"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Change Is Gonna Come

In August of 1995, when I was eighteen years old, I started a diary.  It was two weeks before I moved to Austin for college and I wrote about the big changes occurring in my life, such as my boyfriend’s new haircut.   The journal had a bouquet of flowers on the front cover and inside I placed a unicorn bookmark with a purple tassel and the inspiring message, “Anything is possible if only you believe.”  Don’t be jealous.

That journal became my closest friend and confidant during my freshman year at UT.  I chronicled the highlights and low points of my first year away from home in purple and green pen, bold underlines, multiple exclamation points, and tiny little hearts.  I even had a name for my alter ego (one which I am not willing to share with you… yet) and gave her the personality traits I so desperately wanted to see in myself at the time.  That girl got me through a lot of stuff. 

I have been keeping a journal ever since.

Fifteen and a half years later, there are twenty-four volumes of my handwritten ramblings standing on the bookshelf in my bedroom.  Twenty-four journals of various shapes, sizes, colors, and amount of wear filled with my passions, my break-ups, my brilliant ideas, and embarrassing moments.  At some point, I dropped the pretense of the alter ego, having finally merged the two of us together, back into one semi-whole being, but my method of communicating with myself remains amusingly consistent.  When I take the time to revisit that first flower-print journal, I can never decide if my astonishment comes from how much I have changed, or how much I have stayed the same.   If nothing else, the one thing we have in common is that we write.

Sometimes I write six pages a day.  Other times I go six weeks without writing a word.  But it’s always there, my latest volume, waiting for me, eager to listen when I return. Those journals are, more than any other thing I possess, ME.

And right now I feel like I am cheating on them.

It’s a common party topic or maybe a question on one of those email forwards so helpful for getting to know your friends:  Your house is on fire and you only have five minutes to get out.  What do you save?   Since everyone accepts that this party game comes with the convenient disclaimer that all of your loved ones and pets have already made it safely out and it is down to just you and your possessions, my answer has always been a no-brainer.  My journals.  I have always imagined myself scooping them up into my arms and dashing for the door, weighed down with all the triumphs, disasters, and dirty little secrets of my life.  I imagine the rest of my house going up in flames, and me feeling relief that at least my detailed description of the secret door in my favorite all-night coffee shop has been preserved. 

When asked, What would you save? no one ever says their blog.  Yes, yes, I know you don’t have to rescue a blog.  It’s on the internet.  It’s in “the cloud”.  I get it.  But the idea of having something to save, of picking up something that could be killed by fire and holding it to your chest and running away with it scorched and smelling like burning paper, of clutching it to your heart like a piece of yourself that’s been wounded… that means something to me.   And the fact that I am typing in front of a computer screen right now and not huddled up somewhere with an open book on my lap and a pen gripped between my fingers and the feel of paper beneath my palm, the sight of the little glob of ink that forms when I press down too hard on a comma… makes me feel like I am losing a part of myself.  I like running my hand across a page I have written and feeling the indentations of my thoughts, a kind of Braille that only I can read.  The computer screen offers no such tangible comforts.

Having said that, I feel like I am ready to take my first step into the world of online journaling.

My name is Carie.  And this is my blog.


  1. I know I probably only have two readers right now, but I still welcome your comments. :)

  2. funny what you said about cheating. I feel guilty about TOTALLY neglecting my journal (which is now over 2300 pages) because of my damn blog. Any interesting thought I have is now a tweet. Any decent piece of writing between 500-1200 words becomes a blog entry. It's now a major effort to get back to my trusty rusty journal. In fact, the only reason I opened my laptop just now was to FORCE myself to write in my journal and what did I do? I read your blog and I'm commenting. sigh.
    good luck with yours carie. Maybe they can live in harmony :)

  3. I like your blog cous cous. I may not have time to keep up with it due to Miss Lyla, but I will check in and say a word or two here and there!I miss writing in my journal. I was never as diligent at you but I do love going back and reading my entries- which I have not done sincei moved last.. i always see them when i move and open up the box and read them. Mostly about boy drama.. haha. You know, I don't even know where my journals are.. how sad.I know the box in the attic but not even sure which box it is anymore. :(
    remember when we would go to coffee shops and "journal" :) those are some of the best.

  4. I'm going to guess that your alter ego's name was Karie Ceona Linder. She is tall, and portly and has short curly red hair. I think I just described Little Orphan Annie at age 34. Coincidentally, Darcy found my journal from college on Saturday. I hope to blog more regularly, however, it's been an uphill battle for me. Us engineering types aren't fond of documentation.

  5. You're totally right. Now my alias is Larie Jeona Cuettner.

  6. Mrs. Juettners ex studentNovember 24, 2012 at 9:57 AM

    Hi Mrs. Juettner! I can't believe your not teaching anymore!! I hope you're enjoying writing! Your still my favorite teacher! :)