I was trying to figure out why it was so difficult for me to post anything about my excursions or experiences of the past several weeks, besides just my lack of time and my utter exhaustion at the end of every day (resulting in a 9:45pm bedtime. I’m pretty sure that’s earlier than my 6yo sister’s). I feel that there’s a time for the words to come, but right now is not it. Right now I’m just trying to take care of myself and my psyche, and this weekend is dedicated to figuring out just how to do that. And I’ve discovered something that everyone, it seems, already knew—that writing is the most helpful way to keep yourself together.
[My first instinct is to apologize for the fact that this post is not strictly about travel, but I’m not going to do that. This is, no matter what it is labelled, a personal blog; it is meant not only to document my experiences, but to allow me an outlet for my thoughts while I’m away from home. If you think it’s a waste of time to continue down the page or that it’s overly sentimental, you can leave. Besides, this post does concern travel and that horrible mood-swing sine curve that accompanies it.]
I never really understood the purpose of keeping a journal. I’d tried it, of course: I would keep up with it for a couple of weeks, rip out the pages, spend more time doodling than writing words, re-read my old entries with disdain and self-loathing and criticize the 11yo-Sophie’s “tone” and “style,” and all the while more and more empty journals that I’d received as Christmas and birthday presents were piling up on my bookshelf, unused and unloved, in my room. Half the reason I preferred drawing to reading was because I was so afraid to be ashamed of what I’d written later on, whether they were preteen feelings that would soon seem juvenile or stories that would, in hindsight, sound unsophisticated and utterly devoid of meaning.
I’ve since realized (or, more accurately, been taught by others) that all of this self-criticism and holding oneself to impossible standards is extraordinarily unhealthy and only leads to failure and an inability to improve at all. But this realization still didn’t allow me to understand why people write their thoughts down on a daily basis. Even though I knew how to journal, I didn’t understand why I should. And “why” has always been an important question for me. If I can’t see the purpose, it’s hard to bring myself to care. (This explains all of my grades in Econ.)
And finally, this morning, I took out my most recent notebook purchase and spilled at least six pages’ worth of my consciousness onto its pink, flowery pages. I understand now—not just know intellectually—but understand why people write. A journal is a way to articulate your ideas, to converse with something that will listen when you have no one else, to write down your confessions, suspicions, and fears (and right now, of course, I have a lot of those) without threat of judgment, to organize the thoughts that are strewn messily about your brain, and to build an arsenal of verbal reinforcements to strengthen yourself and power through the day, or week, or even the next couple of hours. (Tori Amos also helps with this. And not thanks to Spotify, which won’t work since I’m not in the US anymore and which refuses to let me change my country profile.) When people say they “write because they have to,” it’s not because the god of written word is compelling them to drag their pen across the page. It’s because they would go insane if they didn’t transfer the words from brain to paper.
So now I understand why people write. And maybe, after writing this post, I will be able to gather the thoughts in my head and finish writing about something that’s probably more interesting to the rest of you. But this weekend I’ve had to slow life down to a crawl and spend it inside, drinking tons of caffeine and still sleeping all day, doing my homework, and watching Sherlock in Russian on Yandex (praise that glorious search engine, it has everything). Because, even though the weather is beautiful and golden and warm, I need some time indoors by myself to process everything that’s going on here and remember why I came. Because I’m starting to slip into a not-so-happy place because of the underlying stress of being here and the fact that I’m essentially all alone, and I need to take care of my mind and not just assume that it can keep running at a sprint just because I haven’t had a mental breakdown or anything dramaetic yet.
So for now I will keep watching Гарри Поттер and Как я встретил вашу маму (thanks Prof. Lyles, this show is fabulous) and consuming lots of tea and prianiki (gingerbread).
(Sarah, you’d be so proud of my lifestyle choices. Haha.)