My freshman year in high school, I participated in a peer counseling program. The extensive training took place in a local hotel. The students who volunteered for the program, along with the faculty members involved, underwent eight hour sessions in counseling and therapy techniques for an entire week. At the end of my training, I could work in our campus “Rap Room” where other students could come in for confidential counseling. This multifaceted instruction knitted the peer counselors into a tight group as we learned about ourselves and each other. I don’t know if the teachers and administrators realized the depth of the therapy sessions we received, but that week profoundly affected my life. My goal to go to Texas A&M to eventually try for the veterinarian program altered forever into a love of studying behavior.
The peer counseling training impacted me in another way because during that week I met another student, a senior, who kept a journal. In the months that we set up our counseling program back on our campus, this other student shared her journals with me. Her provocative poetry and insightful musings amused me. I fell in love with the idea of recording my life, my feelings, and my interpretations—myself—into the pages of a spiral notebook. So back in 1972, I started my first journal. I wrote about everything and nothing. All of the disappointments of high school lay neatly recorded in these little unassuming spirals. All of my first attempts at poetry, often with explanations, reside within these pages. All of the self-doubts and insecurities of living alone, starting college, and falling in love live within these volumes. Somewhere along the line, I shifted from spiral notebooks to folders crammed with so much notebook paper that the brads barely punch through and fold back.
I never hid my journals, and occasionally I’d read a piece to my parents or a friend. Usually, my most current journal sat upon my desk for easy access in case I wanted to scribble down a thought or vent an emotion. The first time David came down to meet my family, I had to work. Being at loose ends, David decided to read my journal. My mother walked in and found him stretched across the bed, and stood in shocked silence. No one in our family would ever invade the private space of another family member, so to find David perusing my journals seemed wrong to her. David told me, of course, of his faux pas as soon as I returned home. Although I wasn’t upset, I don’t believe he’s ever picked up my journal since that one day.
Eventually, a friend witnessed me scribbling in one of my folders and asked about it. When I explained to her that I’d been journaling since high school, she decided the folders and spirals needed replacements, and she bought me my first bound journal as a Thank You gift. I remember holding the small volume in my hands, flipping through the colorful pages with their decorated corners. My fingers itched to write!
Last night, I started Volume 72 of my journal. Almost thirty-nine years (to the day) from when I composed my first entry. This volume wraps a giant marigold around the spine and over the front and back covers, exploding in bright orange and yellow. My pulse quickened as I put pen to virgin paper, and once I started writing I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop. I never know what thoughts and feelings my journals will hold. The unpredictability of life assures that this newest addition to my collection will center me through my heartbreaks and celebrate with me in my joys.
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman