I've been writing for as long as I can remember. I still have my first diary, I started keeping it when I was 7 years old. I used to write the names of the boys I liked and complain about how unfair my mother was. I also kept an extensive record of which books I checked out from the library, and the status of whatever lego project I was engineering in my spare time.
Writing for me though, is primarily therapy. In my first journal I found comforts after my grandfather died.
My grandpa Robert, Papa, was the first love of my life. I was his first grandchild, and he was like a father to me in all the ways that my dad was unable to be. My dad had a terrible childhood, and never had a good parenting example. He did the best he could with limited information. Everything with my father was on his terms. If I wanted to spend time with him it was handing him tools in the garage.
My father wasn't a bad father. He taught me how to read at age 3 by reading the Wall Street Journal and the Shotgun News. I used to crawl in his big brown recliner chair and read to him. But my father didn't know how to really play with me, he just never was a kid himself. He tried his best.
My Papa on the other hand, was like a big kid. He was funny and goofy and instilled in me a reverence for nature. He used to take me on nature walks, picking wild blueberries, or checking out birds. He taught me which plants I could eat if I ever got lost in the woods. We'd go out to the lake in his fishing boat and sit there and talk for hours.
The best part of visiting my grandparent's home however, was the garden. 3/4 of the back yard was his huge organic garden. He grew everything you could imagine. I remember digging up carrots, brushing the dirt off of them and eating them right there, and that they were sweeter and more satisfying than any candy on the market. I remember taking huge bites out of fresh, warm tomatoes and having the juice drip down my chin, sweet rivers of summertime staining my skin. I remember sitting out there in the yard dipping pieces of rhubarb in the sugar jar and chomping down happily, thinking that I was in the most magical place on earth.
The garden was my haven. I would sit out there for hours, with my little daisy watering can, talking to the plants because my grandfather told me it would make them grow. I didn't realize it at the time but the garden was a mode of survival for my grandparents. They grew things to can them, to get them through the lean winter months.
Hibbing, Minnesota was a tiny mining town in the Northern part of the state, and it was bitterly cold in the winters. If it made it ABOVE ZERO that was a good day there. Hibbing is also the boyhood home of Bob Dylan, if it sounds familiar to you for some reason. Bobby Zimmerman was a rich kid, however, and lived in a different part of town than where my mother grew up.
My grandfather operated a train for a living. And of course, due to the weather, the railroad shut down in the winter, which meant no income for part of the year. So the garden saved them. That and hunting, which while I could never do it was literally how my mother and her brothers ate in the wintertime.
He hated his job his whole life. He wanted to be a writer, and he had great talent for it. The newspaper in the closest big town had a contest every year, and he won 5 years in a row. His style was very Hemingway-esque, immersed in details and heavy on nature themes. He also was a poet. He was discouraged by his parents from it and told to get a "real" job. He also was a member of Special Forces in WWII, but even that couldn't kill his need to write, and his passion for the written word.
He hated his job so much that it killed him. He just swallowed all of his bad feelings, sucked it up, and tried to lose himself in his writings and his garden. He finally retired, with his pension and gold watch. He took my grandmother on a trip up to Canada, which they were so excited about. The first morning they woke up in the hotel, he woke up, clutched his chest, fell over and died. He never got to enjoy his free time. He worked his whole life and then never got to do what he really wanted to do. And as an adult, this seems so tragic to me.
I think this is why I'm so passionate about getting my degree. I am not obsessed with status symbols or being rich. I want to be able to be comfortable, and not worry about providing basic necessities for my family. I'd like to be able to travel once in a while. I must feed this wanderlust inside of me. I want to see Paris, and the pyramids, and Stonehenge... I want to turn a prayer wheel in Tibet... and I don't want to have to work jobs that I despise my whole life to do it!
When he died I was inconsolable. I wouldn't come out of my room for three days, I wouldn't eat. Even my father couldn't get me to come out. So I used my journal, and I began to address it "Dear Papa" instead of "Dear Diary." I wrote to him every day, asking him what heaven was like, and if he missed me. I told him all of my troubles.
I used to think I saw him everywhere. We lived in Detroit when he died, and my dad and I were on a bus on our way to a Gun Show one day, and I swore I saw him outside and was hysterical, trying to get off of the bus. I used to dream about him nearly every night and write down what he said to me in my diary the next morning. I slept with a bandanna of his for two years, until it finally lost its smell. I still have it.
Now I write to vent, to analyze - I make lists and reminders of why I make decisions. I write for hours, put it away, pull it out the next day and don't even remember doing it. When I can't make a decision I do that, and read it imagining my best friend wrote it to me - and I usually can find the truth in there and make the correct decision. I paste things in there that mean something to me, like concert tickets, and leaves from the tree outside that I'm in love with. (Yes, I fall in love with trees.)
Also, any time I reach a milestone in life, I buy a new journal. When I can tell a new chapter is opening. Even if the old one isn't even close to being done. I also threw away boxes and boxes of journals a couple of years ago. It was my way of letting go of the past. I read them all first before I did. The memories are all still in my head, anyway...