Thursday, May 10, 2012

My handy dandy journablog

There's irony in having a personal blog on the internet. On one hand there is the feeling of being completely alone. It's some time in the afternoon on a Thursday and I'm sitting in my room in utter silence save for the sound of my fingers clicking away on a keyboard, but aside from me no one else is here. Even if they were, the thoughts that are being exhumed from my fingers, little bits of information buried within the recesses of my mind, are mine alone. No one could see or hear or feel them. They're a secret.

On the other hand is the concept of being surrounded by judgment and by spectators. No matter how singular I feel when I write this, by the reasoning that I am sharing this on the internet, I am bound to have visitors. In fact, I instigate a readership by inviting people to read my blog on my Facebook. So this medium that is meant to share my innermost personal musings is actually an outlet for sharing with others.

That's why, when I spoke to my friend Dana the other day about how she's just gotten back into journaling, I started thinking about how I present myself on here. Is this like a journal? Is it a journal at all?

At the time, I said yes. This is a journal. I write every day, sometimes I ramble on about what I did on any given morning, afternoon or night. All of the thoughts are mine and they're mainly pieces of information that people don't already know about me.

The one difference between The Songs of Spring and my journal, besides the fact that I update one and not the other, is that in the former I'm censored and in the latter I'm incredibly forthcoming. This is to be expected, of course, when you're writing in a forum that is publicly accessible versus a book that is generally kept locked or under wraps so no one has a chance to see what it contains.

But I wonder, sometimes, if I leave out the most important information, some of the most essential to painting a full picture of me as a person. It could be because I worry I'll be judged. It could also be because writing about personal matters in an uncensored and unreflective way - which is how I usually write journals - wouldn't be interesting to readers.

I think my blog as a more sophisticated form of my childhood diary entries. I had this adorable little book that was given to me by, I think, my first grade teacher. As we left class she offered all the girls in the class diaries (the boys received something else, though I can't remember what), each equipped with a little paper box in the back that housed the key for opening it. This diary was made to be for secrets. It had a lock, it had a secret compartment, it was perfectly outfitted.

I didn't use the journal for my secrets, though. Looking back, one of my favorite entries comes from the day when I first blew a bubble from bubblegum. The entry read something like, "I blew a bubble from bubblegum today."

Other days I wrote about going to see a musical or visiting the Japanese grocery store Yaohan (now Mitsuwa), though I referred to it as "Yalhan." Everything was simple. Maybe I didn't have anything introspective or emotional to share. Or maybe I just didn't want to.

Journaling at that time wasn't much of a cathartic process. It was about documenting the day's events, however mundane. I would write really short, perhaps half-a-page long, entries that mentioned the highlight of the week followed by a "Love, Rachel."

In my pre-teens things became a bit more dramatic, as to be expected of any child that age. In fact, by the time I was 13 or so, none of my diary entries were about external experiences. You wouldn't catch me writing about my first time finding my way to classes in seventh grade or the trials of running for ASB Secretary in eighth grade (why on earth did I do that?). Instead, I wrote vague entries about feeling pride or disappointment, being treated kindly or bullied by my peers. But no one was given a name or much of a description, no event told with much detail.

The turn around from childhood to pre-teenhood involved me changing from a storyteller to a philosopher. Day after day, or whenever I thought about writing, I'd go on and on about my emotional problems. They were, in fact, always problems. Once you're 13 and your life is full of awkwardness and rejection, the only time you ever feel willing to sit down and write something out is when you need to let the feelings out, and the feelings are never good.

So yes, I started philosophizing about life, about how terrible I felt and how the only outlet for my angst was a stupid little book. The catch was that I hate philosophy.

It's difficult to go back and read those entries because they're so filled with darkness and depth-less pain. Never did I think to write about feeling excited for anything. The only time worth sitting down to write was when no one else would listen to me.

But journaling, and blogging actually, isn't about writing for the person who won't listen. It's for expressing thoughts and feelings accompanied by experiences and stories, regardless of who cares or read - but with a back-of-the-mind awareness that anyone could.

When I write in my blog, I'm trying to give myself something to look back on that makes sense in both an emotional and tangible way. At 30, if I'm returning back and reading about how depressing my day was, I'm not going to be able to connect the dots to what the problem was if there are no descriptions. And if I'm looking at an entry about going to Disneyland, how will I know if it was a good or a bad day there unless I explain it to myself in writing?

Still, I grapple with the problem of fearing openness, of reverting back to that little girl who journaled about bubblegum. When I do go to Disneyland, I write about something I've ruminated on for some time rather than recounting a particular experience while I was there on that particular day. So the story falls somewhere between my withholding childhood self and my divulging pre-teen incarnation.

In some ways, this blog is a perfect representation of who I am. It involves me in my natural environment (in front of a computer, har har) telling a story in the best way I know how. That's the most honest depiction of myself that I could create.

But when I re-read it, and when others do too, they must be aware of the fact - as they should be when reading anyone's public writings - that nothing is exactly like what they read on paper or screen. A journal is a great thing because it allows us to not be quite eloquent or thorough - we can choose whether we want to write about experiences or feelings - and still share thoughts without any hindrances. But a blog can be just as powerful, I think, with the right style and hook, with the right amount of tact and containment, but also with a great deal of honesty and passion.

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