I don’t have much in the way of accompanying words for this, and I assume that’s fine, given the nature of the photos. When I graduated from high school, one of my congratulatory gifts was a notebook with a lovely, gold-leafed world map motif all over the cover. I was 17, just back from my first trip abroad–Ghana, two and a half weeks, visiting an aunt and uncle–and had written in my Senior Will that the Peace Corps someplace vaguely far away was possibly in my future. Hardly a world traveler.
Even when I was a little kid, I wasn’t a consistent diary keeper. Not in the traditional sense, anyway; I wrote all the time, but whenever I tried to do “Dear Diary” every night, efforts sputtered and died a week or two in. (I’m still confused about why exactly I was under the illusion that all American girls in their single digits should be keeping Dear Diary tradition on a daily basis, but I’m choosing to split blame between Lindsay Lohan and the Olsen Twins.) I even tried keeping a time-stamped logbook once. No kidding, I carried some notebook or other around with me and tried to write down exactly what I did alongside exactly what time I did it. That lasted two days. I think I was nine?
But this new, gifted journal was so lovely that I had to at least give it a try. So I carried it everywhere with me, took notes in my–at the time–tiny handwriting, avoided writing feature-length, “this is what happened to me today” bits; rather, I finally let the thing be organic, let my brain curate the content it wanted to see written down or drawn out. It took me two years to fill it, but that world map book was the first in a series of ten-and-counting. I expect it to be eleven-and-counting by the time I mosey back to the States toward the end of this year. The methodology changes book by book; when I’m traveling, I do tend to write more specifically about the day-to-day, though when I’m living in one place for a longer amount of time (even when that place is Not America), it takes a much more sporadic, non-traditional form. In every case, I take notes on what I’m reading, things I find on the internet, things that friends say, things that strangers say, new vocabulary words. I enjoy the writing process so much more when it looks like more than just writing.
This has changed some, too, but in college especially, friends used to gather around these books and flip through them. They weren’t ever private, and I was keeping notes on things people said, hilarious bar nights, living room rants, so it never struck me as strange that people wanted to see how they’re remembered. Though that’s changing–new people, now when I already have an established system in place, assume that journals are private. They weren’t around when I was figuring out the system, so how could they know otherwise? But for my friends back home, especially, the ones who have known all ten books as they’ve slowly filled: this is some of what’s been happening in the last five months.
Together in all their glory (as of summer 2014, missing the two most recent.)