This week, if you can bear with me, I’m talking about some of the notebooks I have on my desk here at the newspaper office.
Even in the digital age, having a fresh supply of paper to scrawl down details of news events and interviews should be par for the course for any journalist. And it is, for me. But that isn’t the only kind of notebook I have in my office space.
For starters, I’ve got two journals.
One is a general journal that helps me detail and work my way through my experiences here at the office. It’s got everything from relief at having completed an assignment to frustration at having to endure a difficult day. There are a number of pages cataloguing my on-line activity, in an effort to make the best use of every minute I spend in front of my computer. And there are a lot of prayers written in it, as well.
The other journal is different. It’s my Blessings Journal. As often as possible, I write down at least one positive thing, and possibly more, that God has put into my life.
Like my basic standalone journal, it’s occasionally come out of the office – there are entries written at home and scribbles from locations as varied as Souris, Prince Edward Island and southern Jamaica. When I’m feeling down, or even when I’m not, it’s extremely helpful to look through my Blessings Journal and realize just how many reasons I have to thank God on a daily basis.
As I write this column, there’s another notebook sitting on the desk next to me. I found it a couple of weeks ago, when I was looking for something else in a box that I brought back from my parents’ basement last summer. This notebook goes all the way back to the late ‘80s, when I was still in high school and undergoing a number of life-changing experiences.
It’s not a journal. I was journaling nightly at that point of my life, but this is a little more raw and real.
For example, there are dozens of pencil sketches for editorial cartoons that I was submitting to The Reporter in my last two years of high school and my first year of university. (Since we’re talking about the late ‘80s, of course Brian Mulroney and John Buchanan show up frequently.)
There are also several poems, song lyrics and musical parodies, none of them especially profound – the stuff of adolescent fascination and frustration. Two poems are about my efforts to stop biting my fingernails. (The struggle continues, over a quarter-century later.) One is about my rotating infatuation with three of my female high school classmates and a redheaded pen pal from New Jersey.
There’s a reworking of The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy For The Devil” for the birthday of my St. Peter’s District High School drama teacher, Keith MacDonald, as well as several designs for a logo for the St. Peter’s District High Drama Club. Also included: Exceptionally bad spoof lyrics of REM’s “Stand,” Roy Orbison’s “You Got It” and the Boy Meets Girl hit “Waiting For A Star To Fall” (“Waiting For My Car To Stall”).
This particular notebook is also special to me because it contains 75 autographs and messages from people I met at the week-long youth forum Encounters With Canada at Ottawa’s Terry Fox Centre during the fall of 1989. It’s utterly surreal to look back through those enthusiastic youthful scribblings, especially when I realize that I’m still friends to this day with six of those people.
Well, actually, seven. One of those Encounters friends succumbed to pancreatic cancer just over three years ago. Re-reading her 1989 note to me last week, I was moved by her request to “look up always; I have faith in you.” (It’s just a few pages away from her favourite of my cartoons, depicting a mermaid, a centaur, a vampire and a werewolf grousing about using anabolic steroids “for veterinary use only” in the aftermath of the Ben Johnson doping scandal.)
Finding that notebook last week was the emotional equivalent of turning me into an hourglass, then flipping me upside-down and quickly returning me to an upright position. It felt like the sands of time were filtering through my psyche, even though I have few regrets about my high school days and even less desire to try to turn back the clock to that point of my life.
But I feel like it was a positive experience for me to take that brief trip to the past, just as it is for me to continue journaling and counting my blessings today.
Give it a try yourself – the results might just surprise you.