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  • I like the fact that “Journal” and “Journey” are such similar looking and sounding words. My journals are all journeys, of a sort. In fact, I’m writing the first draft of this story in a journal book I picked up on a journey, a Disney Cruise, in March (right before I joined Cowbird!) It was a gift we got for being “Gold Castaway Club” members. That’s anyone who’s sailed on seven or more Disney Cruises, I think. We’ve been on seven of them now, including a couple of two-week cruises, a Panama Canal crossing cruise and a Barcelona to the Bahamas Atlantic-crossing cruise. This Fall, we’ll be doing a Pacific-Crossing cruise, cruising from L.A. to Hawaii and back on Disney. We’ve been on something like a dozen cruises, overall.

    I love cruising, old Navy guy that I am. After all that time I spent at sea, working 24/7 down in that hot, steamy engine room of a shipboard nuclear plant, I appreciate the “pleasure” aspect of a pleasure cruise a little more than your average Joe does, I think. I am always mindful of those busting their asses to keep that thing afloat, and to keep the experience “pleasurable” for the rest of us schmucks. I always go out of my way to acknowledge their efforts, in whatever way I can.

    I do lots of journal writing on cruises. I know I will want to remember what I did on the cruise, and the journal will preserve the memory of the journey a lot better than pictures do – or, at least enhance the memories that pictures conjure. But, I’m also, and mainly, talking about the “personal journeys” that journals chart, and document. They really are a great way to keep track of these journeys.

    Growing up, I hated school for the most part – my first 11 years were all Catholic schools, and I just wasn’t into what they were dishing out. I usually managed to pull down decent grades, and I suppose I got a decent eduction out of it, but I just never had that teacher that really inspired me throughout those years. I was strong in Math and English, but neither really turned me on, all that much. I didn’t really like to read or write that much, either. I liked to play sports, go fishing, think about girls (though I was terribly shy), and that was about it. I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. By high school age, I pretty well knew that my dream of playing major league baseball was out of the question. Hell, I couldn’t even make the Little League team! But, I had yet to develop any alternate plans or dreams.

    Dad’s stories about his grandfather really intrigued me, and cultivated in me a love of history. Not the way they taught it in school, all the damned facts and dates about when this happened or that happened, this war, that war, etc. I grew a love of the history revealed through stories, the way Dad told them. I discovered others who told good stories about history, and grew a great appreciation for story-telling, and for history, in this fashion.

    Dad used to always marvel at how his maternal grandfather, Martin Hager, used to remember minute details about events that had happened 60-70 years earlier, when telling his tales. He’d recall things like what the weather was like, where he was, who he talked to, what they all were wearing, all kinds of little details that one would think would have long since faded with time and memory.

    Then, after Martin had died, Dad discovered his diaries, that went all the way back to age 13, when he’d gone off to fight in the Civil War with his brothers and step-father. Each and every day’s entry began with a weather report for the day, and always mentioned where he was, who he talked to, what they were wearing, etc. Then it all made sense to Dad.

    Dad talked a lot about Martin’s diaries. This was long before he had transcribed them and shared them with all of us. Aunt Fran had the originals under lock and key, so Dad’s stories about them were all we had to go on until much later. These stories inspired me to start writing in my own diaries. I now call them “journals”, but back then they were just “diaries”. I didn’t tell anyone about them, because I was sure most of my friends would laugh and say “diaries were for girls”. I figured if they were good enough for my Great Grandfather who fought in the Civil War, they were good enough for me, so I felt like I was on solid “manly ground” as far as that went (which was always important to me, back then). That was when I was 14. I’ve been journaling ever since.

    My journals are some of my most important relationships. I’ve said it before – they are truly like old friends. I’ve told things to my journals that I haven’t told another living soul. Journaling helps me to explore new ground, and share my trials and tribulations when I am trying to sort shit out. They’re also a lot of fun to pick up years from now, and look back at what I was doing, what was important to me at the time, what were my issues and my greatest challenges.

    I don’t do “electronic journals”. I’m old school in this regard. Paper and pen, preferably some form of bound book or notebook, as long as there’s plenty of space to write, I’m good to go. There’s something about having all of these old chapters of my life kicking around at my disposal to go back through, add to when I feel so moved, and leave it somewhere where I might not come across it again for another few years. Makes for lots of interesting “encounters”. “Well, there you are! Where the hell you been? What you been up to? Let me catch you up….”

    As far as worrying about someone picking it up and reading it? Could make for another funny story, like this. Early in our marriage, Kathy came across my “Hot Tub Chronicle” journal, and decided to read it. “Well, it didn’t say ‘Private’ anywhere…” Uh-huh. But, what do I care? My life is kind of an open book, for the most part. This happened to be the journal I kept when I was deeply infatuated with a pretty girl named Rose, who I dated a few times and spent months trying to figure out whether we were going to enter in a relationship with or just be friends. She also happened to be Chuck’s older sister. Chuck was a guy who I was now sponsering in the program, and who was also mentoring me on home renovation and construction - helping us to keep our house from falling apart or sinking into the ground. Good friends of ours and Chuck’s were getting married, and we all went to the wedding. Well, isn’t Chuck’s sister Rose there in attendance, and she winds ups sitting in the row right in front of me and Kathy? Uh-huh – and It gets better.

    Rose has never met Kathy – we haven’t seen each other since we were dating and trying to figure it all out. Somehow, she thinks one of the bridesmaids is my wife, Kathy. She turns around to say hi to me, and says, “Doesn’t Kathy look lovely?”, talking about the bridesmaid she thinks is my wife, while my wife is sitting right there beside me! I have no idea why Kathy is getting all weird on me there, until it comes out later that she’d read my journal, and now was riffing on me still having feelings for this Rose, and her talking about her like she’s not even right there beside me. I just had to laugh my ass off when it all came out. “Well, that ought to be a lesson, eh?”

    Just another journal journey!
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