From Invisible Ink to Printed Photos: My Journal Through the Years
I’ve always kept a journal. As a child, I’d write about my day, what I ate, who I played with, who bothered me, and what I thought about; basically, I wrote about what any elementary school student would write about. Sometimes, I’d even draw pictures to go along with whatever I wrote. Writing in a journal was an easy way for me to process my feelings.
I had really cool journals. Some were solid colors. Others had sparkles or decorative fake flowers sticking out of them. I’d sometimes write in invisible ink to make sure no one but me would be able to read it. I even had the voice-activated password journal.
Journaling became an even bigger part of my life when my best friend moved to Israel at the end of second grade. It was really hard for me. An eight year old might not typically be very good at staying in contact with someone halfway across the world (with no phone and a completely different mindset). However, we somehow made it work. Yes, it was hard at first; but writing was the way we communicated.
We had a shared journal: the BFF journal from some Scholastic book fair. The journal was pink and had a lock that came with two sets of keys, one for me and one for her. I’d write in the journal about how I was feeling, or I’d come up with a bunch of questions for her to answer. Her dad was in America a lot, and he was our messenger, except when we’d use snail mail. Both ways took forever, but it was worth it, because writing brought me closer to my best friend during a tough transition. Writing in the journal was personal. No one could read what we wrote other than us, and it was nice to see her handwriting and the little drawings she added next to her entries.
As I got older, I continued to keep a journal. Throughout middle school I had a green, hardback journal. I wrote many secrets in there and kept a detailed record of my life at that stage.
When I studied abroad in Israel my sophomore year of high school, I continued to journal, every single night. My reason for journaling and writing, however, shifted slightly. Don’t get me wrong, I still wrote to process feelings and because it was fun; but I also began writing out of fear. I was scared of forgetting the little things. Some might say that the journal I kept in Israel is way too detailed, but if I were to flip to any random page in the journal, the overwhelming amount of writing would instantly take me back to a place or feeling. That is exactly what I wanted to do.
My journal this year is also different from the journals of my past; I still write out of fear of forgetting, and because it's fun, but in this journal, I’ve added pictures. Before COVID-19, I wrote in my journal every single day. Every month I would go to CVS and print out about ten pictures I took throughout that month. I put them in my journal, not only to remember that my friends and I talked about mac 'n' cheese brands during lunch on some random Thursday, but also, so that I can picture it. I want to be able to look back one day and see a picture of the water gun fight my friends and I had or the funny face my friend was making.
Honestly, I have written in my journal a total of three times since March 12. In my eyes, that's pathetic. But I know why I stopped: I don’t want to remember this time. But I need to. This period will be talked about for decades to come.
The pandemic calls into question my past reasons for keeping a journal, which have been to record and connect. It has become clear to me that it’s important to record horrible and uncomfortable matters as much as it's important to remember the good ones. This way, we can remember what we don't want to remember. This is the time to remember every aspect of life so that, if we as a people are put in another situation like this one, we will learn from mistakes made and handle the situation better.
This is one of the benefits of writing. I may remember arguing about mac 'n' cheese with my friends with more fondness than I will remember this period in life, but no matter the reason to write, we can always learn from our experiences. The benefits of writing can pay off, not only as a way for me to process my feelings, but to keep a record to learn from in the future. The journals we keep can teach us valuable lessons, whether about valuing the little things like lunch time with my friends, learning from the stressful times like we can do now, or remembering the connection found by the shared journal with my childhood best friend.
This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.