Sometimes I think writing is stupid.
Who am I to make any claim that might last?
Books Four, Five, and Six April 1997 - Jan. 1998
It’s true that I have an unflattering need to be right. (Ask my husband about Genie Passes at Disney World.) And being right in the moment is one thing (I was right about the Genie Passes) but being right over time and in print is another. I suspect that wastebaskets fill across the planet and documents get deleted and many many plays and books and blogs go unwritten because why would any of us put anything in writing? Leaving proof of how wrong we might be. Are. Were. Are.
I want a stamp that reads:
I’ll put these words here, but I don’t promise to agree with them later.
- - -
At the end of Summer ‘97, I moved to Chicago and my college boyfriend and I broke up. Journals four, five, and six cover this period in my life, and rereading them has been… unpleasant. So much was left unresolved, merely thinking about that breakup resurrects the anger and righteousness of a much younger and misunderstood, broken-hearted me.
To me, my move to Chicago was a way for me to pursue acting while my boyfriend finished school, and then after a year apart we would sync back up and move somewhere together. He never got on board with my plan and by the time the U-haul was packed we were wordlessly over, neither of us willing to verbally break up with the other.
I’d hoped my journals would tell me that I was right to leave, I was right to pursue, and my boyfriend should have supported my choice dammit. But page after page of sadness and regret prove instead that a younger me believed she had been wrong. That her move caused a break up which caused all sorts of pain. That things could have been different. Better. Different.
- - -
One could just ignore these journals.
One could burn them without reading.
One could have thrown these notebooks away years ago.
But not me…
The original heartbreak was more than enough, but then I wrote it about it daily (I cannot accurately communicate to you how much handwriting and how many pages I dedicated to my feelings for this young man), reread it decades later, took notes on the three books, and now I’m reviewing the notes to write this entry. Cue the anger and righteousness. Cue the bonfire.
- - -
Over time, the whole thing became nothing more than a love story from my past. It’s a good love story, but only because much of it is myth. He could tell you his 25-year-old version of it, and I could tell you mine (with supporting hand-written materials), and you could try to work out some version of accuracy.
… and she also wrote 500 pages on the matter.
- - -
Now consider this: while 23-Me was moaning into my journals about the lost love of her past, she also wrote down some dreams for her future. She wrote that she wanted an apprenticeship at The Actors Theatre of Louisville (came true a year later); she wanted to tour with Shenandoah Shakespeare Express (came true ten years later after the company had renamed themselves American Shakespeare Center); she wrote that she wanted to live and pursue acting in New York (came true, been here for twenty years.)
The heartbreak I expressed in my journals was accurate,
but the tragedy of it was not.
In case I’d been romanticizing a relationship that didn’t work out, the books are there to remind me why it didn’t. In case I‘d been regretting my decision to follow my calling the way I did, the books are there to trace nearly all of my successes –big and small– back to that turning point. My move to Chicago was the single most defining action of my adult life. It was there that I met the two most influential people of my career (see “dreams for her future” above), and through them I met and worked with the dozens of actors and artists and audience members who have shaped my life and become my community.
So maybe writing isn’t stupid.
Maybe there is power in writing out the words in our heads.
Maybe making a claim that will last is the first step to manifesting a dream.
Everything documented is dated. And everything dated is at least partially ignorant. It can’t know more than it knows in the present. Every time I’ve been false I’ve also been true. Every time I’ve been wrong, I’ve also been right. Or both. Or neither. But I was probably right. ;)
PS. When my ex-boyfriend and I connected for the first time in 25 years during the dark days of the worst of Covid-19…
How are things in New York?
What grades are your kids in?
How are you holding up?
… we eventually got to talking about the breakup, and if was to I to blame for having moved. And it felt really, really, righteously good to be able to say, “No I’m pretty sure I sent you a letter from Chicago trying to reconnect but you never responded. I have the whole thing in my journal.”
Other Noteworthy Content:
One Thanksgiving Day, 1997, I noted that I’d been journaling for a year. And then I wrote this, “I think I’ll be able to go back and read some journal entries. Now that it’s been over a year since I started them. It’s always a little startling to read my entries. They always sound more formal than I intended them to.”
Book Five has a blue and green striped canvas cover and the inscription on the inside cover is from my Dad. (See photo below.) He gave it to me as a gift in 1984. It was almost entirely blank when I started journaling into it in 1997. I love that book.
I continued to record the dreams I had of my sister: “I had a dream about Katie last night. …I was in her apartment She was packing things up to leave and it was so bare, I couldn’t recognize it. I remember thinking that in a big apartment building her spirit could get lost and sometimes she would get into the wrong people’s dreams.” And, “I had a dream that Katie resurrected. … people kept asking what was new with our family and we were a little embarrassed to tell them. A lot of people knew she had been in an accident, but no one really understood that she died and then came back.”
Of the Chicago weather: “It’s so dreary outside. The snow is heavy and wet. It’s not extremely cold, but it’s sloppy. It’s not easy to cart all this shit around when the weather’s so crappy. I am a girl with shit.”
12-26-1997 “Chicago is nice, but in my mind, Chicago is still one great big hassle. There is no day off, no vacation time. It’s just me plowing ahead and getting older. And what do I have to show for it? What good am I at this point?”
Holy shit, that is exactly the kind of thing I think and write now in 2023.
“My two favorite words right now are transcendence and quest.”