If you have ever journaled, jotted, or wrote something down of great importance and then proceeded to lose said writing, you will understand. For those who have not, then this is a cautionary tale of keeping what matters most to you safe.
It’s Easter Sunday, and here I am riding the Greyhound back to DC. It’s just how anyone would want to spend a beautiful day and a holiday: in the last seat at the back of a dreadfully crowded bus. I take a cautionary sniff at the suspicious candy given to me by the ticket guy, then proceed to shove it into my bookbag, as I do with most things. Lucky for me, I had the backmost seat to myself. I spread my things out haphazardly, preparing to hammer away at work due the following day. Out of the items that I grab from my bag, one is a black journal. I plan on using it as a reference for writing the rough draft of an ethnographic research paper that must be completed in a few weeks. For over a year, I have carried this black journal everywhere. It is a reminder that if the urge to write hits, or if I need to spill my thoughts out, then this is here to receive whatever evokes my need. It is a comforting presence and creates an odd sense of ease. It’s knowing that something is always by my side and will never leave.
Or, at least that’s what I thought.
(Glances at notebook then screen *type type type*; notebook, screen *type type type*; looks out window, continues looking out window, puts most of work away, rests head) “Puts most of work away”. This would end up being a grave mishap.
I keep my notebook to the side of me, thinking, I’ll get to my work later. It fits so nicely in a little crevice between the two seats, and the top peaks out just enough for easy grabbing later. I have created my own small workspace in the back of the bus, and I feel comfortable (except for the disgusting smell emanating from the bathroom to my right), which certainly deters me from ever sitting in the backmost seat again.
The bus carries on, passing Amish in their horse and buggies, and people hurrying home on this hot Sunday from their holiday travels. Eventually, we arrive in York, PA, a quaint town with a depressing bus station. A few people board, with one man jutting straight for the back. He sits down with his skateboard on the floor next to the seat that’s open beside me. I offer him the open seat, and he declines graciously, detailing how he does not like people very much. It’s funny how someone can say that in such a kind, friendly manner. I told him to at least put his skateboard on the open seat, and if the floor were to become too uncomfortable, to just take the seat. He smiled and nodded, seemingly pleased with this situation. The bus hurtles to a go, and we are once again off.
In the back of my mind, I know I should be doing work. But oh, looking out the window is so pleasant and serene. I love just watching the world pass by, novelizing about the lives that fill these passing small towns and farms. So I carry on like this, daydreaming, and soaking in the last day of the weekend.
We arrive in Baltimore, and a sinking feeling enters my stomach. We are almost back in DC. I love the city and my life there, but returning also means returning to responsibility, deadlines, and people who I may or may not want to see. The man sitting on the floor to my right stands up to leave, and I give him a friendly nod goodbye. He nods in return and then departs into the setting light. How strange these brief interactions are, where people come and go so fast, pulled by whatever path they are on. This man is inconsequential to me. However, the overall thought is saddening–sometimes I meet people who truly impact me in a short time, and then just like that, they are gone. I feel this sometimes in my travels, in random interactions that occur, and in people who come and go from one place to another and from one mindset to another. However, I was once given advice that it’s not goodbye, but I hope we meet again. I find that the idea of consistency is tantalizing, but what makes life so colorful are the inconsistencies that fill it. However, some comfortable consistencies I cherish, like my family, closest friends, and my black journal…
The bus roars to a start, and we begin the last leg of the journey. The sun continues to dip lower, and a sleepiness settles over the passengers on the bus. For the last part of the drive, I rest my head against the window, putting all expectations that await aside. At least for the time being.
Peace. A feeling that I try to hold onto, but one that takes flight at the nearest disturbance. This disturbance comes as the bus squelches to a stop at Union Station. Dutifully, I collect my bag and step into the aisle. However, something stirs in the back of my mind, and I halt in my departure from the bus. I glance back. Usually, I triple check to make sure I have all my belongings. However, I felt sluggish, and the peaceful feeling still lingered to some degree. Therefore, I turn and shuffle confidently off the bus with the herd of travelers and collect my bag in the under-storage. Then, I begin my trek to AU and to whatever lies in store.
A week and a day later, informal presentations begin for our research projects. I open my bookbag, searching for the black journal. Not only is it my personal journal, but also my research journal. For my ethnography class, we go into “the field” to collect data, and the majority of my data is written in my journal. My journal which is nowhere in sight. I take every item out of my bookbag and search in every nook and cranny. Finally, after emptying the contents of my bookbag, I think to myself
“ah, I must have left it in my room. *Sigh*”.
After relaying the dilemma to my Professor, she agrees to let me present next class. *Phew*: disaster averted.
After class, I run to my room and immediately look to my desk for the journal. It is not there. In a matter of minutes, I am turning over everything I can get my hands on. Tears erupt from my eyes, and I let out a strangled moan. My initial calm turns towards to panic as I realize the extent of my calamity. Sobbing hysterically, I tear apart my room, running around like a madwoman. One of my suitemates leaves her room from down the hall in our suite and tries to help as best she can. I call every place I can think of, but none have my journal.
With the jarring knowledge that I probably won’t get my journal back, I run, tears dripping down my face, to my professor’s office hours. Thankfully she holds hours right after class. I stand outside, waiting to be let in, and my mind sweeps into an overly sharp analytic mode, trying to decipher where on Earth this journal could be. Then, as if a lightbulb went off, it hit. The Greyhound. The gray fuzz in my mind dissolves, and I remember every moment to a tee. Including when I left my journal stranded in that little wedge.
I am finally allowed entrance into my professor’s office, where my tears flow freely (a moment I am not proud of), and I explain how the majority of the research I had conducted throughout the semester was possibly now lost in the grizzly paws of the Greyhound. We talk for a while, and she says that if I am unable to collect my journal, I can have an extension. She orders me to write down as much information from my research as I can remember, and once returning to my room, I follow suit. But not without first making a call to Greyhound.
I am sent from one Greyhound assistant to another, and from phone number to phone number, feverishly trying to track down the journal. Eventually, I hit a dead end. I am notified by the Greyhound office at Union Station that since my journal is not in their lost-and-found, that it could either be: A) in some random state B) someone could have picked it up or C) that it is in the lost and found at the cleaning station. My last hope is the Greyhound bus cleaning station, so I leave a message with them. Then, I am officially out of ideas.
I am thankful that my professor is allowing me to hand in my work during the summer so that I can re-conduct some of my research. However, I lost journal entries that held high value and meaning to me. These entries were sometimes written for fun, or for me to remember some memory. Other times, they were written to describe some situation that impacted me. Losing the words I wrote in those moments hurt me like none other. It is a pain that sucks the breath from my lungs, leaving me buckled over and feeling helpless. I realized in hindsight that part of the reason the pain was so great was that I had been on a precipice. Losing the journal sent me over the top. Stress had been piling on me for so long, and this was its release. It finally found some form to express itself, aka, my complete momentary breakdown.
I manage to go to Arabic class that night and make it through the rest of the day. The next morning, after that horrendous day, I wake up refreshed and rejuvenized. Everything will be okay. Even so, I go home that weekend, something I always do when I feel the need to recenter myself with family and my hometown. Returning to my roots always helps when I am off-kilter and off-center. I wanted to see my family and be at home on the farm and in the woods and near the mountain.
The fact is, you can’t hold onto physical things. The mind, however, is lasting; fickle, and in age tricky to navigate, but it still remains. Everything I had written down I experienced and that is the greatest pleasure to be had, even though the capturing of my exact description of events, feelings and thoughts are not permanently etched in writing. Well, they are somewhere, and whoever holds that journal holds information invaluable to its owner.
To end, my mom gave me some advice that I will relay now. The things you prize and hold of most value, take care of. Do not let them become lost to you.