Category Archives: journal entries

Living in the Past (+Poem)

I’ve always been inclined to living in the past. For evidence, you need look no further my many-years-long effort to transcribe all of my old journals. Here’s a sample:

Part of a transcribed journal, dealing with two typical days in middle school.

Part of a transcribed journal, dealing with two typical days in middle school. Wasn’t I Mister Overachiever back then! It’s almost like I felt my worth derived from my abilities or something….

Now tell me, do you know anybody else who’s transcribing their journals? I’ve kept a ridiculous number of the darn things, too—maybe 20 official journals and 20+ other notebooks. It’s over twenty years’ worth, of which I’ve transcribed perhaps 25-30% after a decade of trying. (The PDF of all the transcriptions is 374 pages long already.)

Perhaps once or twice a year I seem to find myself consumed with the thought of “the way things were.” For a few days all I can think about is the past—the people, the events, the stories I tell myself about the people and the events.

I’ve lately come to this thought: if I’m so inclined to live in the past, maybe there’s something I need to do there.

For many of my growing-up years I didn’t feel like there was anybody with whom I could discuss events in my life. My parents were often distracted or overwhelmed by their own problems, so instead of sharing my struggles with them I often kept things to myself and soothed my emotions by writing in journals.

That’s why I can’t let these old journals go: they contain my story, as it happened, for basically all of the most significant events in my life. The story that I never shared with anyone, the things I didn’t know how to deal with in any other way than to write them down, preserving them for some future day when they could be dealt with properly.

That “future day” is today, isn’t it?

I’d like to start sharing more with people about my life story. I don’t want it to feel like a big secret that I had to endure on my own. Instead I want to bring it out into the open where it can be enjoyed, learned from, and (hopefully often enough) laughed about, in the company of the family and friends that I love.

Here’s a little poem I wrote that I think captures the sentiment. (The poem actually motivated the blog post, not the other way around.)

Living in the Past

“Don’t live in the past.”
But the past lives in me,
Its people and places,
The joys, the pains,
All inside me living their days
Over and over and over again.

“Look to the future.”
I try, but when I do
All these long-gone faces
Crowd into my view.
I race ahead, try to leave them behind.
They clutch at me, drag me back in time.
I see the future’s not for me
So long as ghosts are my associates.

It’s time to go back.
It’s time to set things right.
The darkness makes them stronger—
I must bring them out into the light.
Those wrongs that can’t be righted
Will at least be cared about.
Those pains that can’t be soothed
Will be turned to new purpose.

A Return to Blogism

My good friend Michelle pointed out with disappointment that I hadn’t posted anything to my blog for months. I made her what I hoped wouldn’t become a hollow promise: to post, or, in other words, to return to blogism. Well, Michelle, here it is.

The Past

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately transcribing my journal from my freshman year here at BYU. Some people think it’s depressing to read old journals, and I admit that from time to time I do find that to be the case, especially if I’m really dissatisfied with the now. But in recent weeks it’s been a very positive experience. Check out this long sequence (with some editing):

Saturday, October 6, 2001

General Conference!

Ben and Brandon came to Utah this weekend for General Conference, among other things. They had an extra ticket for the afternoon session, and their uncle Harold had an extra standby ticket for Priesthood session. So we got to go to both!

Waiting in line before the afternoon session, we met a girl from Pleasant Grove named Charlotte…. Anyway, we talked and after the afternoon session we ate dinner at a little diner on North Temple called Dee’s. We laughed, we had fun – those precious human interactions that are both impossible and meaningless to quantify. Charlotte summed it up when she said, “You know, it feels like I’ve known you guys for years.” It’s a pretty cliché line, but I totally agreed with her—it seemed like we were already friends, even before we met.

Before Charlotte left and we went to priesthood meeting, I got her phone number and cellphone number. Here’s the final twist to the story: … five minutes after meeting Charlotte, I just had this feeling that I should ask her to the Homecoming dance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Quick update:

I asked Charlotte to Homecoming, which will be Friday night. Very stressful figuring this all out, but it will be fun.

I’ve been running with Michelle on Tuesday and Thursday nights. Tonight we were running on the track by the stadium and she told me about this guy who Christie is interested in. He is 25 and he’s moving way too fast with Christie….

Friday, October 19, 2001

Tonight I went to Homecoming with Charlotte. First, I had to get some things done at school and otherwise, though. This morning I woke up later than I had planned, but I still wanted to take my Physical Science test before the American Heritage lab.

Charlotte was supposed to pick me up at 6:30, and Dan and Michelle, too. (On my recommendation, Dan asked Michelle to go to the dance with him.)

Charlotte ended up being about an hour late because I gave her 1460 N as our street instead of 1430 N. By the time we got to Macaroni Grill for dinner our reservations were long overdue, so we had about a 40 minute wait to be seated. In the meantime, the four of us walked around a little shopping center outdoors. Charlotte graciously blocked my view of “€œVictoria’s Secret”€ as we walked past it. We meandered around Border’s (a bookstore) for a while, then headed back to the restaurant just in time to be seated.

Our table was near a gas fireplace that was burning just enough to keep gas from building up around it. We could still smell the burner gas though.

On our paper table covering I drew in crayon a picture of a sun rising against a bold blue sky. In the bottom I wrote “€œCharlotte is my sunshine!”€ Of course, Charlotte had already written my full name in beautiful lettering on her portion of the paper. We cut our respective works of art out with my picket knife scissors and gave them to each other. (I left mine in the car though. I’ll have to get that for her….)

After a delicious dinner, on, on to the dance! A crazy trip south on I-15 brought us to the Chillon Reception Center in Spanish Fork. We escorted our dates in the cool, gusty night to a large stone or brick building.

OK, pause. One thing I really noticed tonight was that because it was cold, when Charlotte hooked her elbow in mine it was like she cuddled in for warmth. When girls do that, and they cling to your elbow like you’re a protector of sorts, it makes me so excited! It’s amazing how awesome it makes you feel!

At the dance, Charlotte and I tried competing in the swing dance competition. We began dancing (quite well, in my opinion) but when the DJ started calling out couples’ numbers we got confused as we didn’t have one. So we weren’t really that much in contention, but we had a great time—the swing music was very refreshing.

One time while we were dancing, I told Charlotte about my fears that she’d think I was stalking her when I called to ask her to Homecoming after just meeting her. She responded by saying that she didn’t have to give me her phone number—that was optional. Good point!

After that dance—and some many great slow dances along with it—we rode home and said goodbye. Goodbye hug. Now a few hours later here I am.

I had an awesome night! I’m pretty sure Charlotte did too! Yeah! Woohoo! Victory! She had fun!

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Due to going to bed very late lats night, I didn’t wake up until 11:30. That left me and everyone else in our apartment 2.5 hours to get ready for cleaning inspection. I was quite surprised how clean this place can really be if we work at it a little bit!

OK, the real exciting part of my evening was when I got home at around 9 o’clock I quickly got a message saying that Charlotte called. I called Charlotte and, after “€œHello, how’re you doing?”€ etc. she told me that the reason she called was to say “€œthanks”€ for last night. I said, “€œOh, it was totally my pleasure. I’m glad to hear you had a good time!”

I also told Charlotte that I left the paper she gave me at the restaurant in her car and would like to get it from her—a convenient excuse for us to have to get together sometime, I say!

I really enjoyed talking to Charlotte tonight and look forward to seeing her again.

On the other hand, I need to be particularly careful not to get too serious with any girls before my mission.

Well, I’m off to bed!

Wow, I was bold! Nowadays I’m waaaay more hesitant to do crazy things like ask girls in lines on dates. Darn hard life experience has lowered my expectations for such craziness, which is a shame, as it seems like we really had a great time.

The Present

I recently started a poem that I want to share:

Dialectic

Behold the brilliant vista,
A world before us lays
Enswirled all by mist, a-
wash with golden rays.

Why weep ye now upon this sight?
You can’t believe what see your eyes?
But it’s here, it’s real, it’s true, it’s bright!

I see naught but clouds below.
There is sunshine, but as well there’s rain.
It’s not that I refuse to know
The good; but that I’ve seen much pain.

But in spite of having seen much more,
Now I see much less than I could see before
And it chills me to the very core.

Light and dark:
They call, they know our names.
We cannot only to one hark
For our path will lead both ways.

Ah but what a sin you’ve found,
Such gloominess as you think on!
Turn your head up. Do not look down,
And soon your gloom will all be gone.

Think not of evil—it is wrong.
Think not sad thoughts—life’s a song!
Think not—or hearts will ache too long.

Naive—you don’t understand.
In fact, I would say you’re slightly blind,
You insolent, odious man,
For you think not of the mind!

It has full well the pow’r to crush you.
When you need to speak, it can quickly hush you.
To fight it is to watch it mush you.

To the friends at bitter odds
Then came another soul
Though by which lonely path he trod
We do not—cannot?—know.

He brought goodness, he spoke peace,
(Somehow knowing what our friends did seek,
But of which they never did speak), saying

Peace is truth, goodness is real,
Not naively, but in actual fact.
It’s obscured by the things that you feel,
‘Times obstructed by the way that you act.

Thus you wander about in a cloud
Through your life as with a burial shroud,
But your goal will never be found.

Obviously the discussion amongst the friends and the inexplicably wise stranger is not complete, because the stranger has only barely introduced some of the themes of his position without really explaining it. There would have to be some exchange between him and the other two before a resolution could be brought about. Sadly, knowing my tendencies of starting and then abandoning poems, I don’t really expect to see that happen. But the poem has already served its purpose of helping me to think through conflicting views of life—both of which I have subscribed to at various points in my life, and both of which are clearly not optimal: the blindly optimistic view because it can’t help anybody, the more pessimistic because it ignores great joy that really is to be found.

Oh, my sister recently introduced me to something that should be indispensable for anybody somewhat inclined to bookishness like myself: Shelfari.

The Future

I have one more month of school before graduating with a B.A. in Linguistics, and I’m terrified of facing The Real World once more.

Terrified? Not so much, actually. I was terrified. That was before I “just happened” to get some interesting ideas. They could be summarized as code, quill, and casa.

Code

Google recently announced the Android Developer Challenge, a contest for good new applications developed for their Android mobile phone platform. Entries for the first round are accepted from January 2 to March 3, 2008, which is right when I start to have nothing to do because of graduating and as yet having no job. It also so happens that the work I’ve been doing for Dr. Ringger in the NLP Lab for the past several months has almost all been in Java—the primary language for Android development. Thus the relevant skills are very fresh at the top of my toolkit. And, once more, it just so happens that I’ve had an idea for a feature for mobile phones bouncing around in my head for almost the past year. Hmm….

Quill

I love to write. I think writing should be a part of my future. I’ve been getting lots of practice in the past year, and I’m getting to the point where I really just want to sit down and write a novel. You know, put in a couple of hours a day brainstorming, outlining, writing, revising. When will there be a better time in my life? I have no dependents, I have the luxury of doing so, why don’t I just give it a shot?

Casa

(Or maybe a better word is pueblo?)
I feel like I need to go home. This feeling came shortly before my older sister offered to let me stay at her house in Washington. So starting sometime after my rental agreement ends at the end of April, I’m going to do just that. I don’t know if I’ll ever return to Provo. I mean, I might, but I just as likely might not. Yikes! I’ve been living here for six years and have come to be very comfortable. But, at the very least for a few months, it’s time to be home. And I’m such a romantic with regards to patria, my homeland. I really, really love it there — there’s something in me that only feels whole at home. I miss the wind, the smells, just those indescribable things that you would only fall in love with if you lived the first 18 years of your life there.

The End

No, not of my life, just of this post 🙂 It’s been quite a grab-bag, eh? And there’s so much more to think and write and say and do!

My life is quite good right now, and I can only say that it is such only as I really seek to do what I know the Lord would have me do. It’s the seeming paradox of obedience: that as we voluntarily shift our activities from what we are naturally inclined to do, to what God wants us to do, we seem to be more able than ever to do the things that we really want to do. No, it’s not always simple; but in being real the gospel of Christ naturally exhibits all of the complexities of the real world, and likewise turns out to have overriding patterns and principles that are very powerful.

‘Tis true.

España—19 de mayo 2007—Toledo

I quote from my journal with slight editing.
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Trip to Toledo today. I was a bit upset by how things were run, and it represents a trend of neglect by the Mester language school that is ticking a few people off. Usually we’ve had the culture teacher as our guide, so while at times a bit dry, she treated us well and we had enough time at each site to be able to learn quite a bit. Today, there was a different lady plus some unknown dude who acted as our guides…. First we went to El Museo de la Santa Cruz, which someone told me used to be a hospital. There was some Visigodo stuff and a neat courtyard; but, we walked through so fast and with so little context that I can tell you no more than that.

We saw a statue of Cervantes, blazed through a synagogue-turned-museum (too fast, once again), went to way too many stores, and saw the outside doors only of the cathedral. The only part I really enjoyed was when we had maybe two hours of free time and the weather turned just a tad rainy and I walked with some folks along the gorge cliff of the Río Tajo—pretty!

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Overall, disappointed. How do you say that in Spanish?

The answer is estar desilusionado. Toledo is cool, we just had a sub-optimal experience there. Spain is super pretty! It reminds me a lot of eastern Washington, even down to the wind generator turbines up on the horizon. By the way, I picked up something for Mike there….

I’m giving you a picture of my roommate, Chris, as well [apparently flipping off the world]. He’s got a bit of “gangsta” blood in ’em, in case you can’t tell in the photo.

This Sunday we went to the Salamanca branch’s meetings. I was amazed by how few times I got lost paying attention to the talks and lessons.

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