By: Zuha Jaffar

The skin near the cuticle on my middle finger indents and that mark has been there for as long as I can remember. I think this small imprint dates back to middle school, where I spent a great deal of time writing (with my hand), and for every class. My stories would begin as drafts on actual paper, rather than on a computer, and every time I made a big change, I’d have to rewrite the whole story. I never even had a problem with it, since I had never really used a computer to write.

Moving forward, I had decided to start writing a journal (not a diary). I’m not sure what exactly prompted me to buy a journal, but perhaps it was a mix of my budding love of writing, and (mostly) pretty covers. I recall being starry eyed, gazing at the bright array of colors shining under the sickly lighting in the small Five&Below I went to every weekend. And when I was ten, I found myself purchasing all kinds of different journals and making up different excuses for doing so, such as “this will be my travel journal! This will be my inspiration journal and this will be my DIY journal.” Funnily enough, those excuses worked and ever since then, there lay a heap of four different journals on my nightstand.

I don’t remember much about my commitment toward these journals, but I know I tried to write as much as possible. The first I ever bought labeled “the main journal” is covered in light pink cover, with the words “Dream Beautiful Dreams” engraved in an aqua hue. It honestly isn’t even that pretty, but my ten-year old self thought so. Every time I wrote in it, whether it was a long, incomprehensible rant or random drawings, I always felt untroubled afterwards. Those journals, which have been with me through every single important moment of my life, have alleviated me of so much pain, captured so much bliss, and helped me understand myself better, to see things more clearly. In my opinion, that is what writing was meant to do. I never had to look back at what I wrote, never had to edit it or feel worthless if the writing wasn’t my best. Journals weren’t meant to improve my skills, it was just another way to feel.  

About two days ago, in the middle of cleaning my room after an incredibly intense fight with my mother (those are beginning to seem daily in quarantine), I knocked over my pile of journals, and immediately found myself looking through them. I haven’t touched a lot of them in years, at least, not the way that I used to. I wish I knew why I, or anyone, all of a sudden grow out of the things that made us happy, but reading them while the angry thoughts in my mind were overflowing felt like rain falling in the middle of a drought. 

 Everything that I’ve written, especially for Retrospect, has been a reflection of my external life thus far, and I wanted to do something different. The pictures below are small excerpts that I felt comfortable sharing from two different journals (the “main journal” and the “inspiration journal”), a glimpse into who I was. 

(This is the inspiration journal. Please excuse how embarrassingly idealistic I was)

I’m still trying to figure out if this article was more for Retrospect or for me, but until I do, I hope this inspires you to do the things that once made you happy as a child. In a quote from a short story called “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” by Raymond Carver, the story ends saying: “I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark.” And I think that listening for the beating heart, and letting it pulse in its perfect, loud rhythm is what happiness is. For me, that was writing in these journals. I hope this encourages you to listen for the sound of your beating heart.