesn’t matter if you go back and read your journals, as long as you get it out on paper. I agree with that sentiment. But I also want you to know how powerful it can be to go back, learn about your history, discover your past from the one person who was there in every single moment: you.
The simple emotions you felt four years ago might tell you something important about what you are experiencing today. Those theories might lead you down new roads, they might prompt you to pick up your shit and do something. They might bolster your convictions, they might make you laugh at their stupidity. They might give you strength in times when you’re free-falling. But most importantly, they will show you how much you’ve grown living the big ol’ bitch of life.
So pick up the pen when no one’s watching. Grip it in between your fingers and write a few lines about how terrible your day was. Cry about it, and let those tears drip onto the page and dry in wrinkled little paper-waves. Write the dumbest thing you can think of, or the best idea you’ve ever had. Scribble out your wildest dreams, treat your journal like a farmers-field for planting.
One day you might look back, flipping through your time-capsule, and find that those seeds took root — that they made your life amazing. They made your life worth living.
When I was ten-years-old, I wanted to be a wizard. I wanted to wear the black cloaks, wander the hallways of Hogwarts casting spells, levitating chairs, opening picture-frame doorways into secret rooms. I wanted a wand that chose me, I wanted to kill a basilisk, I wanted to race around on a broomstick chasing the Golden Snitch.
When I was ten-years-old, I carved a lightning bolt onto the first page of the first journal I ever had. I retraced it twenty-six times, trying to will it off the page and onto my own forehead.
Little did I know that I’ve always been gripping a magic wand in between my finger tips. And that lightning bolt has always been there — it’s just a few layers deeper than my skin.