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.

Near the end of Change’s run, my girlfriend asked to read its contents.

I should have recognized that as a sign that her trust in our relationship was faltering, gently declined the request, and worked together with her to find a way to rebuild her trust. That would have been the emotionally intelligent, mature way to handle that while also maintaining my personal boundaries. But, as established before, high school me had the emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills of a misanthropic sea cucumber, so instead of doing any of that, I hemmed and hawed for weeks before finally caving and, profoundly uncomfortable, thrusting my journal at her and wincing.1Seriously—I handed it over and then sat there with my eyes closed, waiting for the bombshell to drop.

She read a little bit before she found one of my more grossly objectifying entries. It had been written at a time when we hadn’t been dating and I had a thing with someone else, so I assumed she was aghast to learn I’d been with other people. In hindsight, she was almost certainly more aghast (and rightfully so) at the sexist, objectifying way I wrote about those experiences, and the mindset it revealed. Our relationship was smoldering with the fallout for months after.

This had happened before with Exponents, and it played out exactly the same way. The sanctity of Change crumbled. Determined, as I was in high school, to miss the point in every way possible, I walked away from the experience resolute that if I was going to write explicit, objectifying notes about my attraction to, or encounters with, other people… I had to do it in a side journal.


Thus came NOTES [on/from/about] LIFE, a pocket-sized notebook made of rough brown paper and corrugated cardboard that I found in my stocking one Christmas. Luckily, it wasn’t just objectifying grossness. In it, I kept ideas that inspired me, geocache coordinates, notes from daily life, and brief journal entries (almost all of which pertained to my crushes and attractions). Despite its origin, NOTES was a portable pad of paper for anything that might need to be written, while Change sat at home, safely out of reach on my bookshelf.

Incidentally, the existence of NOTES highlights a peculiarity about my journaling that persists to this day. Since I was gifted Exponents, my personal journals, the ones dedicated as Spencer-only private spaces for me and my thoughts, have remained strictly dedicated to that purpose. They’re not for grocery lists or quick reminders. They’re not even for sketching—I might add illustrations to the text of an entry, but only in service of the written word. Those things, as NOTES show, belong in a different book.

I’m not sure where this insistence comes from, but it’s strong. I’m only now beginning to consider keeping my intensely personal musings in the same book as my grocery lists.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Seriously—I handed it over and then sat there with my eyes closed, waiting for the bombshell to drop.