I’ve had journals since– I don’t remember not having journals. Sure, the entries were about 20 words long and illustrated because I couldn’t read for so long, but I had things to say, even when I couldn’t articulate, let alone spell them. I look back on some of those rudimentary scribblings and laugh. If they weren’t so old they’d be embarrassing. But even though I couldn’t write down how I really felt, and often didn’t actually know, I wrote enough to trigger memories. There’s one journal that Dad gave me around the time he was deployed overseas. It’s just about the ugliest shade of green, that one that is evidently the only dye color the military has, so I quickly took my crayons to it and made it mine. Our basement flooded a few years ago and it was barely saved. But on one of the pages, that has been threatening to fall out for years now, are a few words about how my day was ruined because Wendy’s messed up my baked potato, complete with a picture of how the spud should have looked. I remember that day. We had just been visiting one of mom’s friends and I was overwhelmed with the cares of being 9. It was the last straw. Either mom was pregnant with Adam or Dad had just left, but I was an emotional wreck and I couldn’t show it, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t draw, and now my lunch was a travesty.
I have another journal that my then best friend’s mom gave me. It has a picture of us in the front. Little, tiny, 7 year old us. This one is blue with vines, a picture window on the cover and a ribbon bookmark with a heart lock charm on the end. The one that I simply cannot remember not having is my Winnie the Pooh locking diary.
I used those two off and on the most, since the military surplus one was ruined, but I’ve yet to fill a journal. I’ve filled plenty of random notebooks with sketches of rooms and beginnings of stories, but I’ve never written my soul from cover to cover. That’s what a journal is. The soul on paper. Whether it means what it says or is just a symptom of the true condition is for the reader, usually your older self, to decide.
But that trend is about to change.
I have six pages left. I really don’t know what to do with myself. It feels as if my filling of that last page will end something in my life. I got this journal 2 years ago when I was a finalist in the library’s poetry contest. It was the year that Meg was also a finalist and Claire was the Honorable Mention. I didn’t win anything, but it was my last year of eligibility. I graduated high school right after that, and then started writing in the little book at Camp that summer. Only first few pages actually bare the thoughts of a baby counselor, as I quickly got too busy to write. Instead, it chronicles the heartache of a life turned rightside up. Learning to accept my PCOS, giving myself permission to live, embracing my gifts. It’s all in there. It hurts to go back and read who I thought I had to be. But the closer I get to the end, the less it hurts and the more it is beautiful. Most of my “poems” are actually journal entries, written as I’m falling asleep. They are raw Annie. What she sees with her eyes, but also with her heart. Moonshadows. Will-o-the-wisps. Dew laden blades of grass.
The closing of my little book coincides with the closing of my first semester of college. I never thought I’d go to school past what was required. I had no need to. I began the journal feeling broken and purposeless. I close it happier, more full of life, and whole. You don’t come through a chapter like that without scars. But scars fade. They remind you who you are.