I’m getting ready to assign Joan Didion’s essay “On Keeping a Notebook” to my Juniors this week, so of course, I had to reread it and reacquaint myself with it. Like I said, I’ve read it before, but somehow, this particular paragraph (10) resonated with me more this time around; perhaps, it speaks to where I am in my life right now. However, I’m inspired to share it with you all with the hope that it will speak to you in the same way: to encourage you to love yourself, and to stop comparing yourself to others. I’ve told you before that “comparison is the thief of joy”, but let me add today that true joy comes only from living your life.
“It is a difficult point to admit. We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing. (“You’re the least important person in the room and don’t forget it,” Jessica Mitford’s governess would hiss in her ear on the advent of any social occasion; I copied that into my notebook because it is only recently that I have been able to enter a room without hearing some such phrase in my inner ear.) Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout.”
Upon reading this, I immediately whispered to myself, “Girl, you are the most important person in the room,” and I believed it. Today, it’s more important to be your own best friend than ever. The world keeps a record and is more often harsh and unforgiving than it is gentle and loving. I know you know what I mean. Take Instagram for example. Is the point of this application to make you feel less than, to make you question yourself at every turn, or is it meant to connect with like-minded individuals and inspire others? It’s difficult to know. It takes a strong person to be mindful of their gifts as well as their flaws, and love herself in spite of it all.
I share this because, I like Didion, want to remember how this moment “felt to me” when I’m old-er and gray-er, and hopefully, a little wis-er. So I wrote it here, for me, but also for you.
Drop me a line if you keep a notebook. What kind of stuff do you write in it? What kind of notebook do you use? I wanna know!