This post is part of a series on the various ways I've used pen and paper in my life. To learn more about it, check out the introduction, or view the "ink and paper brain" category for other posts.

When I turned 14, my Grandma S., a loving, whip-smart woman whose career—librarian—and personal passion—writing poetry—make me strongly suspect that having an inky brain is hereditary, gave me a journal. It was wrapped in toasty brown suede enlivened by a jaunty path of rainbow stitching. A thin leather lace wrapped around an ornate silver button and tied it shut. It was the nicest journal I’d ever owned, and the moment I saw it, it became part of my self. And since, at 14, I labored under the delusion that the fastest route to humor was nonsense, I named it “A Journal Named Exponents”.

Exponents - Title - 02 - Web size

“Because it’s a cool word,” the parenthetical reads. I don’t know who I thought I was fooling.

Whereas my grade-school notebooks were filled with made-up stories, Exponents was a chronicle of the significant events in my middle-school life… for what I considered “significant” at the time. It would take me another eight years to begin any sort of daily journaling, so Exponents, like all my personal journals since, instead captured snapshots of me at extremes—extremely grumpy about “society”, my favorite foe; extremely elated because of shy advances in the middle school dating realm; extremely pleased with a recent outing. Recounting events in precise detail was of utmost importance to me, so I spent pages describing hanging out with friends, especially when those friends included my then-girlfriend and our activities included, as I regrettably insisted on calling it, “snogging”.

Ironically, I spent hours recording these experiences in hope of preserving them forever, yet when I read some of the entries today, I can only recall the faintest shadow of what they describe. I trust that they’re accurate, since I wrote about them at such length, but many of the memories are empty inside their paper husks.

As I’ve written before, Exponents, as my first journal, was also the site of a significant misstep. I was still figuring out what my journal meant to me, and enticed by the blog boom going on at that time, I began posting each entry to a semi-private blog for my friends to read. Somehow, it seemed a great idea at the time, but it quickly transformed my personal journal into a space I didn’t feel was quite my own–a feeling that was magnified tenfold when I learned my dad had been following my “secret” posts.

When I started my next journal, I wisely opted to keep its contents in the analog realm of ink and paper… though another event eventually cannonballed through my faith in that book’s sanctity as well.

But despite my missteps and the general embarrassment that comes with recalling one’s middle-school self, I appreciate Exponents. It is what it is—a cringeworthy account of an earlier time, to be sure, but also my first foray into the world of journaling.