I was given my first journal before I knew how to write. It was a pink hardcover book with a lock--a real lock that didn't open when you pulled on it--and a key that wasn't chained to the lock. It was my 5th birthday, and I was a vocal opponent of pink, but I had never had anything that locked before. There was no lock on my bedroom door. I didn't have a key to my parents' house. It felt so taboo to have something of my own that even my mother couldn't get into, I didn't care that the book was pink. I didn't dare share my excitement, though. My mother wasn't paying attention, and if I showed how excited I was, I thought she might notice that someone had given me a naughty locking book and take it away from me, so I slipped away with it to my room and hid it under my mattress where I was sure no one would think to look for it and went back to the party. Later I spent hours in my room with the door closed, locking and unlocking my journal.
I don't know who gave me that journal, but I doubt they knew the effect that book would have on me. Even though I never wrote more than a few words in it, the appeal of having a place to put my thoughts that had a lock on it was the spark that jumpstarted a journaling practice that I've carried on for over twenty-five years. I learned to be a writer by journaling. Poems I wrote in my journal got me into grad school. The man who would become my husband fell in love with me while reading a journal I kept online.
Any one of these things would have been an incredible legacy for a birthday gift, but the thing I treasure most about that gift was the idea that thinking for yourself is a treasure worth protecting. All through my childhood and teenage years, when I had an intractable problem, I didn't ask my friends or parents or the Internet first, I wrote about the problem in my journal. In my journal, I found silence, the space to the think, the freedom to think and feel the truth without worrying about what other people would think of me. Often getting my thoughts straight in my journal was enough to give me the confidence to make a decision. I didn't always make the best decisions, but I made enough good decisions this way that I learned to trust my heart and mind, even when others disagreed with me.
I shudder to think of how boring my life would have been if I hadn't developed a journaling practice when I was young, which is why I was thrilled to learn about Jamie Ridler's new program Give a Girl a Journal, a do good initiative with the mission to get journals in the hands of girls around the world. I am supporting Give a Girl a Journal because I believe that empowering today's girls to think for themselves is key to growing the leaders of tomorrow this world desperately needs.
If you would like to join me, you can give a girl a journal or nominate a girl in your life to receive one at giveagirlajournal.com.