I’m a slave to a bad habit. Anytime I see a fine, handcrafted leather journal, I absolutely can’t stop myself from purchasing it. This habit violently pounced on me yesterday when I happened to pass an old antique shop on Vanderbilt Avenue. It makes no sense, honestly. I bought a journal like this one just last week, and haven’t written a single thing in it. And yet, as soon as I stepped inside this old antique shop and laid my eyes on the blank pages of this leather journal, I had to buy it.
I suppose browsing in an antique shop took my mind off of other things: weekend plans and schedules and calendars. As if walking through a collection of old knick-knacks and dusty books could somehow help me decide how I was going to spend the following evening. Jaxson was opening for some band at The Colony tomorrow night. Although I couldn’t remember the name of the headliner, I remember thinking it might be worth going to (but only if I my plans to meet December and her friends fell through).
I waded through my weekend plans, purchased the leather-bound journal, and darted out the door. I walked home in a brisk fury, wondering if I would ever actually fill the journal with anything. My bad habit might not be such a tragic flaw if, in fact, I could fill the journals with something worthwhile. I guess it’s not that big of a deal if you fill a journal with scraps of notes or to-do lists, as long as that’s what it’s for. But if the journal was made to be filled with beautiful song lyrics or travel sketches or authentic philosophical struggles, it’d be a damn shame to fill it with grocery lists.
As I walked down Vanderbilt Avenue and entered Prospect Heights, my phone buzzed with a text from Matt:
How’s it going, my friend? Getting some people together at my place tomorrow night for drinks. You coming?
Matt started every damn text the same way. “How’s it going, my friend?” He was always having people over at his place, too. It was usually a good time, but I wanted to keep the evening open, as I was still entertaining a couple other tentative plans for tomorrow night.
Cool – We’ll see, I might be able to make it, I wrote.
I pocketed my phone and pulled the journal out of the brown paper bag, holding it in my hands as I walked. I opened it up, felt the paper, smelled the binding. I was fairly certain that it spoke to me, and told me to write something.
“Write something, anything. Just so I’m not empty any more.”
I got the feeling that it wouldn’t have minded if I’d stopped on the sidewalk right then, took a pen and scrawled a mundane to-do list, along with a bunch of random doodles and a couple of inarticulate pseudo-philosophical ramblings. But despite this journal’s agnostic intentionality, I couldn’t escape the feeling that anything I wrote wouldn’t quite live up to my expectations.
If I jotted down a to-do list, it would only be a couple of hours before I’d inevitably decide that I could have used that paper for a much better purpose, and that I used that stack of scrap paper lying next to my printer. If I jotted down a couple of random thoughts, or even some thoughts that weren’t so random, I was almost sure that I’d come to the same conclusion: There are much better places for those thoughts, and this freshly acquired, finely crafted leather journal deserved something a little better.
So it sits on my shelf, along with the journal I bought last week, and the one that I bought the week before that, waiting for me to decide what the hell I’m going to write that’s so bloody important. As I get further and further into my ideas of what I might place onto paper with my pen, my threshold for picking something gets higher. And every once in a while, I hear my journal whispering to me, trying to get me to write something, so that it doesn’t reach the end and remain empty.
I woke up early the next morning, as I sometimes do to try and get inspired to write. But no valuable words approached my mind—only a couple of phrases that didn’t seem very worthwhile. I jotted them down on a piece of scrap paper from the next to my printer, in case they proved their value to me.
December gave me a call to let me know that the plans for the evening were set, so I texted Jaxson after work and told him that there was no need to save me a ticket to the show. I wished him the best of luck, and tried to remember who the headliner was, but still couldn’t recall their name. I texted Matt as well to let him know that I was sorry, old friend, but I wouldn’t be able to make it tonight.
After work, I hurried back to the apartment, hopped in the shower, dressed and stepped in front of the mirror, pressed and ready to leave, only to be greeted by a text from December:
Hey—really sorry, had to leave work early because I wasn’t feeling well, so I’m going to have to skip tonight. Rain check next week?
I tried to think of the words to reply to her message. Sure, no problem, hope you feel better soon was at the top of my list. They didn’t seem like valuable words, and my first instinct was to jot them down on a scrap of printer paper beside a random doodle and a grocery list. But I didn’t—as I typed them into my phone, my mind was somewhere else. Not far away, but fully occupied, staring at the stack of empty journals on my bookshelf, wondering why the hell I hadn’t written a single word.