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Weekly Musings: The Magic of Old Notebooks

By way of my half-way existence between my parent’s house and my college town – a scenario familiar to many American college students, my things tend to be scattered in every direction.

My various boxes, bags and containers, all halfway unpacked with essentials, are ferried between homes every few months. While most people’s essentials consist of favorite clothes, toiletries and usually electronics, mine are more extensive. My six favorite books at the moment, my three different notebooks for thoughts and scribblings and my various magazines, torn-out pages, clippings, and photographs, are always part of my non-negotiable packing list.

I am one of those people that disproportionately lives in photos, memories and moments. My most essential items are those that bring me comfort and help me get lost in my head. I have always been this way, but during the pandemic, I am feeling extra thankful for my irrational packing.

Nostalgia is a familiar friend. A friend that stays up late with me, holding my hand. Even though I am more of a sporadic journaler, I have kept all of my journals. Going through them and reading what I was thinking at the time is one of my favorite things to do. Learning about my worries and my hopes, and how they measure up to my reality today, teaches me so much about myself and about the nature of life. I keep all of my pocket-sized notebooks with almost illegible scribbles of ideas, observations, and quotes from things I read. At one point, I actually kept a journal solely dedicated to quotes I liked.

Although I can’t deny the convenience of the Notes app on my iPhone, I am hesitant and resistant to using it for my musings, unless necessary. From my experience, every time I choose to leave behind a notebook and pen, I end up kicking myself for it later. There is something more connected about writing it out on paper. Running my fingers over what I wrote weeks, months, or years ago, transports me back to that place in a way that a digital note never could.

old notebooks

What’s most special about writing it out is finding it later. Every time I find a pile of old notebooks, there is a warm, familiar feeling in my chest – like home. My scribblings, my musings, my colorful torn-out magazine pages, and photographs of moments are my inspiration and my home.

I have always said that I haven’t really experienced homesickness. Sure, I have missed people – I have missed hugging my parents and petting our family cats. But it never felt like homesickness. I have never felt a desperate desire to go home. One reason is that growing up in a different country than most of my family, I know that you can still connect with family from a distance. The other reason is that I always have my home with me.

Never do I travel without at least one book and one notebook. Often there’s more than one of each. When I am sitting on the metro in a different country or laying on the grass of an unfamiliar park listening to an unfamiliar language, all I have to do is open my notebook to go home. The familiar scratch is like a hand placed in mine.

My notebooks full of thoughts are like Dorothy’s ruby red slippers – a chorus of there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home sounding out like a symphony, obscuring the real world around me. Words are my home.

old notebooks

Nestled in the curve of the tail of an “a,” I’m back in my childhood. My eyes peek around the stack of the 12 books I got at the library, life couldn’t get any better. The hushed calm of the library in summer explodes into the shrieks of children from the park next door. I woke up many nights to a book splayed across my face, the light still on. My summers were set to the backdrop of a green canopy and a summer breeze as the hammock swayed beneath me and the world I am consuming, page by page. This is what I see when I think home.

When I was young, it was the stories that consumed me. As I got older, words and phrases began to jump out at me. I was simultaneously afraid to mark up my books and afraid of forgetting the beautiful language that made me stop. From here, my scribbling blossomed. Now, I always keep sticky notes, tabs, and a small notebook and pen on my nightside table. One of my greatest irritations is reading a book and not having even a pencil near by.

old notebooks

Taking an afternoon last week to re-find and pour over my collections and notebooks, I found this quote. I copied this down from a poem I have forgotten the name of in the spring of 2019.

“And when the wheat you’ve known forever sours in the wrong wind and you smell it dying in those acres where you played, please know old towns we loved in matter, lovers matter.”

I was struck by the simple, wistful beauty of the phrase. It transported me back to a year during which I spent a lot of time in my head. That year was probably one of the hardest of my life. I didn’t recognize myself many times and constantly felt like I was drowning. I was struggling against waves of anxiety, desperately trying to rediscover the things that I loved. Really, I was trying to rediscover who I was because I didn’t know anymore. While I don’t think I ever rediscovered the girl I was looking for, I did rebuild her.

This one quote, sloppily jotted down in one of my notebooks, helped me to realize that I both needed and wanted a place to be more reflective and creative – to share my musings with others. This is the first of many musings on life that I hope to share here, for anyone else that may be feeling a need to connect.

My scribblings are who I am. They create a spark in me and remind me of the magic of words – the magic that tethers us all to each other and the world around us.