Journaling for well-being

I hope you consider joining me as I talk about Journaling for Well-being and Personal Growth, hosted by the West Linn Public Library on November 2. But before I get to that, a bit of background. And yes, a few stories.

Several years ago I was invited to talk to three third grade classes at Chloe Clark Elementary School. I was to meet the school community in the morning assembly (where I was greeted as if I were a rock star), before talking with the eldest third grade members of the school about writing and about my great great great, their school’s name sake (see: Returning to Place). I had so much fun and I wasn’t nervous a bit. After all, not only had I once been a kid who liked to write, I’ve raised two kids of my own, encouraging them along with their peers in the classroom from time to time. Like a lot of parents and mentors.

Third graders at Chloe Clark Elementary School, Dupont, WA, 2018 (with permission Chloe Clark School)

One of the kids that day asked a profound question after I told them how Chloe’s journal was available online through Willamette University. Did Chloe give permission for this? Permission to post in cyberspace by a woman who died in 1874? This 8 or 9-year-old understood how powerful, and potentially devastating, it is to have our innermost thoughts read by someone else. I shared my answers to this question, but it too reminded me of when my journal was read by a boyfriend in college, a jarring event that kept me from personal writing for several months. It is why I now advise people, who are writing inner heart journals, to protect them from other eyes.

Before I left the school that day, I was invited to pose for a photo with Principal Gary Yoto, and Peggy and General John Hemphill in front the statue of Chloe near the school entrance. This is the spot where kids share cake and sing happy birthday to honor Chloe on her birthday day each year, thus my unexpected rock star status. This woman who is today considered first teacher in the Puget Sound area. Today while confirming General Hemphill’s first name online, he who spearheaded the design and construction of Chloe’s commemorative statue, I found his obituary and learned he died only a few months ago. I remembered him as a kind man and dedicated to others from those few moments I spent with him. I share my condolences with his friends and family.

Dede with Peggy Hemphill, General Hemphill and Principal Yoto.

One year later I was asked to speak to students at Sherwood High. Hmm, I thought. A more sophisticated audience. I made it clear to my host that I was no writing expert – although I love to write. I was reassured not to worry, the kids enjoyed hearing from published authors and writers. As it turned out I had a blast, sharing my stories, a few ideas, and listening to theirs. Before the talk I had revisited journals from my own high school days, all still tucked away, deep in a desk drawer. The students laughed, relating in a way they may not have expected, as I read a short journal passage that included something to the effect of adults don’t know shit (see We are all writers).

Dede at Sherwood High, 2019.

In March 2020 I was asked if I might teach a session on journaling as connected to personal well-being at OEA Choice’s annual wellness conference, an organization and conference I partner with in my day job. I thought, I can do that. Again I repeated how I wasn’t an expert on journaling and writing, and was again reassured. Looking back now, this apprehension about not knowing enough reminds me of the best lesson I learned in my late 20s as I compulsively prepared to teach roomfuls of adults, me an overachiever believing I needed to know everything. Back then the classes (of people learning about hazardous waste operations, emergency response and all things safety) were filled with people generally much older than me, dominated by men in those days, some with higher degrees in other technical subjects and decades more experience than me. I’m thankful it didn’t take me long to understand and accept how I would never be an expert on all things, and I will always encounter people who know more than I on a given topic. But isn’t that terrific? It takes the pressure off when we’re willing to let go of our unrealistic expectations and to instead show up to share what we do know, and as importantly, create a safe space for others to share their expertise. Returning to 2020, the journaling class for OEA Choice was first cancelled due to the pandemic, but I was invited to teach two virtual sessions to Oregon educators and staff virtually in 2021 with great success. Again, I had a blast.

I’m pleased that I pitched a similar session with my favorite local library, and that the library staff picked it up as a 2021 virtual event. For after all, whether someone actively journals, or always meant to, the data is strong about how writing can enhance our well-being. Who doesn’t need that now? I thank West Linn Public Library for sponsoring this one hour virtual talk on November 2 at 6 pm. I hope you’ll join us as I share what I know. Remember, I’m no expert, but together we can learn and grow. Learn more and pre-register.

Dede’s journal collection.

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