I have an odd history and relationship with documentation. Meaning, I’ve kept a journal of some sort since I could write. Roughly, let’s say I started documenting time when I was five years old in these little furry Powerpuff Girl diaries and Lisa Frank spiral notebooks. I also wrote about ¾ of a novel when I was 8 years old which I distinctly remember the entire plot for (it was so insanely dramatic and dark, it’s actually shocking to me as an adult). Journals kept at home evolved into keeping a school journal of sorts in high school when I would sit in classes and carry one designated notebook everywhere and write an entry in a specific period, usually World History, about what I was doing that weekend or how I was feeling or what have you.
I would even use random sheets of printer paper for sporadic entries when thoughts came bubbling up my throat. I would fold them up into squares and deposit the squares into this private, empty little garbage bin next to my bed and I would watch how the little squares would accumulate throughout a year, usually transitioned from the bottom of my purse in handfuls from school into the little can.
So between these journals and sheets, it’s safe to say…. There is a lot of time that is accounted for closely. Combine that with hundreds of thousands of pictures I took as a teenager and the amount of pictures I still take now, even without social media–that’s a shitload of documentation.
This is all to say that I’ve been writing for 18 years specifically and I rarely, if ever, go back and read entries in my journals.
I have a gray bin in a cubby at the very top of my closet that is designated for old memorabilia. Since I’ve graduated from college I’ve shed stacks and stacks of copies of essays I was hell-bent on keeping and re-reading one day. Now I only have a few. The sheer weight of the paper I would never read didn’t justify hauling it on a cross-country move. However, I do have my stacks of loose-leaf notebooks. I can safely say I have about ten notebooks I’ve accumulated since I began college. The rest of my writing and notes are with my mom.
My mom has a storage unit in Maryland that she utilizes to house all of the things that were in our little townhouse together towards the end of my high school years. One summer home from college she begged me to finally go through all of my boxes of storage she has been keeping in her unit that were my things that I left behind when I moved to Chicago and I (finally) obliged.
I found a box with the hemp necklaces I wore, bracelets with glass beads. Everything smelled like Nag Champa with a thin layer of incense dust itself. I burned an obscene amount of incense in our little townhouse.
This box had a sheath of those notes from the can. All of those squares. I pulled one out and began reading. My handwriting at the time was sparse, controlled. It wasn’t messy. I noticed that in a lot of my journals my mental state is all over everything in the way I’ve written it. I read a few entries on these random sheets of paper from high school and began to feel so deflated–I underestimated how sad I was then now that I was an adult. How lonely I was. How difficult it was to try to keep the forces of life at bay so I could successfully finish high school and get my own life going. A lot of these little bits of writing had to do with my older brother who has his own stories I’ve never found the right way to tell.
All of this being said, I read a few of those papers at the storage unit outside of Baltimore and sealed the box. Put it away. Designated my mother to keep it but I had no intention of returning to confront that blend of hopelessness, I was more determined to keep going where I propelled myself into now.
Today, I decided to go through my Google Drive and organize it a bit. I email myself from work throughout the week to keep tabs on new books to read and quotes I’ve found. I went in with a mission today to go in and pull unread emails from myself and organize the content into the little New Books to Read document and Quotes document I keep, and I began going through some of my own old content and free-writes I’ve been keeping in my writing folder on Drive.
WOW. I found some shit in there that was better writing than I’ve done in the past year. Prose poems, entire spreadsheet of short story ideas, notes on think pieces I never wrote. I even found some quotes that range between the serious and intellectual to the fucking hilarious, such as this book review I found for a shitty book I had to write a press release on for an internship:
“As for the dialogue – my 14 year old (and very Perry) son is more eloquent and believable when he grunts at me that we’re out of Golden Grahams, than the terrible dialogue in this book. Seriously, it is painfully unbelievable and stilted. And the plot is SO banal and simple don’t expect any surprises – you’ll have guessed all the major elements less then half way through and will be expecting a much better conclusion than what is presented I think a parcel must have arrived at the door and distracted Gary, who forgot he hadn’t finished the book before emailing it off to his publisher. I won’t go on, read it if you must, but remember you’ll never be gifted those wasted hours back.”
Needless to say, I think I’m about ready to begin sifting through all of the papers, electronic and looseleaf, again.