I told someone once that I think my journals are the most accurate, tangible representation of me. I said that what I have written/drawn/scribbled/collaged/bled in those pages is who I am.
I mostly chalk this up to the fact that nobody else sees inside them. I have only ever allowed one other person to peruse my writings openly and at his leisure, but that’s because I was in love with him. Otherwise, they remain on my shelf or next to my bed. None of my friends ever ask me about them—it’s implicitly understood that they are only mine, and I love them for that.
But despite this quietness and privacy, I wonder if I am ever truly uncensored.
I would be lying if I said that when I am writing or journaling, it never crosses my mind what other people would think. Of course, some of what I write in my journal ends up getting adapted for writings that I publish or allow other people to consume, usually online. But what of my heart wanderings, my raving temptations, the entry that begins, “let’s face it: you’re just scared and you think that means brave. why does your mouth always taste like coffee and scarlet and running,” followed by a page of self-sneering? It’s intensely personal and sunburn-raw, but even when I sneer I am thinking about posterity.
Like, what if I die very suddenly? Morbid, I know, but I’ve known too many sudden and young deaths to not sometimes slip into that “what if” line of thinking. Of course I would want the people I love to look through these journals at their leisure, and hopefully take some comfort in them. In this way, the possibility that people do eventually look at my private thoughts is very real. And so I am always censoring myself to some extent. Even if something is labeled For My Eyes Only, that doesn’t mean I am not treating it, perhaps on a subconscious level, as something someone might see and appraise.
I think a lot of this has to do with how growing up, I learned to exhibit my body rather than inhabit it. I don’t necessarily mean this in the sexual way often associated with the objectification of women. But I have always been painfully aware of being looked at. I adjust myself. I look for flattering angles. And it is present in everything that I do, not just how I look.
I have often wondered if this is something that other people experience. Do other people walk down the street and think about how their arms are bent? Do other people’s brains turn moments into movie stills? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that this is a characteristic inherent in girlhood (the idea of "habitual body monitoring" interests me in particular, at minute 6:33). In many ways, we are material expressions of a material universe.
Editing the supposedly Strange, the Different, the Ugly out of my life isn’t helping anyone, I don’t think. It's important to inhabit everything—not just our Pretty, but our contradictions and missteps. The world doesn't owe us anything, but we owe the world the glory of our observation and response. It's hard to do that when you are not able to be present in your own moments, constantly floating outside yourself in attempt to control your third-person narratives.
When my brain is too busy and I don’t know how to organize my thoughts properly, I title the entry “what my head looks like” and just overflow onto the page. Oftentimes it ends up being a list of sorts, unrelated thoughts strung together by numbers or bullet points. And I am curious as to the nature of my thoughts, what they would look like, if I am actively trying to ignore the concept of public consumption. A non-censored, authentic “what my head looks like” post to follow.