Thursday, June 26, 2008

$9.50 For Your Thoughts

Studies show that it takes 30 days of a repeated action to form a habit.

I’ve kept an almost-daily journal since I was in the third grade. That’s approximately 24 years of a repeated behavior, which I guess counts as a habit. I like to think it’s a good habit, as opposed to some of the less savory habits out there, like picking your nose or smoking. That’s not to say I haven’t done both of those things, but not in any habitual kind of way.

My journals aren’t fancy affairs. Oh sure, I’ve fallen victim to those pretty journals you see in bookstores and the like, but I always end up coming back to my perennial favorites-- cheap spiral bound lined notebooks that you can get from the drugstore.

I write in my cheap notebooks with a cheap pen. It has to be blue ink, and it has to be Papermate. If I’m desperate, I might allow for a Bic, but only under dire circumstances.

My journal comes with me everywhere. And when I can’t take it with me, I have a mini notebook that I keep on me at all times.

My journals probably aren’t that interesting to anyone but me, and because I have terrible penmanship, they’re probably not decipherable by anyone but me, either.

I had one college boyfriend who took it upon himself to read my journal while I was at class. He not only managed to decipher my chicken scratch, but also discovered that I had a not-so-secret crush on his roommate. Oops. I broke up with him shortly thereafter. I can put up with a lot of things, but not with someone who reads my journal behind my back.

Back in my other life, my waitressing life, I used to work double shifts at Spiceboy’s lovely restaurant and emerge onto Atwood Street sometime after 11pm smelling of wok smoke and garlic and chili oil, my pockets stuffed full of cash. I’d make my way across the street with some of wait staff buddies to a bar that used to be called Denny’s and we’d spend our tip money on many pitchers of Yuengling beer. And after I’d had enough glasses of beer so that everything blurred slightly at the edges, I’d pull out my journal, and I’d ask my friends to write something down. They could write anything they wanted, just as long as they wrote something. Sometimes people were shy about it, and sometimes they wrote drunken nonsense. But some got really into it. I remember on one particularly beery night, my journal actually circled the entire bar so everyone—perfect strangers-- could take their turn writing in it. I still have that journal—it’s like a little time capsule from those stolen summers when Atwood Street was my whole world.

Being stuck at home these last few months, I’ve burned through a lot of journals and a lot of pens. And recently, I found myself at the last page of the last journal of a pack of journals I purchased sometime during the winter. It’s always a melancholy place, the last page of a journal. It’s the unequivocal end—you can’t go any further, even if you want to. You have no choice but to close the cover on a small section of your life.

But as sad as the last page of a journal is, there’s nothing more full of promise than the first page of a brand new journal. So I asked Spiceboy to pick me up a notebook while he was out running errands.

He returned later in the day, empty-handed. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get you your notebook,” he said. “I went to Walgreen’s, and they had notebooks, but they were $9.50.”

“You mean to tell me that a spiral notebook, the kind that you used to buy for school, costs $9.50?” He nodded.

“Are you sure it wasn’t a typo?”He shook his head.

Perhaps it’s inflation. Perhaps it’s just a phenomenon of living in Manhattan. Whatever it is, my cheap habit has now become expensive. I imagine becoming a journal junkie, begging for change on the streets so I can get my journal fix. Or a shoplifter, wearing a huge overcoat into the Walgreen’s and stuffing it full of spiral-bound notebooks, then running out the door.

I fantasize about robbing a Mead delivery truck and driving off into the sunset with a lifetime supply of journals, gripping the steering wheel with fingers that are stained blue from the cheap ink of my Papermate pens.