For years I have carried this journal around in a box with other random stuff I don't look at. (c'mon we all do that righhht?). I've never been a serious journaller, but when I fulfilled a dream of travelling by myself to New York and Pittsburgh, I made notes of things I had seen and done that day. I noted some great places I ate in Pittsburgh, how it was meeting in person for the first time someone I had been writing to as a pen pal for years, and experiences like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, through Central Park, and seeing theatre shows and art exhibitions.
It reminded me of the 20 plus hour train trip from New York to Pittsburgh. The trip ended up taking so long took because there was a fatality on the track and so the train was stopped for hours in the middle of the night who knows where. I remember how eerie it was waiting in the still, cold carriage alone until I met an older African American woman called Helen. It turned out she was diabetic and we befriended each other before I found us some blankets and looked where we could buy food for her levels (note, Amtrak service back then was beyond appalling).
Earlier that trip I had met Eric who started talking to me because I was reading a Raymond Carver novel. His eyes lit up and he lent me one of his Bukowski books, but I commented that "I'm still not sure what to make of them. A lot seem to involve drink and women. We discussed literature, relationships, and tried to guess each other's name. It turned out he was schizophrenic, so it was interesting to hear him articulate how he viewed the world as a schizophrenic, before the medication worked."
I also commented on brief exchanges with strangers - the man in the dinner who good naturedly mimicked my Australian accent when I bought coffee and a bagel, the passerby who complimented me on my outfit saying it was clear I was not American as they are too concerned with putting together a look. The brief friendship I made with Shae while I was staying at The Gershwin, who was taking a break from her partner because he was taking up too much of her energy and she needed to refocus on herself and her art. I think travelling or doing anything alone opens yourself up to new experiences and people you may not notice or invest in when you are with someone else.
I also made these self reflections all those years ago. I'm going to write them here as they are things I still need to focus on! They're probably a little naive to read now, but the intention is there:
- I am ok and I need to like myself. I can have many facets, but I can't be everything or everyone. I don't have to prove anything or be anything. My expectations, goals, interests, capabilities are not humble or little, they are mine.
- Independence is important. Being able to think, act and make decisions alone is important.
- Relationships are important. I need to express to those close to me how I feel.
- I will be the only person to stop myself from achieving my goals.
- I can do whatever I want and not let what other people may think of it, stop me. I create my own enjoyment, fulfilment and those around me will understand that, for that is what they are doing also.
- I don't need to impress anyone.
- Negative experiences don't need to affect me.
- Passion for life is important. There is always something to do, learn, make, something to experience, someone to meet, some new yummy food to eat, some book to read, film or play to watch.
- All experiences can be learned from.
I ended up throwing out the journal because it was peppered with commentary about my ex as we had just started seeing each other, and it irked me to read it. To be reminded there was a time when we felt strongly for each other, but that even then there were hints and questions I was asking myself about him then, which hinted as to why it would ultimately not work out between us.
(Side note - as a typical sign of the times, The Gershwin appears to now have been rebranded as a more upmarket motel.)