Journal Failures

The other day someone asked me if my blog is “about something or more like a journal.” I didn’t really know how to answer. Is it about something? Um, not really. It’s about…me, I guess. I suppose that would make this more of a journal. But I also don’t like thinking of it as “a journal” because of my long history of failing to keep journals.

When I was in second grade, I purchased a tiny diary with a lock at a book fair. The diary was pink with a ballet slipper on the front. The fact that I chose that particular style of diary confuses me now, as I don’t remember being much of a girly girl. But alas, maybe that was the aesthetic I was aiming for then. I wrote my deepest thoughts in that diary in pens of many different colors, as collecting a variety of pens with unnaturally hued inks was one of my main interests at the time.

At first, I vowed to write in my diary every night before I went to bed, which I did faithfully for a grand total of four days. After that, I found that I had a lot of trouble writing about the mundane. Over the next few years, I was compelled to write in the diary only when something big happened, like when my very first nemesis chased me around our playground – which was the parking lot for our school and church – and called me a “skinhead,” which led me to pretend that I was sick and spend the afternoon crying in our principal’s office. Or when I was angry at my family friend and had the sudden realization that she was “a BICH,” which I scrawled with gusto and then crossed out for fear that my mother, who I was convinced was reading my diary, would see that I had written a word that I wasn’t even supposed to know.

Eventually, I gave up writing in the ballet slipper diary. I found it years later, when I was fourteen and we were moving to a new house. I threw it out along with all the other notebooks that reminded me of my past selves.

The number of journals I started after that first one, I don’t think I could count. I followed the same pattern with all of them. I would write consistently for a few days, until the pressure to write every day became too much and I would set the journal aside entirely because I was so ashamed of my failure.

Then, in my junior year of high school, I discovered LiveJournal thanks to a group of my friends who published reliably “emo” laments and screeds on the platform. LiveJournal was the first place that I shared my thoughts and feelings for public consumption. I assumed that my friends were the only people who read my entries, which were appropriately dramatic for a seventeen-year old who spent a not insignificant amount of time driving around suburban New York alone, listening to Belle & Sebastian.

Many months into LiveJournaling, I found out that the college I’d applied to early decision had deferred my application. I was despondent. I was almost too embarrassed to write about what I deemed, at the time, to be my greatest failure. But I did it. I wrote a post about how I felt, in which I said that I deserved to get into this school just as much as anyone else.

It turned out that more people than my friends were interested in what I wrote. Days after I’d published that post, someone told me that they’d heard from another girl in our class that I had said that another girl who had also applied to the same school and was deferred didn’t deserve to get in. I was indignant. This wasn’t what I’d said at all. I was talking about myself. I tried to clarify this in another post, but that didn’t really matter. The damage had been done. I was irrevocably a bitch who talked shit about other people on her LiveJournal.

Though that was the only time I remember someone taking issue with words I’d posted on the internet, the same sort of “bitch” characterization occurred several times for me during that year. A few things I said in real life were either taken out of context or blown out of proportion. I accidentally made enemies just by being myself. I didn’t have “mean girl” status in high school. In fact, I didn’t think I had any status at all. I felt powerless when others called me names or said they hated me. I rarely defended myself, except to those who were on my side in the first place. When I wonder why it took me so long to develop my voice and to rid myself of any of the fear I’ve felt in exercising it, I have to think that this reinforcement of my self-consciousness had maybe a little bit to do with it.

After my LiveJournal incident, I posted less and less frequently, until I stopped posting altogether. I wouldn’t write anything personal to post on the internet again until I started this blog. (I’m not counting Facebook or Twitter because, well, I never really used those platforms to express sincere personal opinions or stories.) I did try keeping private journals again, with varying degrees of success.

I wrote in a journal when I studied abroad in Paris. At first, I recorded everything I did and felt, focusing mostly on my acute homesickness and broken-heartedness. Eventually, though, I became used to things in Paris. I was busy. I had made friends. I didn’t need the journal so much anymore. I wrote a few final entries during my last week, and when I got home to New York, one of the first things I did was stash it in the top drawer in my bedside table. When I opened it years later, I was too embarrassed by what I’d written to read it at all closely and threw it back in the drawer.

I procured another journal during my senior year of college, which I very faithfully wrote and drew in for months and months. When I stopped writing in it as much, I felt the same sort of anger at myself that I always did when I abandoned journals. But then, I just decided that I couldn’t put pressure on myself to write in it. I would use the journal when I needed it, when writing out my feelings made sense. This was extremely helpful during a period when I was trying to figure out “what I want to do with my life.”

I still have this journal, though I’ve mostly abandoned it like I have all of the others. It sits next to my bed, in a basket underneath my nightstand. I’ve crossed out the address in the front and written a new one three different times, not because I think I’m going to lose it, but to note the passage of time. I only open it these days when I feel that I need to write out how I’m feeling in a safe, private place. This has occurred only twice within the past year. Both of those entries were about men. I think the four previous entries were also about men. It’s effectively become a journal about my uneventful love life, which is something I don’t think I’ll write about in public until those non-events are well in the past.

When I first started writing here, I actually wondered how long it would take me to abandon Emphatic Hands. But I’ve been consistently posting for a year and a half now and am kind of shocked by my dedication. In a way, this blog has become my first successful journal. It’s also become my first successful blog. So…who really cares what it’s about? I’m just glad it’s still happening.



My history of publishing things on the internet is spotty at best. I was very dedicated to updating my AOL Hometown page, which I recall prominently featured a picture of Sailor Jupiter (of Sailor Moon fame), when I was in middle school. It was all downhill from there. I tried to start a movie quotes website in 7th grade – even though my parents still wouldn’t let me watch Rated R films – but never got around to actually putting any movie quotes on it. I have no idea if either of those sites still exists, but I hope that they don’t and I don’t plan on finding out if they do.

Honestly, I’ve never been that good at updating personal websites or internet profiles. (For evidence, please see here and here. However, I’ve more or less stayed on top of Twitter.)

I’ve had the same journal since my senior year of college, which I only feel like writing in after I’ve seen an ex-boyfriend or am annoyed by my parents because my emotional age is somewhere between 16 and 22. I also make a lot of lists in that journal. Of things I need to do, things I want to do, books I need to read, places I should travel, stories I should write. And then I never do anything on the list. Or like, I do one thing and then I forget about the list and when I come back to it weeks or months later I think ugh whyyyyy did I ever write this I knew I was never going to do anything. The one exception to this is my list of Time’s 100 Best Novels 1923-2005 (in 2009). My list only because I wrote it out in cursive and have (very neatly) crossed off each of the books I’ve finished since. I’m too lazy to go find it now but I’ve definitely read at least 20 of those books since the time I wrote it out. And I regularly consult it when I’m trying to decide what book to read next. However, I almost never end up reading anything on it now because I’m still upset/embarrassed about failing to finish The Golden Notebook.

And I guess that list is sort of related to the point of this first post. I think a mixture of laziness and self-consciousness has prevented me from starting and keeping a blog of any kind. BUT I don’t want to get too serious right away on here. (I’ll be honest, I was totally sober when I wrote the first sentence of this paragraph but I’ve had a couple glasses of prosecco now so I’m feeling less like public self-analysis?) I just want to state that I’m trying to make a change and would like commit to writing here consistently – for a while at least. And that’s mostly because I paid for and I don’t like to waste things I pay for. (I do go to the gym a lot more now that I pay for it.)

Here’s to hoping that the middle and end of this blog are as good – in the sense that I’ve already written a lot here – as the beginning.