You know the old* complaint, “Look at all these people on their smartphones in this public place; doesn’t anybody talk to each other anymore?” I’ve always wondered if everyone who says this is an extrovert. Long before cell phones were invented, I made a point of carrying some kind of solitary distraction everywhere I went, in case I might have to wait somewhere. I’m a solid introvert with ADHD: the thought of being caught somewhere with nothing to do and the chance of someone making eye contact with you and attempting to initiate small talk is torturous and must be avoided at all costs. I always need something to capture my eyes (so as to avoid accidental eye contact) and entertain my brain. If I’m in the middle of reading something, you’d better believe that something goes with me wherever I go, just on the off-chance I have a moment to read it. But if I’m not—which, nowadays, is usually the case—it’s more often than not my journal.
Weirdly enough, I can go weeks without ever actually writing in my journal, but I will take it with me everywhere. It’s like a being-places security blanket. I just need to have it, just in case. Wi-Fi is spotty and my phone has no data plan, and who wants to risk relying on a phone having enough battery power to distract through any possible waiting experience, anyway? I must have paper and something to write with.
I had a back-pocket notebook habit through part of high school and most of college. I collected quotes, jotted story ideas, free-wrote, and doodled. A friend of mine saw a back-pocket-sized notebook in a store once and bought it “because it reminded me of you even before I opened it up and saw it says ‘Amy Book’ on the inside.” I lost that little notebook somewhere. And nowadays I’m often wearing clothing without back pockets, so I got out of that habit.
So I just have to remember to bring something to write on, every time. And I usually do. That journal sticks with me.
The other day, as we trekked down the hill to a scout picnic (for which it definitely looked like we would have to wait for the scouts to finish the work they were doing first), I noticed my daughter lugging a pile of unlined paper with a mechanical pencil clipping it together.
Now, my daughter is an artist—a compulsive artist, I believe I’ve explained. When I saw that pile of paper in her hands, I instantly felt the spiritual connection between it and the journal in my own hands. I gave her a high-five. “SOMEone here knows how to go places prepared!” Her dad didn’t get it.
And as the other scout families milled around waiting, she and I sat side-by-side on the stoop with our respective packs of paper and made our respective marks on them. I felt oddly proud: yes, this child clearly takes after me, even if the shapes of the marks we’re making are different.
Today we were at a restaurant, waiting for our food. Her brother whined that he was hungry and cold and bored. I looked at his sister, drawing away, and down at the notebook in front of me being filled with fiction. “Obviously, you need to get yourself a paper and pen hobby,” I told him. Then the time would go by all too quickly.
*Yes, I know, the irony of this adjective. Maybe it’s not old relative to the stretch of written history, but it’s certainly already well-worn out.