"Something Worth Reading": A Guest Post by Jessica Byam

Get a notebook, a journal that will last through all time, and maybe the angels may quote from it for eternity.  - Spencer W. Kimball
My mother gave me my first journal for my 9th birthday. It took me 7 years to fill it, and up until the very end, it consists of little more than a girl’s dreams of ponies and confessions of school yard crushes.

But I was 15 years old when my infant brother was born and died, and suddenly I had something important to write about. He lived for 4 hours—such a short time for such a beautiful soul—and I wanted to remember every minute with him. It was this brush with heaven, this first real exposure to the fleeting nature of human life that convinced me that I needed to make a record of the people and events that shape my own.

I am 25 years old now, and the attic of my parents’ house is stacked to the rafters with my words, which they are kind enough to store for me until I convince my gypsy heart to set up permanent residence somewhere.

Those volumes are quite literally the story of my life. They are filled with the fear and excitement of a young girl leaving home for the first time to attend school 2,000 miles away. They chronicle my time in AmeriCorps, where my view of the world was turned on its head and I discovered myself through forgetting myself. They tell of my first love, my first heart break, and of daring to love again. They bear witness of friendships formed in times of happy abandon and tested by time and distance, and of strangers who existed in my world for only a moment but changed my life forever.

My grandmother is starting to have trouble remembering things, but I once had the opportunity to read a journal she kept while bicycling across New York state as a teenager. She had never told me about this adventure before, and I fell in love with her voice as I read the little limericks she wrote about her traveling companions and described the hostels they stayed in. In an entry dated July 4th, she wrote about how proud she was to be an American and how grateful she was for the freedoms that granted her. Her words were simple, but they inspired me.

Journaling is a way to capture the ephemeral nature of life and hand it to those who inherit what we leave behind. If I ever get around to having posterity, I hope that I have left them something worth reading.

What about you? Do you journal? What inspires or compels you to record your life?

(And thank you for having me, Annie!)

5 comment(s):

Claire Kiefer said...

You know what's funny? I am a writer and went to graduate school for creative writing, and I have so much trouble writing in journals. I have a journal, but I put too much pressure on myself for it to sound good, important, and memorable. Which is so silly! But I can't help but imagine future grandkids reading my journal, and then it inhibits what I want to write.

I need a way to overcome this, cause it's so freeing to write, especially just for yourself.

Rachelle said...

Oh excellent! Journalling is near and dear to my heart. I've kept journals for most of my life although I have to say I've not held onto many of them. My past is, for the most part, something best left there.

I don't journal on paper as much these days, preferring to use http://750words.com but the idea is the same. Uncensored, unedited me.

Unknown said...

Great post, Jess! I religiously maintained journals all through high school and early college, but then work and grad school got in the way and I (sadly) dropped the habit. I still miss it -- like you, I've got a dusty stack of old journals standing guard in my attic. But I guess blogging is a new kind of journaling, in a way -- only much, much more public. ;)

Thanks again for being my guest poster, Jess!

Claire Kiefer said...

Also, normally I scoff at self-promotion, but this giveaway is so up your alley (literary jewelry):

Diana said...

very sweet guest post. Journaling is a great therapy.