The History of This Blog

In eighth grade, I started a new school, and the closest friend I made was my journal. I had been journaling since I was eleven, but that year, I took it to a new level. I wrote exhaustively, easily burning my way through three or four large notebooks. My new peers watched me curiously—I remember feeling their warm eyes trained on me—until, finally, they got up the courage to interrupt the new girl, who looked like she didn’t want to be bothered.

“What are you writing about?” they would ask, tentatively.

I’d look up long enough to utter one mischievous word: “Everything.” (I always tried to say it in a not-creepy way, but still, they backed away slowly.)

I did eventually make friends, and my journaling output decreased significantly. But I never stopped, and throughout high school, I kept small notebooks on my person at all times so I could jot ideas down to take home and write about later. My peers were used to my behavior by then, but a mysterious thing began to happen: one by one they found me in the hallways to confess that I had inspired them to start journaling. For some it went well, and for others it didn’t, but I cannot tell you how my spirit glowed to hear this news. By the simple act of practicing my craft in public, I had encouraged others to pursue it, too.

In the middle of senior year, I brought a big duffel bag to school. I acted super touchy about it, not letting anybody see it and checking between class periods to be sure it was still there. Finally, I went to speech class, duffel bag in hand, and when it was my turn to present my attention-grabbing introductory paragraph, I took the bag up to the front of the classroom.

“In this bag are my most prized possessions: all of my journals. I was very nervous to bring them today, but I thought this would be more effective if I showed you.” I unzipped the bag and began to pull out a steady stream of brightly-colored notebooks. As the stack grew higher and higher, my peers sat up attentively; out of my peripheral, I saw them pop up around the room like meerkats. My cheeks grew warm. Attention grabbed, I continued: “My most important life experiences have been documented in the pages of these journals. Many of you are mentioned,” with an askew glance thrown at my ex-boyfriend, whose mentions in my journals rival God’s, “and when I graduate high school, I will leave with a map of where I have been and who I have been that will help guide me through college and my adult life. Today, I’m going to share with you the three reasons why you too should keep a journal throughout your young adult lives…” I finally got to sit down, a little sweaty and very relieved, and the ex-boyfriend patted the bag knowingly.

After class, multiple people came up to me to express how much they would have liked to hear the end of the speech, that they too were attracted to the idea of journaling and wanted my input and expertise. Before that day, I hadn’t considered myself an expert in journaling, but when I look back, that was the moment the idea of this blog was planted in rich soil.

 

Four years later, senior year at Belmont was kicking my ass. My classes were hard, harder than anything I’d ever experienced before, and to top it off, my professors kept assigning reflection papers, which are the bane of my existence. “This is not the medium I prefer to use to reflect on my life,” I wrote passive-aggressively to one of my (favorite) professors. “A paper feels forced and unnatural.” And besides, I had been so busy that I hadn’t even had time to reflect in my head, not to mention journal. Everything felt foggy, like I couldn’t see anything except the moment I was currently in. I thought I was going to stay in that funk until graduation, and I grew unhappier by the day.

And then one of my friends called to tell me that she was feeling suicidal. I went to sit with her and listened as she blubbered about the triggers that had caused the black thoughts. It all boiled down to one thing: she felt everything so deeply, and she was exhausted by her life’s emotional roller coaster.

I looked at her gently, thinking about how much I admired her ability to feel the fullness of her emotions. It seemed to me a tragedy that she couldn’t see the value I saw in this characteristic, and I thought to myself, Why does she see this as a weakness? This is not a weakness. Her emotions are central to who she is. Wouldn’t it be better to tap into this capacity for emotion, train it, and make it work for her instead of fighting against it?

That night, I sat down with my journal and spilled out what is now the foundational belief of this blog:

I believe that we are all hardwired with personalities that cannot be overcome. No matter how hard we try to be someone else, we will always fall back into our natural state. Because of this, it is extremely valuable to learn how each one of us is hardwired. Instead of fighting against it or medicating it away, we ought to put ourselves where we naturally fit and do the things that make us believe that life is worth living, leaning into those characteristics so that they become our strengths. When we do this, I believe that all the pieces of our lives—all of those seemingly random and chaotic interests and experiences we have accumulated over the years—begin to make sense. From this bird’s eye perspective, it appears that our lives and personalities have been carefully designed and destined for us.

This was the breakthrough that cleared the fog. I suddenly had a crystal clear vision of the way my wandering journaling entries, careful study of human behavior, seemingly random interests, and deep passion to help others had led me to this moment. All the pieces fell into place, and Journal Her was conceived.

I recognize that it’s a rather convoluted history, but I relay all of this to demonstrate how personal growth tends to come to us in a roundabout way. I can’t promise you a quick route to happiness with this blog. In fact, the road to wholeness will require time, vulnerability, and deep digging. But I can promise that Journal Her will inspire your soul. From a place of affirmation, believing that who you are designed to be is who you should be, I know that the pieces will fall into place for you as well.

I’m looking forward to growing with you.

– Ashley

To learn more about me and the purpose of this blog, read my about page.