There was a time which everything I wrote was for me, and only me. I never had a public journal. I did take creative writing classes and when I did this, I thought about the different types of audiences I would have. I would create accordingly, if it was necessary to do so, but never in a way which censored what I was thinking or feeling or the character I was creating.
I wrote stories and completed writing exercises for class. I carried a journal around with me which I penned feelings while sipping on coffee in cafes during the college years and later my journal would continue to be a faithful companion as I never left the apartment or hostel without it when I travelled and began living abroad. I wrote poetry — yes it’s true! — thoughts, and feelings, creating pictures of what I was experiencing. There was no one to judge me and all that was inside because it was for my viewing only. I never shared what was inside those pages with anyone.
I met Ali. I remember writing at a cafe about him when he walked up to me on Tioman Island to say goodbye before he headed back to the mainland. He had his journal in hand. The next time I saw him, two days later at the bus station in KL he was heading back to the port near Tioman to retrace he steps because he had lost his journal. I was devastated for him as I could not imagine losing something so precious to me. He saw it as a letting go and a time for new beginnings. But that is his story to tell, not mine.
I continued to write in journals and create snipits of stories or record dreams in notebooks close at hand on my bedside table or snug in my bag. I also created files of new, unfinished creative works on my computer. Every time I went back to see my mom in Michigan, I left journals that had been filled while living and travelling abroad for safe keeping in her hopechest with the rest of my journals. They date back to the third grade. I was seven or eight years old and had just started my first diary which my Aunt Colleen had given me, with a padlock and key to keep my secrets safe. I remember my breasts had started to grow, yes, already at eight! and my mom told me to record these things and other events like it so that I would remember what if felt like when I looked back on it years later. I look forward to when I do, even though somehow I still hold it close in my memory.
Ali arrived in Bangkok and after spending some weeks discovering each other, a lot of letting go and deciding to take some risks in the heart department, we decided to travel together throughout SEAsia. We started in Vietnam, where I met him there after teaching summer school and he had a head start travelling in one of my most favourite places to visit, having been there three times in total. We were still getting to know each other which is fairly full on when you are travelling together and we both took a pen and our journal with us everywhere we went. When we weren’t reading, playing cards, talking, laughing, etc. we were just being together and writing. We both loved to write and this was very important for me because as much as I love spending time with my favourite people, I also need time to myself. I am like my mother in this way. Being with Ali was no exception so I was happy that he too could spend hours in thought and writing.
So we wrote. And we shared. We eagerly shared our feelings with each other. Our observations. Our insecurities. Our thoughts and reactions. Our journals. We shared ourselves with each other, a place I had never shared with anyone before, was opened to him. Over time it seemed that when I wrote I knew he would read it. And for him it was the same. It could be said that there were also moments when we still needed a quiet place within ourselves to reflect only with ourselves. Although this was true, we continued to write and we continued to share.
We travelled back to Bangkok. On to Myanmar. Then into India and Nepal and back to India. It was in India that I first began a blog, with Ali’s encouragement as blogging was new back then, now as common as a mobile phone. I went back to Michigan before heading to Nazareth to meet him there. It’s all in the archives. But a large chunk of our travels still exists only in notebooks and journals. One of my goals is to revisit some of this writing and create something concrete from it. And of course, post it to the public forum. A variety of public forums.
I have an online journal. I am aware of many people that read it and knowing this can entice me to censor my thoughts and feelings and even how I would describe a situation, a memory. I don’t want to do this. And as it is one of my goals to write more often and of substance, it is also one of my goals not to censor because of how someone reading this might react to the honesty within myself. And so far, I think I am doing OK.
I’ve been writing on paper again too. I have the Mslexia Planner again this year and I am utilising the blank pages in the back. I am trying to get in touch with my surroundings again, note where I am and who is around me, much like I did when travelling. For although I am living in a country where I speak and read the language, I am surrounded by diversity and I am living in a culture different from my own. It’s easy to forget when I am in the middle of daily routines. But I want to remember. And most of all, I want to write.