“Growing up with Aloha” is the first book in the Dear America series.

Journals and diaries have always held a fascination for me. I started my first diary at the age of 7.5; it was a small day-per-page diary with a glossy cover, and my parents cut out the horoscope pages because it was against their beliefs. Books like those in the Dear America series and its spin-off Royal Diaries stoked my interest in journals, while also teaching me things about history no one else was telling me at the time. To this day, the cover images are in my memory. I would go through stages, of course, as any self-respecting diarist does; when inspired by books or anger I would write many pages, and at other times I would go weeks or even months without picking up my notebook.

In my early teens there was a line of journals with a lovely cover, an inset with a paper panel that contained a decoration, and thick lined pages. These became my favorite; I could use my inky pens in them, and the cursive my mother made me learn spooled across page after page. In my teens I graduated to The Diary of Anne Frank on the one hand, and the Princess Diaries series on the other. Around the same time, I started my reading practice of always having more than one book going at a time, though always different types.

I didn’t write much during my first year of marriage, or before my daughter’s birth. I dealt with postpartum depression, and a few months after she was born I found myself frantically filling an entire journal in about two weeks. I can hardly bear to open it now, as the amount of feeling I poured into it radiates from the words in such a way that I lose myself in the past for a moment. Perhaps a book like Writing as a Way of Healing could have helped me out in those days.

I healed from my PPD, and kept on journaling. For the first time it occurred to me to Google journaling, and I was excited to discover multiple websites by others who also enjoyed it. I also found a few books, foremost among them being Creative Journal Writing, whose principles I took to heart. As time passed, I found myself doing less and less emotional journaling; I had learned those were usually not fun to look over. What I enjoyed most was reading about the small moments, the details that would prompt the memories more vividly than anything else.

A few years after that, Ryder Carroll put his Bullet Journal video online and the world snatched it up and ran with it. I embraced the techniques he laid out for brief journaling. Liberated from the need to compose a paragraph and remember every detail, I found myself recording more information about my life than I had before. I also drooled over the artistic variations on the Bullet Journal found online, and in books like Beyond Bullets and Dot Journaling. In more traditional avenues, I enjoyed the beautiful art journaling portrayed in Draw Your Day, but found myself still lacking natural artistry and did not copy her. Naturally, when The Bullet Journal Method came out in 2018, I bought and read it. I found myself pleasantly surprised; when I had expected a rehash of a productivity method, Ryder Carroll brought so much more to the table – mindfulness, intention, good advice for living.

I continue to journal, and to seek out books about journaling – one of my more recent reads was Ongoingness, a poignant meditation on recording life. I read The Golden Notebook based purely on the fact that it involved multiple notebooks being used for journaling, and I ended up enjoying it very much, though I know that I did not appreciate it fully – it is a complex novel and worth rereading. I am still fascinated by journals themselves, and when I find published journals such as The Diaries of Sylvia Plath I add them to my reading list. This personal recordkeeping will be with me as long as I have paper and pen.

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