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Prompt 2: Tell us about a personal quality, talent, accomplishment, contribution or experience that is important to you. What about this quality or accomplishment makes you proud and how does it relate to the person you are?


Next to my bed is a pile of books. Stacks on stacks of sci-fi paperbacks, unopened used book store poetry anthologies, a copy of Harry Potter in French that I still can’t read, hulking AP textbooks that could be used as murder weapons, silky smooth college brochures that look more expensive than my entire room put together, and on the very top, the only item I ever pick up: a ratty notebook with half the pages already torn out, its inner folder flap sticking out at an odd angle.

This is what I consider my journal at the moment. My journals are never as sophisticated and intellectual as I want them to be. I always get these intricate notebooks from Grandparents at Christmas, the kinds from Barnes & Noble that have a magnetic cover and exotic cloth patterns. Occasionally I feel like I should be creative, so I pick up one of these notebooks. Yet every time I place the tip of my pen on their expectant pages, I feel constrained, believing I can’t possibly mar their pages with any thoughts short of genius. I try to scratch out “deep” insights about life, only to end up looking immature and unqualified against the background of their specially crafted papyrus from India.

My trusty Office Max brand notebook, however, is completely judgement free. Every scrawl of algebra, or hiragana practice, or rant about my parents looks intelligent besides its plain college ruled lines. This notebook is happy to even be written in at this point. Its curling plastic cover doesn’t care how often I gouge swear words onto its paper, or how indelicately I scribble flowers in the margins, or how illegible my ramblings are. I can write whatever I want in it.

Sometimes I just need to release what’s swirling around behind my eyes, before it becomes a confused brown swarm, which is a little weird now that I think about it. I wonder if this makes me a less functional person. I know my friend Emily never has to write things down. She functions by talking out loud, or thinking in her head on the spot. That’s why I lose arguments with her. I always come up with the perfect comeback afterwards. If only I could pause time when we argue, whip out my notebook, and construct my counter-attack.

I don’t really perceive my reliance on a notebook for coherence as a flaw; rather I take an odd pleasure in my dependence. My notebook’s lack of expectations frees me up to explore the swarm in my head. I can revel in my chaos. Rantings twist with song lyrics, reminders and rhetorical questions flash with urgency, memories and temptations hover in front of my train of thought. They build in speed, pressure, moving too fast to capture; I must release them onto paper, where a page full of nonsense is better than a few lines of forced genius. And the consequent organizing of my thoughts makes me feel powerful and competent. I can conquer my chaos on my own terms.

So I guess when I’ve burnt through this half-notebook, I’ll have to go find another fifty cent notebook on sale and rip out half of the pages. Then I can pick up my blue ballpoint pen and function again.




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