Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Storyteller

I was one of those kids who learned to talk and write early. I found myself always telling these long-winded stories about my experiences, adventures, and history of my family to anyone who would lend an ear. I would sit and practice my signature for hours, and write out the alphabet on lined paper until my fingers were hurt and cramped. These stories I soon started writing down and thus-- a diarist I became. With this, I also came to realize that with two younger brothers getting into things and a parent always on the “watch”, there was never going to be any respect for personal privacy.

I think every teenage girl has a private place to keep her secrets, her innermost thoughts, love letters to a current crush, and private mentionings of coming into adolescence. Mine was a black leather accounting ledger purchased at the local Wal-Mart that I kept hidden in the overhead-ledge of my closet. I held nothing back when I wrote in my journal. Ever-- I mean nothing. It was awesome! It was much cheaper than a shrink and much more discrete than my “blabber-mouth” best friend. I quickly learned that by writing out my innermost feelings, I could get them out, yet keep them all to myself. No one would know. I wouldn’t have to subject myself to the taunts of other kids who “didn’t understand me,” worry about walking through the halls, and hearing whispers about whom I liked at the moment, and certainly wouldn’t have to continually reiterate to my best friend that she couldn’t tell anyone. I simply never desired that kind of attention.

I accidentally left my diary on my bed one day, parents being the way they are about their kids discovered there were quite a few entries about how I “…cried all day because I found out from LJ that John asked some other girl to the dance. I thought he liked me especially after we made out at the roller rink on Saturday. Guess I’m not pretty enough…” and how “…I made out with Corey in the back of LJ’s dad’s boat...” was a bit too detailed for my folks… oops! After that, I didn’t keep a journal for about 10 years and I'd missed it. Until about 1990, when I had a bad breakup and was physically unable to communicate to anyone how I felt about it. Only then did I turn back to that old friend: that black leather accounting ledger to write it all down in excruciating detail.

Several years and diaries later, one of my girlfriends whom I hadn’t spoken to in a while e-mailed me indicating that I could “keep in touch” without having to make a single phone call, write a single letter, or speak a single word. She called it an “Online Journal.” I was astonished that she could be audacious enough and post her inner most private thoughts on the web for the whole world to see. I could sit in the privacy of my own home and read about all the things she had done in the past week. The things she wrote about were the same subjects we would sit and have three-hour conversations discussing: her marriage, updates about her kids, what was going on at work, things rolling around in her head. She suggested that since I also kept a diary, perhaps I should post online as well, and I could use it as a vehicle to update my friends and family about my life-- be a personal storyteller. I wondered if putting my thoughts on line would make me conceited, narcissistic, or presumptuous? I didn’t think that way about my girlfriend or her writing. Then I wondered about who would care. I do have family and several friends who live in other states who want to know what’s going on with me, and maybe somewhere in the mix I could get some feedback, support, or shared stories from others about similar experiences. You see, I had a choice to make; I could keep completely silent and refrain from keeping any sort of journal at all, or see what happened if I let others know what my thoughts and opinions were. Perhaps I’d get some alternative perspectives, become a better writer and a better person for it.

I have found that inspiration comes more often now, my thoughts and ideas are validated, and I am a better person and writer now. I have reconnected with old colleagues, high school friends, and members of my extended family whom I never knew existed. Some of my entries turn out to be entertaining, some inspirational, but all are fulfilling to me, and I thank my readers profusely everyday for allowing me to indulge myself. I like that I have the ability (whether writing on paper or online) that I cannot just recall any given experience, but the ability to re-live them as well. I have the opportunity to share the stories of my family’s history and give a bit of myself as well. I often feel as if life is running away from me at an alarming rate, and I want to remember that amid the life I have experienced, it is the actual living I want to chronicle. I seem to be working so much these last few years and it’s the “life” portion that seems to escape me. There were so many moments that deserved to be captured, but never were. We lose moments, and they deserve to be captured because once they’re gone, they’re gone.

If find that writing helps me define the shadowy elusive things in the background that sometimes disturb me, gives me answers that I didn’t have before, and gives me peace of mind that perhaps my ideas and perspectives aren’t so strange after all.
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