The "Journals+Journeys" series features
Vagabroad diarists sharing their journey with journaling--
for your inspiration.
As of today Nariya is a daughter, auntie, sister,
friend, emerging writer, social worker, therapist, consultant.
Lover of community.
Loves to travel.
How long have you been journaling?
I received my first journal on December 25, 1985. My father gave it to me as a Christmas present. I’ve been journaling ever since.
What date did you start your Vagabroad Journal?
I haven’t started yet. My intention is to use it for my next experience outside of the U.S. in February.
Why is journaling necessary for you?
Journaling keeps me honest. I don’t care how embarrassing or cringe-worthy something is, [my journal] has been a space that I can write it out freely without judgement. Writing things down also holds me accountable. It helps me to clear and organize my thoughts.
Besides the obvious reason of self care, why do you keep a journal?
Although I didn’t realize it when I started, the opportunity to look back and reflect on my life has made me more patient and more caring with myself. I’ve been re-reading old journals and I see how much I didn’t know back then OR I look back and see how incredibly bold I was and it reminds me that I have the strength I need in me to move forward. We think that our older self is the one who has the wisdom to give to our younger self but I’ve learned so much from my younger self by reading old journals. The ability to reconnect with parts of me that I forgot has been a huge gift.
How does journaling impact the way you see yourself and the world around you?
Since journaling is a form of my self care, I feel more prepared to face the world because of it. The same patience that I gained for myself I feel like I can extend it to others because I’ve taken some time to step back. It doesn’t stop me from being pissed off but it helps me to not misdirect it. It’s a work in progress.
Do you have a routine? How often do you write?
I try to write daily but it doesn’t always happen.
When I do it’s usually first thing in the morning before I get out of bed.
What time of the day is your ideal writing time?
I try to wake up at least a half an hour before I have to actually be up just so I have a few minutes to write. I enjoy the peace. Early mornings make me feel like I’m the only one in the world who’s awake and my mind isn’t yet cluttered with the responsibilities of the day and if it is I can just write it out. I always feel a bit of disappointment when I hear a neighbor start their car or the school busses come down the block. That’s when I know the rest of the world is up.
Have you ever finished a journal? Can you describe the feeling?
I finish most of my journals. Sometimes I feel like I’m closing a chapter
that needs to close so it feels good to finish and move on.
Other times it’s bittersweet like I’m saying goodbye to a friend.
That’s probably when I had a good stretch and I felt like the journal helped me
sort some things out or supported me through a tough situation.
How long does it usually take you to finish a journal?
Usually about 3-6 months depending on the size of the journal and how busy I am at the time.
Do you use journaling prompts?
I don’t have a particular prompt but sometimes if a word or phrase
comes to mind I will write it repeatedly until another thought comes to mind
and then I will write that until something else comes.
Rather than staying stuck in my head it’s helpful to just write it out and see where it takes you.
What do you do with your old journals?
Right now I have most of my journals stacked in my bedroom.
I am slowly going through them to pull out old poems and stories.
I welcome creative suggestions for keeping old journals.
I don’t know what to do with them all and I don’t want to put them in a box and hide them.
How do you feel about journaling in public spaces?
I am an observer.
When I’m out, I am watching every detail of a room or whatever space I’m in
so it’s challenging for me to write. I always have my journal or something to write with
so if I really feel moved, I’ll write. More likely than not,
if I’m out I’m taking in my surroundings and rolling things around in my head.
The experience usually makes it into the journal or other things I’m writing later on.
What are some songs on your journaling playlist?
I usually write in silence.
Sometimes I’ll write for an entire morning and not even hear my own voice.
I am in a lot of discussion and interaction with people most days and
throughout the week for work so being able to have a single focus
on me and hear my inner voice is probably why silence works so well for me.
What are the qualities you look for in a new journal?
It really depends on the space that I’m in.
I went through a time where I was blocked and wanted to
try a different form of expression so I handmade a journal.
After that I had 2 journals with blank covers so that I could write or draw on them
just so that I was doing something creative other than writing.
I’m not a visual artist but it just felt like a good exercise.
Most times, I want something sturdy, that travels well and sometimes visually makes a statement of how I’m feeling at the time.
Why do you believe we have an inclination, an urge to document ourselves? Where does that come from and why should we follow it?
I don’t know if we all have an urge to document ourselves but I do think there is something to being heard. I think we want people to feel where we are coming from and to have those feelings validated. It’s also a form of connection. There are some people that I love who know that I am always writing but because of my insecurity have read little to none of my work and yet they continue to ask me if I am still writing. I think that is so powerful. It’s actually encouraged me to continue and in some ways built my confidence and desire to share my stories.
Documenting gives the opportunity for connection to happen even when we are no longer around and that’s transcendence.
Talk about the relationship between documentation via journaling and the sentience of the Black Female body.
Being a black woman in a world that wants to tell us who we are and those messages are often inconsistent with what I know to be true, it is so important that we become more attuned with ourselves. Journaling has been my check in. It’s been a way to hear from myself without outside contradiction. It’s a place that I learned to trust the powerful things I believed about myself even if people or institutions said otherwise. How was it that at 8 years old I was already making empowered statements in my life but not long after I wasn’t sure that I could do it? Why did I keep writing even when I didn’t believe that I was any good at it? Becoming attuned with who I am, getting clear about what was the truth and what were negative thoughts or attacks to undermine me not only changed me but I believe can change the world. I’m growing more comfortable with that and trusting how I feel. For me, it is actually a divine experience.
Describe the general relationship you believe is necessary for us to have with ourselves for our journaling to be most fruitful?
Authenticity. If you are authentic when you’re journaling, great things can come, but not everything is pretty. Not everything is nice and rosy. I look back and cringe sometimes; I said that? I thought that way?! But it was all necessary for growth. That’s what made it fruitful.
Do you have any tips on journaling pain?
I don’t encourage anyone to do anything that causes more pain. I can think of challenging times in my life where I thought that writing was the obvious place for me to let my feelings out and when I tried to write, nothing came out. It felt too hard and I needed something else at that time. There were times that I couldn’t get to my journal fast enough because I had to let it all out. I think it’s important to honor the moment we’re in. The time will come when your story wants to be told.
Do you believe journaling is a way of creating the future?
When I’m journaling I’m not only writing what happened but creating a vision of what I want to see. The prayers, the daydreams, the plans, the decisions to do something different, are on the page. Our journals are like the blueprints.
What would you say to a fellow teastained woman who does not see value in keeping a journal?
Different methods speak to us and make sense to our lives. If it’s not journaling, find some other way to document your experiences. Photograph it, sketch it, record it, plant a garden, but find a way to capture your story. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about erasure and that despite how easy it is to access information and document things, it’s also easy for information to leave our consciousness quickly or be wiped away because we are always on to the next thing. I think we are losing our appreciation of how valuable history is and so we have to fight to preserve histories accurately and not the way that others want us to believe it happened. As a black woman, I can’t assume that anyone will tell or preserve my story the way that I will. I don’t assume that for any of us.
What does “Journey Soulfully” mean to you?
I’m figuring this out more every day.
I believe it means if you’re going to do it, go all in! If you are committed to your journey and living your life on your terms, be open to all the feelings, all the blessings, all the lows and let it add to you. By the time I was a teenager, I had moments when I wanted to hide. I didn’t value my own thoughts or experiences. I didn’t believe that they were meaningful to anyone but me. I still do it at times. Maybe journaling was a way for me to hide. But in order to expand I had to come out of that.
The first journal that I got at 6 I wrote in until I was 9. It’s amazing, I can see how my handwriting changed and how I went from writing one sentence every now and then to writing a paragraph and then pages weekly. At age 8 I told my journal that I was a writer and I wanted to write short stories. How awesome is that!? As I got older and my confidence in my work deflated I didn’t share my writing but I continued to write. So here I am 30 years later and saying publicly, “I am a writer.” It’s scary as hell and intimidating but this is part of the journey. I had to be open to everything that brought me to this point including the fear of being seen. Visibility? Being on your blog? It’s a big step for me.
Would you ever write a book?
The more I want to run away from the idea of it the more I come to know that it’s somewhere in my future so, although it scares the mess out of me, yes, I will write a novel one day.