Monday, September 2, 2013

Reflection. Explanation. Ode.

It's funny (in a not really that funny kind of way), since I was about six I kept a journal. For a long time my diary was affectionately called "D" and every entry was lovingly started with 'Dear D' as if "she" was a pen pal I was devoted to. She wanted to know what was going on with me, and she offered nothing but unconditional support and great advice on boys, my mother, depression, school, and anything else I wrote about. I had a Livejournal that I updated on occasion with thoughts, online quizzes and surveys, and other random happenings. I had a Diaryland that I updated obsessively, everyday with the most intimate details of my life. I had a Xanga that I reserved exclusively for song and movie quotes that described how I felt or what I believed at any given moment. Throughout all of this I continued to keep my hand written diary that at times reflected what was in my online journals and other times went into much further depth. All of these journals were a lifeline for me. With everything that goes on during adolescence into early adulthood, writing allowed me to reflect, philosophize, vent, and whatever else I needed to cope and learn from each of my daily experiences.

Then there was a time when there was nothing. Nothing online. Nothing hand written. The sporadic entries I made (one or two a year, if even) in by bedside journal claimed I was too busy or too happy and didn't need to write to examine my life anymore. I would write to catch up my diary, as if it were a long lost friend, on the last several months of my life. January I did this, February this happen, and so on. These entries were either glowing, making sure to mention every fabulous detail of my life, or were list-like to explain things as quickly as possible so that the pages weren't bored by the less than juicy tidbits I was feeding it. "D" no longer existed. She had long gotten sick of the drama of my teenage years and in her place had been taken over by temporary name-less friends who either didn't care or I used to reflect how wonderful and perfect everything was.

But the truth was that I needed "D." My mid-20s were filled with denial disguised as bliss. My friends all saw it, but didn't say anything until much later. Without a journal to force me to be honest to myself, I stopped being honest with these real people in my life who I should have trusted...which is extremely ironic. And maybe that's why I started this blog; because I sensed something was missing and I was trying to figure out what it was. I just didn't know it at the time. And maybe that's why the focus has always been all over the place as well. On some level I longed to get back to personal writing, but had reached a level of maturity that knew I could not be as transparent anymore for personal and professional reasons. At this point in my life I recognized that friends, family, and future employers all had access to something I once considered to be totally private (as long as I never sent my totally public link to my mother, grandmother, etc.). And so recipes, reviews, and outfit posts dotted the page. My superficial way of writing without getting to what I really needed to.

When I started my second round of graduate school this blog fell by the way side, although the occasional entries into my handwritten journal increased. I spent so much time reading and writing academic prose and living a life that was completely under the microscope that personal private writing became very important to me. It gave me the space and rare moments of free time to think about my day, my life, and what direction it was heading in. Without that prompt to sit down and write I would still be focused on questions like "what homework is due tomorrow, what should I wear to work, what am I going to do about this client" instead of "what am I doing with my life, why I am I friends with this person, what is important to me."

I've spent the last week doing some serious reading and organizing hundreds of academic articles as I get into the next stage of my dissertation process. I've decided to examine video narratives and personality characteristics of adolescents who have/have had cancer. As part of this, because there is not much research on videos, I've been reading a lot about illness blogs. Overwhelmingly, and not surprisingly, research points to blogs as a great source of emotional expression, support, and growth for those suffering from physical illness, mental illness, and overall life stress. I could quote these articles up and down about why this is the case but I guess what I'm trying to say, in a not so subtle way, is that I agree. From personal experience, my mind is much fuller when I'm able to express myself, explore myself, and not worry about being judged. I know what I'm trying to say and the abyss that is "D" or the internet or anyone in between gets that and silently waits for me to figure things out and move on my way. In turn, my life becomes fuller as I am able to take stock of what's important and discard what's not.

One of these days I'll get back to writing again; maybe even one day soon. But for right now I've got a 100+ page book to write that's a hidden manifesto to a medium that's meant the world to me.
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