Scenes from a Notebook

I have kept a notebook since middle school. Well, when I was in middle school it was loose leaf in a three-ring binder -- but it counts, right? Filled with writing and woe-is-me, I'm sure those pages are somewhere. Since I teach middle school...I really don't want to go back to my middle school writing...

Like, it'll hurt...all those misspellings and grammatical errors...

Since I relive it everyday, trying to help all them hormonal youngsters navigate their lives, I don't need to remember what I was thinking while blindly traipsing through my pre-teen years. I was incredibly unpopular and bullied. I don't want to relive that. It's hard enough knowing that I can watch myself in awkward clips on my own YouTube channel.

Regardless of the awkward, one of my biggest lessons for my students, along with strong writing, design and photography, is that one should just be themselves.

While I don't necessarily come out and say, "be yourself and don't be afraid to be yourself," I use the age-old art of showing and not telling.

I'm a disaster in the classroom. I say weird things. I trip and fall. My oddball sense of humor gets the best of me. I laugh at my own jokes. I wear weird clothes (at least, weird to them). I'm me. I want them to understand that being themselves is the best thing ever. The best. No matter what.

By being super-weird, I set the example that caring what others think should not be on their radar.

There's nothing stronger than the meme-ism of "you do you."

(Tangent, much?)

Back to my notebook: for years, almost decades, it was about me being a writer. About spilling all the words out onto the page. Those notebooks took the forms of different spiral notebooks, and I wrote about life, but I also wrote my fiction. For years.

One day, at Half-Priced Books, I came across giant black notebooks, 8.5 x 11 inches, and they had completely blank pages on the inside. I bought all of them, and not only did I focus on writing, but I started to draw in those notebooks.

My addiction to Crayola also grew.

And my notebooks began to take on a visual form -- not only was it about the writing, it was about the way it looked.

And then, all of sudden, my words dried up. Keeping a notebook (or journal for some of you) was too much. Writing about the anxiety didn't help the anxiety, and that's all I was doing...

I brooded.

It didn't help. Instead, it turned my mind into a magnifying glass, enlarging all of the things. Any bitter edge within me sharpened within the pages of said notebook.

So, I stepped away, and wrote less and less.

As Instagram became a boon, I saw people post their piles of notebooks.

"I wrote in all of these within ONE year, suckahs!"

It made me look at my latest notebooks that took me two years to finish.

"Comparison is the thief of joy," I told myself. Those writers are their own disasters. It's fine. Really.

And it was, because while I wasn't keeping a notebook, I was posting on my website.

"You have a pile of notebooks, but do you have your own URL?"

Then, enter 2018: the most wordless year ever.

Barely any new writing.

The thought of writing mostly terrified me. Terrified -- like, to the point of anxiety. It haunts me still.

"Just do it," the Nike swoosh tells me.

So, I did, but words didn't come out.

Instead, it was images.

There's a reason art and images spoke to me more this year, than words, but that's another story.

What matters is that I cracked opened my notebook this year in away I have never cracked opened my notebook.

I gave myself permission to stop writing in the damn thing.

I gave myself permission to realize that I might also be a bit of an illustrator.

I come from a family of artists, and while I still love the written word, I'm not too shabby with the drawing-thing, either.

The notebook is no longer angry and angsty. Now, it's vibrant. It has gained a sense of humor.