Blog · Random Thoughts

About Journaling

I was sitting at a café balcony doodling in a notebook the other day. This kid I know passing by sees me and comes over to say hello. He glimpses my notebook and says, “What are you doing out here? Writing in your diary?” Then he doubles over laughing like he’d said the most hilarious thing in the world. I don’t laugh. I say, “Yes I am.”

I wasn’t actually writing in my diary but I have never understood why writing in a diary is considered something to laugh at. After the guy left probably vowing to himself to never attempt a joke in front of me again, I sat down and thought about the whole thing. I even googled it. I learned a few things. I now know the actual difference between Journal and Diary.  A diary is a daily record of events while a journal is not necessarily daily entry. It might also incorporate more than a record of events. Things like poems, ideas, lists and anything really. There’s never a rule for these things.

The Amharic word for Diary is ማስታወሻ which if you ask me sounds too ambiguous.

I think journal-ing or writing in a diary, like literally everything else in the world, is deeply misunderstood. Many think of diaries/journals as a juvenile thing about crushes and hating mothers. When we think diary, we usually tend to picture princess themed notebooks and sparkly pens. I blame pop culture for that. It doesn’t bother me that people laugh, really. It bothers me that they don’t get it.

When I was younger, I thought I was going to go to university to become an historian. That didn’t happen and it seemed to me for a while like I’d failed. But it turns out maybe I haven’t failed because I have kept a very emotive account of my last eleven years which I believe qualifies as recording history and would make for an interesting piece of shit for maybe a hundred years from now. I know I would kill to get a firsthand record of one of my ancestors.

Stationary has always been my go-to gift. Friend talks about depression? I go and buy him a notepad. Friend is dealing with breakup? I buy her a cute diary. Cousin is graduating? I buy notepad and wrapping paper. Secret Santa? Notepad and more wrapping paper. If I were a psychiatrist, I’d probably just prescribe writing all the time…. I read somewhere that journals are sometimes used to treat sleep disorders.

Toni Morrison said in one interview that writing is a thinking process and I so deeply wanted to high five her through the screen but it is generally not a good idea to high five a screen. When people tell me some of the difficulties that they go through, I always tell them to go write it down in the most uncensored language they can manage if they want to feel better because I find that many of the problems we deal with usually just need a deeper contemplation. A regular writing habit helps in that area. Writing stuff down helps put the insane jumble of thoughts into order. Sometimes I recognize how things I can’t figure out come into a clearer focus once I have written them down. I know for a fact that I would be dealing with a very serious mental problem if I didn’t write often.

The most common excuse I get from people to not keep a journal is that they generally don’t think they have anything to write and that their lives aren’t interesting enough or whatever. I think of Anne Frank who lived in a hiding place with a bookshelf for a door for about two years in the time of war and still managed to find interesting things around her and in her thought process to write about. Like how she felt about the war and her relationship with her family members and a weird sort of crush thing she had with a guy. I’d like to think that many of us today have at least the luxury of going outside to see the sky. We all have a few experiences that will probably never happen to us again. Reading past entries after some time helps to see how far we’ve come.

You see, journal-ing is not juvenile at all. A lot of important people keep journals and although it’s usually not written intended for publication, when discovered it’s often found to have a lot of interesting ideas and personal philosophies that the diarists were probably too modest to share. It’s not just writing. I personally believe that records are really important. Perhaps that’s because I really enjoy finding records and think that we should maybe keep around cool, authentic records for the next generations to find.

Google says the earliest actual diary found goes back to 1605. We now live in the digital age where journaling has left the paper and developed into computers. We can make videos now, we can use blogs, we can use photographs. There is no limit as to what one can do with this.
If it’s not meant to be shared, we can always burn it after.

If you are interested in keeping a journal I promise you, you will not be disappointed by how helpful it is. The effect is not something I can quite explain. It’s something you have to experience firsthand.

p.s TIPS IF ONE DOES NOT WANNA SHARE: If you use a notebook, make the notebook as uninteresting as possible. You can’t have a glittery notebook lying around and not expect people to wonder what’s in there.
A friend gave me this next tip. To hide your private stuff on your computer, you can always put it in your recycle bin because not a lot of people will check there. Although, you have to make sure that you don’t empty it by accident. But then again there’s passwords.

Random Thoughts

Twitter Vs Newspaper

I have many nostalgic memories with newspapers. When I was small, my mom would bring some home so I could read the children’s column. I still buy newspapers when I’m in Addis in the summer because there’s just something about them. They smell good too. I’d steal a glass of wine and go to town on the Sudoku or I’d try to see if there is a job application that my very unqualified experience can qualify for.
I have never actually read the news on the newspaper.

While I could never make use of my twitter account, I do very frequently (understatement!) use the internet to find out what is going on in the world and compulsively so. I don’t use Twitter but I hear how it makes for an amazing journalistic platform turning the job for actual journalists into more of a redundant thing. I also hear it plays quite the role in reducing the fraudulent and un-transparent reports by journalists who’ll spin anything for a good pay. Social media offers a stronger freedom of speech.

I’d considered Journalism as a career path. Last year, I tried to gather information to see if I could maybe pursue it. I was discouraged. The statistics of employment I got from certain students and teachers were cringe worthy. It made me wonder where all those graduates end up every year. There is TV journalism and all that but it’s a very competitive market and let’s be honest, not everyone has a face for TV; or the confidence, or the strength of spirit for mild fame that doesn’t pay well.

Many blame social media for the fall of journalism. Everyone with a smart phone and a social media account is a journalist today. In fact, due to the internet being so vastly competent, the publishing market has taken a huge hit…in the head.

Our generation takes this fall of a certain beautiful medium a step further. Many of us would be caught dead before we, with sound mind and body, put on the news to watch it. If I, a young girl of this age, were caught sitting at a café reading the newspaper, I’d look like a super ostentatious ass hat. No one would believe that I picked up a newspaper to read it as an interesting piece of literature. It’s not just that no one likes to read stuff anymore. It’s also that no one wants to look like a grandpa.

I think newspapers hold a certain sentimental, cultural vibe thing. Walking around Stadium or Piassa, it’s common to catch middle aged men with their cigarettes and their newspapers on small café balconies. It makes me want to take pictures every time. A tablet and headphones just doesn’t bring the same feel although it’s definitely a norm we might start appreciating real soon. For the youth, all that old stuff is uncomfortable in the ‘feel like people are staring because I look like I’m more than I actually am’ type of way.

I think I usually end articles by yelling my opinions and pulling the thoughts into a single file of what I think the world should be like. I don’t have that today. I love social media and I love newspapers even though they feel like rival cousins in a long war for attention. Social media seems to be winning but dammit I hope neither one goes away.

Blog · Random Thoughts

I Can’t Bring Myself to Title This

Chauvinism is exaggerated nationalism. Every time a new Teddy Afro album drops, this feeling seems to fall like thick mist all over Addis Ababa.

I first heard the new Teddy Afro album in Mekelle and it didn’t do anything for me. I think I even got a little angry at him because I felt let down with how lacking it was for my expectation. I liked some songs but it wasn’t enough and I bought the CD but I’m not that crazy about it.

I was in Addis this weekend. Teddy’s music reached my ears from a nearby homeless man’s static filled phone radio at 3:00 pm LT the minute I entered the city.

Throughout the weekend, I was hearing songs from the album in the taxi, in the streets, and it seemed like everyone has basically stopped listening to anything else.

This morning on my flight back to Mekelle, I found my mind wandering out the window to Teddy’s song and it was Atse Tewodros that was playing in my headphones and I got really tearful, I felt that nostalgic pull in my gut that I remember from the time I was last listening to Teddy’s Tekur Sew.

Teddy’s new album is titled Ethiopia and the world seems to be applauding this man. Somehow I feel like the little girl pouting at him from a corner.

Why is it that Teddy’s music sounds heart wrenching in Addis Ababa for me but not in Mekelle?

I figure that maybe it’s because his music has this unifying value and every time his songs come on, everyone will sing and understand it. Honestly, I don’t care what he titles his album he doesn’t really belong to Ethiopia, he belongs to Addis Ababa. This is not an ethnicity thing. The majority of the people who give a damn about him reside in Addis and while I can only speak for Mekelle and Addis, I can say the music gets a certain soul when booming in the streets of Addis. It gets some kind of life and gives one the feeling of existing in the music. Also I haven’t heard it booming in Mekelle yet.

One evening here at campus, I was sitting at the office with some guys giving me shit about my Facebook post about Teddy. Then they insisted on putting it on and we did and I was singing along with them but I noticed in all their ways that there was none of that chauvinism with them. I felt like they were all lying with their argument about Teddy in the first place because it’s an obligation and not something they really believe in.

Another friend of mine was disappointed by Teddy because he was “singing about love too much” This person would very much prefer it if Teddy sang about ideas and honestly I’d prefer it too. I like songs about ideas in general and until I find myself in love, love songs will always sound redundant to me.

We’ve tortured the poor man with too much criticism and I myself have said a lot about the length of his songs which we will not deny, and the fact that his new album has brought nothing new. However, I hope with all my heart that he doesn’t do music to please people and I know we are a tough bunch so I don’t want him to address the criticisms at all. I want him to sing because he means everything he sings about. That’s what any respectable artist would do.