A Journalistic Odyssey: Or, Why I write obsessively

Empty Journal

I’ve kept a journal since I was ten years old-- just over a third of my life. After seven years of writing, I’ve filled eighteen notebooks, all of which I’ve kept in a box under my bed. I can get lost for hours in these old volumes; I’ve been known to lose full weekend evenings to re-reading my thoughts from sixth grade. More often than not, what I was writing and thinking about at age eleven or thirteen seems naive, or even downright silly. I have a tendency to judge myself and my past actions harshly-- hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. But no matter what I may think of my younger selves, I believe there’s still value to be found in scrawling my thoughts down on a page. No one else sees the world exactly as I do. No one else has or will ever take my particular journey through adolescence. If I don’t tell my story, no matter how mundane, then who will?

Though it occasionally seems narcissistic or tedious to narrate my life for future reference, it also helps me to see things more clearly. In between the details of my everyday life-- what I did in school, or where I walked the dog, or how badly I overslept-- are things I can’t ignore. A prime example of this is my journal from much of sophomore year, which is preoccupied with a major shift that took place in my social life. When I read between the lines of my tenth grade year now, my gradual introduction to feminism jumps off the pages at me. Somewhere in the space of this year, I learned to see the world and my place in it in a completely different way.

My journal from the fall of tenth grade opens with a question. In a fit of frustration and confusion, I wrote, “I worry way too often that I’m bothering people… What do you do when everyone around you, even people you’re friends with, decide that irreverence is better than being considerate or the world?” From about October onwards, calendars appear-- self imposed periods of silence, counting days in between when I would speak to certain friends, for fear of seeming clingy or overly talkative. I had not yet heard of concepts like “taking up space” and “self-care.” In December 2014, a friend invited me to a meeting of my school’s GSA. Although I spent that first meeting in petrified silence, I continued attending. A few pages later, a quote appears, as a ‘thing to remember’: “my story matters, and it is as important as everybody else’s’.” As I internalized this hastily scrawled statement, the calendars became less frequent, disappearing altogether by March.

As I began to see my own life in the context of feminism, I started to see the rest of the world in the same way. Around the new year, I ranted, “we need to make sure that the world is a place where women aren’t at risk of violence from their intimate partners and are able to have kids AND work at the same time.” A few lines down, in another entry, I dissected my privilege for the first time in my documented life. In January, I noted, “The thing I was most proud of today was taking the opportunity to keep my brother from joining THE PATRIARCHY.” On May 9th, my only entry was a quote: “the woman who doesn’t need validation from anyone else is the most feared individual on the planet.” Ironically, I clearly remember being painfully aware of the way my own voice sounded on the page, and not liking it at all. I was somewhat disgusted with myself and my thoughts-- making it all the more vindicating to look back a year later and see that I was, in fact, going somewhere with my ramblings.

Writing makes me understand myself and the people in my life; it forces me to take things apart and process them differently, in a place outside my own head. I want to tell my story, and I want to understand why my life and the lives of others look the way they do-- what unspoken norms am I perpetuating or railing against? What knowledge did I possess or lack that made me act in a certain way? I want to give myself and others a fair hearing later on when I inevitably reconsider the various events in my life.

I want to find a meaning among all the minutiae, beyond classwork and extracurriculars and whatever shows up in my newsfeed. What was my raison d'etre, my reason to exist as I wrote this? Why was I embarrassed? What did my world look like when I made this list?  Why did I speak up, or remain silent? Were my fears justified? What changed after I acted? Writing my life helps me to understand how and why I change. It helps me to contextualize myself and those close to me in the wider world-- not just in this strange, somewhat detached bubble of high school, where greatness is frequently measured in “likes” to a photo or numbers on a transcript. I’m in the thick of “coming of age” and the college process-- what am I becoming a part of? If someone read this fifty years from now, what would they think my values were? Writing helps me see the bigger forces of my life that have shaped me and the world around me. If I write, I can see where I’ve come from as a person, and maybe I can even see where I’m going. 

This piece was written as part of JWA’s Rising Voices Fellowship.

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How to cite this page

Kubzansky, Caroline. "A Journalistic Odyssey: Or, Why I write obsessively." 7 June 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on November 29, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/risingvoices/journalistic-odyssey-or-why-i-write-obsessively>.

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