“Journal” for Me
Dad: I had never kept a journal before. So, it starts during the summer of my senior year–
Liza: Ohhh, okay.
Dad: And it starts as, I think, a letter to my highschool girlfriend.
Liza: Oh, haha…
Dad: And I start out by saying, I’m not sure whether this is to be a letter to you or just a quote-unquote “journal” for me!
Dad: I’m not really sure what the quote-unquote part means…But I think I’ll send it to you.
Liza narration: My dad (David) started writing in his journal for the first time when he entered college. He never sent it to his girlfriend after all; he found it in the bottom of a storage bin this year, forty years later.
Growing up, Dad and his family spoke in a vocabulary of optimism, smoothing over mistakes and imperfections. But Dad was nervous to start college.
MUSIC BREAK (NATURE KID)
Dad: Now I’m writing to you for a number of reasons. First, I want to think about what’s going on around here, and I can best think to myself when I’m speaking slash writing to others. Secondly, I want to try and consider what I feel slash think about our relationship. And thirdly–Okay, this is like so utterly cringe inducing!
Dad: And thirdly, I would rather do the two above on the record so I can look back at this in the future. Oh my god, HERE WE ARE!
Since I’m writing, I might as well write to you so you can both know what I’m thinking and feeling, and so I don’t have to spend hours upon my return to you trying to explain what I’m thinking now. Is this coherent, question mark? Okay that’s the first paragraph. LAUGHS
Liza narration: I write in my journal every night at college, and every entry starts with the same words. At the top of the page, I write the phrase, Scared of, dot dot dot. Then I list every fear I can think of.
Most nights, my fears fill at least a whole page.
Liza journal: Scared of being uninformed, bad dreams, falling away into the moment, scared of aging, scared of scary people (page turns)
Liza narration: I used to journal in full sentences, fleshed-out stories, highlighting the features of my day like a resume. But journaling that way felt too much like applying for an internship. So at college–every day here packed with checklists and people time–I started journaling in fears instead. Mistakes, questions without answers, anything that doesn’t make sense.
Writing my fears down doesn’t make them go away. They’re all on the page, documented, real. Not less scary, but more concrete. After I name every bullet point, I can put my fears to bed for the night–because I know what to call them.
Liza journal: Scared of the word entrenched, scared of the word deficit and all it stands for, scared of the word relapse.
Scared of fears–THE FEAR with a capital F (page turns), scared of the TOO MUCH–I don’t know what that is.
Liza narration: Like Dad’s journal, mine is full of angst.
Dad: Alright so now it’s August 24th. And it says, First writing from Brown, then in parentheses, FWFB. Which I think was witty? Like, First writing from Brown, FWFB.
Liza and Dad: Oh, it stands for “first writing from Brown!”
Dad: It’s a genre! Okay: It’s 11am on the 24th, a Sunday, and the halls are very quiet because everyone partied last night until quite late, and is therefore sleeping late. So, a recount of the past almost-two weeks, DOT DOT DOT. I arrived late on the afternoon, early evening of the 11th, and got to my room, and met John and Keith across the hall; endured the first evening without much event.
My second day was painful. I was, and perhaps still am, quite upset and depressed that the transition to quote unquote “college life” was not to be given to me on a silver platter, but was instead something which I would have to make for myself.
Liza and Dad: Oh!!!!
Liza narration: Dad and I both spend most days ready to report on everything good. I catch myself doing it on the phone with him: smoothing over the edges, telling and retelling glowing stories. Maybe it’s an inherited trait.
So when we journal, we try to figure out what’s really going on here.
Dad: For the first time in a long time in memory I think, I was put into a situation of not knowing anyone and having to make acquaintances—I just wanna point out that “anyone” is underlined and “make” is underlined—and having to make acquaintances and try to find friends! Oh…
Dad: …The trouble with that, being that while one can meet people, one can’t really become real friends in one night! And so I was really very lonely. More than that however, I was put into an unreasonably new situation—new environment, new people, new lifestyle. The recurring thought which nagged me was the absence–okay, again in quotes–“the absence of the luxuries of home,” end-quote. (CHUCKLES) Not only the luxuries of privacy, good food, good discussion, et cetera, but also the luxuries of such wonderful friends, really GOOD friends, with good underlined. For some reason I had expectations of Brown being a school of unbelievable individuals, no mediocrity, and that I would therefore have no problems adjusting, being far too interested and fascinated by the abundance of good people. Instead, I found the same normal people I found at home. Nothing exceptional; at least, nothing outstanding. And yet, I did see people making friends, having a great time together, and so obviously something was wrong with me, not with the environment!
Liza and Dad: OH!
MUSIC BREAK (GENTLE MARIMBAS)
Liza: Second semester of freshman year, Dad repurposed his journal as a project for his Philosophy 8 class. He titled it a “journal of thoughts and ideas”; when he turned it in to his professor at the end of the semester, he felt proud. Then came summer.
Dad: I got my commented journal back from Juan E. DePasquale. And I remember I was crestfallen because I thought it was like a journal of utter profundity, and I think he wrote back saying that, you know, he thought it was rather self indulgent. LAUGHS. Who’d a thunk?
SMALL MUSIC BREAK (GENTLE MARIMBAS)
Liza: Maybe self indulgent is exactly what Dad needed his journal to be, even if his “thoughts and ideas” weren’t breaking new philosophical ground. A little cringey, sometimes a lot cringey–but letting himself journal alone, I think Dad was being kind to himself. (pause)
The fears in my journal don’t belong at the dining hall table because I wouldn’t know how to say them out loud.
Scared of…self centeredness, um, coldiness, being behind, the complexity of communication, changing friend dynamics
Scared of zoning out, scared of blandness
Scared of not doing enough
Doing too much;
Scared of the jitters and inner what ifs and reminders; scared of balance or lack thereof; scared of commitment; scared of a lack of motivation.
Okay, here, I was writing about a boy, I wrote: In many ways immensely grateful and yet, YOU KNOW
Scared of food sometimes, scared of work sometimes, scared of the future, scared of all the things
Brain freeze moments
That was a big night – oh I remember, I think I wrote that at like 4am… PAGE TURNING
Liza narration: Dad doesn’t journal anymore. As he got older, he found other ways to understand what’s going on around him at the end of the day. For a while, that space was therapy. Now, that space feels more fluid in his life. It could be the kitchen with Mom, email exchanges peppered with all-caps words and dot-dot-dots, or marathon phone calls with a college friend. (pause) It could be his own head.
This semester, I expanded my journal routine. After my fears, I draw a plus sign–and I list things I want to remember. Meals, one-liners, gossip, lingering questions, songs that stick. It’s become a way to remind myself, this is real too.
MUSIC FADE OUT (ALPHABET SOUP)