As a woman- as a black woman- I have been taught to choose others.
I’m used to being the Helper, and often I even delight in the role, laboring emotionally
everyone but myself that is.
And then there’s my journal.
My journal has taken many forms over the course of my life from a black and white marble notebook to a dollar store composition notebook (always college ruled) to an orange Betsy Boop spiral notebook (7th grade) to my current one: a grey off brand gift from my grandmother with the words “Always Believe in the Beauty of Your Dreams” scrolled across the front cover.
The appearance of my journal has never really been my biggest concern; but the content of it- the blank lines that invite me to write my experiences, my dreams and my fears with the assurance of complete understanding and confidentiality- has always seemed like magic to me.
That simple invitation is a radical one.
It is an art I continuously try to master-
the practice of validating my voice over and over again until it becomes comfortable;
so similar to that slow, sinking discomfort you feel before you fully sink into a bath- and find safety.
Outside of the watchful eyes of my various oppressors (systemic racism, sexism, homophobia, and their children- respectability, insecurity, apathy) ….my journal remains undiscovered, creating a radical space for me to create without apology.
And I truly believe a journal can do that for you, too.
My journal, as a resistant space has offered:
That still quiet opportunity to be heard without backlash or question. I write, therefore I have watched myself grow into existence. When life gets difficult, when another black body is misused and abused, when understanding and acceptance is hard to find- there is always the adamant beckoning from my journal who reminds me that it’s okay to breathe. “You matter here.”
Unmonitored Creative Spirit
The other day I wrote a poem and broke all the rules, and it didn’t matter because my journal doesn’t judge. When I write in my journal, I am able to get it all out- the anger, the sadness, the confusion. Grammar and punctuation doesn’t matter there as long as you’re being authentic. Still- my favorite thing is going back and finding beautiful sentences that eventually become the life of the poetry and essays I write. They are raw, without censor, and completely mine.
On two fronts. 1st: My journal has become a living translator of what I like, and what I don’t like; what I need and don’t need; what pisses me off and what delights. This has become a ready compass, guiding me in my decision making. Teaching me to say no one line at a time. 2nd: When I write about the unfairness of the day and how much that person angers me, and how much I want something- my journal gently, but firmly, reminds me to check my privilege. It reminds me to see where I could have advocated better, and where I could have practiced more grace. Resistant space is healing space, and accountability is healing.
I come from a tradition of storytellers- family members sitting around and telling the same, recycled stories that remind us of who we are and where we came from. Ancestrally, my history in the United States has its roots in slavery where the first narratives written by African Americans were stories of being brought over, being forced to work, losing freedom, survival. My journals are the same.
They are stories of finding freedom;
they are odes to survival
and the validity of my existence.
And when I read them from the beginning to the end,
they allow me to see
how I have compromised,
how I have dreamed,
and how I am steadily growing into myself and my freedom one day at a time.
“This is my story, this is my song”
Questions to Ponder:
How will you use your journal as a place of resistance?
What is the first thing you will write about?