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 started Volume 3 of my personal journal, Stories, I was a high school senior mere weeks away from graduation. By the time I was finished, I’d lived in Japan for a year, ended the longest romantic relationship in my life to date (and started a new one), and done some serious soul-searching to determine who I was, what I wanted, and how to be better than the dick I’d been in high school. Volume 2, Change, represents a low point in my life, but I’m proud of Stories. Stories was me growing up.

The book itself was a present from my then-girlfriend. It’s covered in beautiful decoupage (her work), including pages from the Oresteia, lyrics to “The Times They Are a-Changin’”, and a snapshot of the iconic “Made in Oregon” sign in downtown Portland. All of my journals have reflected some aspect of my self in their appearance, but I don’t think any speaks more about who I am than Stories. It’s just me.

Made in Oregon

What a thoughtful touch.

And (fittingly, perhaps?), it was also the first journal I kept that remained truly private. The contents of Stories never went online; I never handed it over to a partner for perusal. Stories was a private space for me and me alone, a secure room for me to sit with myself, and I seriously doubt it could have been as instrumental a tool in my personal growth had I not had that unbroken sanctity.