“This is ridiculous,” she thought to herself as she stared at the blank piece of paper in front of her. “I should just compose this using the computer.” She thought about sitting down in front of the keyboard as she gazed at the stationery she had selected that morning.
“I could compose the letter using the computer and, after I perfect it, copy it to the page in longhand,” she said to herself. “Dr. Nolan would never know.” With that, she pulled out a pad of ordinary lined paper from her desk and picked up the pen to begin writing.
She stopped just before the ink began to flow onto the page.
She would know that she had not completed the exercise in the manner Dr. Nolan advised. And that would be a problem. As silly and pointless as she tried to tell herself the assignment was, she could never lie to Dr. Nolan about how she completed it. Deep within herself she acknowledged its inherent value and understood precisely why Dr. Nolan had insisted that part of the exercise be the experience of actually sitting down with pen and paper to write about her feelings.
As she continued staring at the notepad, she was transported back to a simpler time when her life lay before her and she willingly spent countless hours engaging in just such an exercise. Relished it, in fact, as so many young women do.
She got the idea of keeping a diary from one of her best high school friends who was a fairly talented artist and carried an artist’s spiral-bound sketch book with her wherever she went. But that notebook also contained her friend’s innermost thoughts and feelings, punctuated by drawings — some in pencil, some in ink. One Friday night when she was sleeping over at her friend’s house, she picked up the notebook and thumbed through it, mesmerized by the eclectic combination of prose and art, along with newspaper and magazine articles, receipts, ticket stubs, napkins bearing half-finished sketches and notes, and even a couple of dried flowers clipped to the pages. She had never seen or imagined such a tangible extension of herself. The frenetic and chaotic collection of thoughts and dreams attracted and repelled her at the same time. It was intriguing, but, for reasons she could not articulate, frightening.
“What is all this stuff?” she exclaimed.
“Hey, leave that alone! That’s private!” her friend protested as she snatched the book away. “That’s my diary, silly! Don’t you have a diary?”
“I think one of my great aunts gave me a diary for Christmas once,” she replied. “It was a little book with gold on the edges and some kind of lock. I don’t know what happened to it.”
“You never wrote in it?”
“No,” she shrugged. “The pages were so pretty and my handwriting is ugly. Plus, I can never write in pen without making mistakes and I didn’t want to scratch things out on that nice paper. Besides, it was a book — the pages were bound together — and you can’t tear them out without leaving an edge. That would look tacky.”
“That’s just silly! It’s a diary. Who is going to read it? You,” her friend explained. “This book is full of scratch-outs and scribblings. That’s the whole point! Look at this page,” she said, holding the book open to reveal two pages of doodles, scribbles, sketches, and partial sentences that trailed off without ending. “This is one of my favorite pages because I wrote down all these ideas about paintings I want to complete and started a couple of poems. I finished one of them later. See?” Again, her friend flipped to a page packed with handwritten notes and strike-outs interspersed with pencil drawings.
“You should really try writing your feelings down,” her friend urged in a soft, soothing voice. “It would help you.”
“Do you really think so?” she asked hopefully. “What do you do? Just write?”
“Exactly,” her friend said encouragingly. “You just write whatever comes to mind. Write about what happened during the day, how you feel about it, what you want to do with your life . . . whatever! Tell you what . . .” her voice trailed off as she went to her desk, pulled open a drawer and produced a spiral notebook. “My mom bought me a bunch of these notebooks for school and I don’t need all of them. Why don’t you try it using this one? It’s a spiral notebook with lines, just like the ones you use at school. So you don’t have to worry about messing up a pretty book. If you don’t like what you write and want to start over, you can just tear out the page and no one will know. It also has holes already punched, so you can put it in your binder with your other notebooks and your mother will never notice it. So you won’t have to worry about her finding it and reading what you write.”
“Does your mother read your diary?” she exclaimed, horrified. “Would she do something like that?”
“No, you goofball. My mother wouldn’t. She’s cool. She’s the one who buys me the sketch books and got me started doing this because she has been writing in a diary since she was our age,” her friend assured her. “But your mother? You’ve told me before that she goes through your things and you have no privacy. So I think you’d better disguise your diary as a school notebook, just to be safe.”
“Yeah,” she sighed, remembering the many times she had come home from school to find her room tidy and all of her things rearranged. “If she knew what this notebook was, she would definitely read it.”
“Precisely,” her friend nodded confidently. “So why don’t you get started? We can both write in our diaries for awhile before we go to sleep.”
“O.K.” she mumbled with trepidation.
“What should it be tonight?” her friend asked as she walked toward the turntable. “The White Album or Abbey Road?”
“For this? Definitely Abbey Road. I want to hear ‘Something.'”
“Oh, that’s a great idea,” her friend agreed as she removed the record from the album sleeve and began cleaning it. “I could listen to Abbey Road all day every day. The guys should never have broken up. I hate Yoko Ono. It was all her fault, you know.”
As the familiar electric guitar introduction to “Something” filled the room, she opened the spiral notebook and began writing:
This is my new diary. I have never kept a diary before, but Em says I should. So I am going to write in this book every day and record all the things that happen to me so that I will be able to remember them many years from now when I am very old.
I am also going to write all my feelings down so that I remember them because they might change over the years. I hope they change.
When I am old and I read what I’m writing here now, I hope I will have figured out understand why I am so in love, but so unhappy. I always thought that when you meet someone and fall in love with them, you are supposed to feel happy. But I don’t. I am absolutely miserable and can’t seem to do anything to make myself feel better. I look forward to seeing him and dread seeing him, at the same time. How is that possible? Why is that?
Why is it that I am happy and have a great time until he comes near me, but even though I want him to come near me, when he does, I can’t ever think of anything to say or say the right thing in response to what he says. I get so nervous that I can’t look in his eyes when he talks to me. I feel like he is staring a hole right through me. I picked up a piece of paper in class the other day and my hand shook. I know he saw the paper shaking . . . it was so embarrassing. My hands never until I met him.
I was walking across campus the other day and when I turned and looked back, he was standing in the doorway watching me. I got so rattled that I stumbled over a little ridge in the sidewalk and almost fell. He saw me nearly trip and laughed at me.
I am a total klutz whenever he is around, but that’s the only time. The rest of the time, I’m fine and I don’t get nervous about much of anything.
I just don’t understand it.
Click here to read Chapter Three.