Self-Portrait: [selected] Notes from My Phone

On a plane in November, I found myself without a journal or an ink pen. Or maybe I had both of them in that they were in my book sack, but they were out of my reach at the time I needed them. And here’s why that’s important: I was forced to use my cell phone to collect my inner reflections, a practice [I thought] was out of the norm for me.

At the time, I was nearing the end of my 25th year, which was significant because I was on a mission to figure out “who I was” before I turned 26. (You can read more about that when I’ve finished editing Translating Twenty-Five.)

I flipped through photos and then turned to the notes application on my phone to record a few pangs that had washed over me when I saw photos I didn’t realize were still on my phone. Only then did I realize my phone had upwards of 500 notes saved from the last 4 years. Ugh. I thought. I really should delete some of these; clear out a little space; keep only what’s important.

I started at the beginning—November 19, 2011—and just started scrolling.

November 19, 2011 | 10:26 pm
Trinacria Foods
406 N. Paca St
Baltimore, 21201

November 20, 2011 | 2:25 am
I didn’t really know anything about him when we first started dating. I thought he was the guy from my PE class that was quiet and looked like Josh Hartnett. But it turns out that he was actually the guy from my science class that looked more like Heath Ledger. I thought they were the same guy because they were both tall, lanky, had wavy-sometimes-curly hair that could pass for blond or light brown depending on the light.

They were almost the same person, except the guy from science class and I had a mutual friend, and would never end up talking to or learning the name of the guy from my PE class.

November 30, 2011 | 10:11 pm
Baggage claim. Everyone always waits in the same exact spot.

March 5, 2012 | 12:16 am
Instances of the floor as lava
Lava becoming the rule—never questioned even in college
Other rules like that

Because as a valid argument
Shot gun
Nah uh
Older siblings rule all
Things that happened once actually
span all of childhood

Stuffed animal fights

Now listen, when I’m on planes, I listen to music that is a bit more thought-inducing for me: Snow Patrol, the Civil Wars, Of Monsters & Men, all of which make me what I can best describe as “introspective, maybe-slightly-more-emotional-than-usual.” (My boyfriend is surely saying, more emotional than usual? Terrifying. But it’s true.) On this particular day, though, reading through four years of ups and downs, joys and angers, and several different kinds of heartbreak, I was more than introspective. I was overwhelmed by this unexpected time capsule of myself.

It was a portrait I don’t get to see with a quick glance in the mirror.

January 3, 2012 | 3:54 pm
Things to Do with Favorite
Go hiking/backpacking but we have to go in a place with no bears

February, 3, 2012 | 9:22 am
Sometimes I can’t sleep, because I’m wondering why you ended things the way you did. One day saying you loved me, that I was stuck with you, the next that you just couldn’t do it anymore. But what about the good stuff? The laughing. The inside jokes. What about the way I fit into the curve of your arm when we curled up on the couch? Or all the new games long distance afforded us? What happened to wanting to be my best friend or the first dance you promised me? I can see now that our entire future was hypothetical at best.

Why didn’t you know that a year ago? Why didn’t I? I chose to stand up for you, against all my friends and family; I chose to love you.

But now I hate you for it.

And there were lists—so many lists!

Grocery lists that showed a progression toward healthier habits, with a few surprises I couldn’t begin to explain to you now. Lists of numbers that seem too important to delete, but link to no vivid memory or value in my head. There were letters and intentions of letters to exes and family and friends that I knew I’d never send. Noted body measurements and goals and workout plans.

April 9, 2012 | 8:20 am
Fat is 22
Waist 27.75
Hips 34.5
Waist 32.5
Thigh 21
Arms 10
Bust 35
Calf 12.75
Knee 13 inches

December 23, 2012 | 11:52 am
Print plane tickets
Vanilla extract
Fruit kebabs
Caramel brie apple skewers
butter for baking

I wondered and hoped about my future within the notes, and there’s a clear change when I began a journey back to faith. There are the early, timid, superficial prayers when I was flirting with the idea of being a Christian, and then there are the angry, this isn’t what we talked about prayers after I’m sure I became one. There are also a notes marking desperate, I’m at the end of my rope, moments that only exist now as hazy, bad-day memories apart from their presence on that tiny screen.

December 3, 2014 | 4:37 am
God I feel like a petulant little child, continuing to be mad at you until I get my way. And in my heart, I know you have a plan. But that doesn’t keep my heart from being broken. And Lord, I feel like I’ve waited over and over for peace on this one, not perfectly, of course, but quite desperately. Quite verbally. The best I knew how within this situation.

Everything exhausts me, Lord. And I don’t know what else to say about it or to approach you differently. Please just show up in a powerful way.

There are notes about writing notes—start a story this way directives, a new idea for an essay not working, people watching—but it’s the collection of all these things together that’s the story for me. Or, of me I should say.

August 10, 2012 | 9:07 pm
The sonic is gone
Movie theater with my almost-first-kiss
First boyfriend
The back way to school
Turning the corner to the most beautiful sunrise
Mickey’s face on posters on every telephone pole
Remember when it was a coffee shop years ago and then this
Nope to both
Worrying about running into people
But I don’t know these people anymore.

For better or worse, these notes chronicle many of the ways I live and fail to live my life. As a writer, I find it an interesting well of material that will form the foundation of at least three new essays. As a person who’s always trying to learn more about what it is to live in this world, I find it all really funny and sometimes pathetic, and I’m grateful that although I’m terrible at keeping a consistent journal, I at least consistently confide in my phone.

More on this in the future, but for now I’m going to share a mini-series through the end of March that’s called [selected] Notes from My Phone.

December 27, 2014 | 2:17 pm
the best stories seek truth at their heart

2014-03-07 17.59.06 copy


Other posts in this series:

[selected] Notes from My Phone: We Have at Least 2 Sides
A Self Portrait Continued: When Doors are Closed
[selected] Self Portrait: Chicken or Turkey
Self Portrait: The Mouse Can[‘t] Hurt You