When It Matters

Our world, our lives, continues to change.
  Even if you don’t pay attention, there is change, but if you pay attention you can more easily adapt to the results and ramifications.
  I make a point of trying to track changes as I see and feel them. I write it all down, as it happens, in my journal. Journaling has become a habit, or necessity, for the past couple of decades. Writing it out help me make sense of it all.
  I write, pretty much, every day. I have consistently, certainly for the past 21 days, addressed what is happening with me; that’s what my journal is all about ME and everything and everyone around me, as WE go through this life; and especially this brand new decade.
  Twenty-one days has been enough to refresh, or reinvigorate, this habit of mine, and it has become a practice for a lot of other people as well.
  I just finished up soulalk’s VISION 2020, an online guided journaling workshop. I offer these workshops off and on, and this time was supremely impressed with the participation and input from participants. It is both interesting and inspiring to see and read what people are thinking about.
  There was a great deal of soul searching and support. The time together was important. I am thankful for the experience.
  I probably wrote more than I usually do over the three weeks. I began the month, the year (the decade), with five brand new pencils and now a few are little more than stumps. In addition to the daily prompts, I wrote about the changes I, and the rest of the world, was experiencing.
  I wrote every day about everything that seemed important at the time. That is what a journal does, or allows you to do. It keeps a running record of where you are on this journey called life. You write it out.
  With a journal, it matters not so much what you write, but only that you do.
  Write every damn day.
  Sometimes it is only a sentence. Other times it is simply a word. A day.
  You write.
  Maybe you only write the date, but you should always write the date, because if that is all you write — if that is all you could write — you will know, looking back, that you were alive on that date.
  On that day, you know you had the courage to write it down, even if that date is the only thing you wrote.
  Maybe nothing happened that day, or maybe, on that day, you did not want to write down all that was happening. Maybe you didn’t have the time, or perhaps you didn’t have the courage or the will, but you knew what date it was (some dates are like that).
  Some days it is only a sentence.
  Some days that sentence is a word. Some words are like that.
  Some days are like that.
  Some days you are not feeling it, or you feel too much, so you just write down the date; it may lead to something else.
  Every day, every word, is a part of something bigger and you are greater than all of that, even if you don’t write it down.
  But you should always write down the date.
  A date will remind you that you are alive; after that nothing else matters, but everything counts.
  Write it down when you can, when it matters.
  Make it matter.
  A journal is always there for you.

© 2020 j.g. lewis

Opening Up To The Power Of Words

by Kayla Harrison

I stand in front of my students and ask them if they want the world to change. I watch as hands go up across the classroom. I ask if they think they can change the world as they are now: this age, this stage of life, this classroom. Now. I get a hand or two, but the room is still. Students look down at their desks and twiddle their thumbs, they laugh, some get red in the face. A student says, “Not yet, anyway.”

I say, “Raise your hand if you think you must wait until you get a degree.” Hands go up before I finish the statement.

There’s something worth noting here: the fact that this society has trained us to think a certain way. It has shifted our mindsets, enslaved us to one way of thinking. We must change that.

One of my favorite sayings by Margaret Atwood is this: “A word after a word after a word is power.” I read this to my students frequently. We have the power, as writers, as communicators, as humans, to shape this world with words. Our words.

Imagine being able to say something or write something and it comes to fruition. All acts start with communication: letters, whispers, text messages, social media posts, videos, podcasts, books, scribbles on a napkin, internal thoughts, phone calls, etc. Our words hold power. But we have to learn how to first listen, then learn how to get our message across in the most effective, meaningful way.

It frightens me that my students are growing up in this world, in the state that it’s in. It worries me that every time they walk out of the classroom they face things that I can’t control, that I can’t protect them from. But what I can do is teach them how to use their voices, how to stand up, how to communicate effectively.

“Your words matter. You matter.” I write this on my students’ papers as a reminder that what they have to say is important, just as all of the authors we read in class are important. Each person’s writing offers a different worldview, and each of my students can only offer their unique perspective on life.

I encourage them to be vulnerable in their writing, to offer their opinions, to challenge others. I attempt to teach them how to listen to other sides of an issue before making their stance. I attempt to teach them how to put different writings into a conversation and how to add themselves in.

My hope is that they will learn to listen before they act, but also learn that they have the power right now to do something.

They can put themselves into the mix of others talking about worldly issues through their everyday conversations, social media posts, group chats, etc. There are so many platforms available for them to take advantage of, and I have hope that they will impact the world on some level. I have hope that at least one will begin speaking out and beginning to make a change.

Though the world is not in a state that I particularly love, I have hope that it can change starting in 2020. I can’t necessarily change the world as a whole, but I can start by teaching my students to own their voices, to use them, and to go out into the world. I can care for them, I can change the environment in the classroom. I can start small in hopes that it will ripple forward into the future.

My goal is to foster an environment where students feel safe to explore their questions and their struggles, an environment where students can learn what their voices sound like and see the result when they are used to communicate in a larger conversation outside the classroom. I’ve seen the impact it has on some students – I can see their confidence and their essays growing stronger as they begin to realize they can create change. Some have already changed the way I view the world, which is one step forward.

I’ll keep teaching and caring and listening so long as they are willing to open themselves up to possibility.

© 2020 Kayla Harrison

Kayla Harrison is a Writing Arts graduate student, freelance writer, and graduate instructor. To Kayla, reading is a way of discovering the world, and writing a way of making sense of it all. You can read more of Kayla’s writing at insearchofthewritedirection.com

A 20/20 Chance

by Denise McQuiston

I am looking into a new decade 2020. It’s like Orwell’s 1984, actual facts don’t matter in the slightest bit.
  Mount Everest gets pushed higher, Antarctic ice gets thinner, the North Pole gets warmer and Miami floods three times a month. But never mind, climate change does not exist. Rampant disinformation, partisan news sources and social media’s fake news is not admitting anything to us.
  To thrive, survive and find fulfillment, a society must contend and wrestle with ideas. I see The 2020s with passive lifestyles and convenience devices that will erode critical thinking into a superficial/desensitized culture.
Crops will collapse from famine, millions of people will die, and pop stars will make come back tours. The wheels of the news cycle will spin it out for a certain amount of time and no one will care. Apathy will rule.
  Perhaps somewhere in this decade, we will change. We will start conserving and scaling back. We will find cures for disease; we will heal. There will be a backlash to social media from the younger generation. We will get close to each other. Shortages in housing will make us stay put and share living spaces. We will get to know our neighbors and create tighter-knit communities with more tolerance. We may even take care of each other.
  I feel confused as I look forward to the next decade. I had a very difficult time trying to write this. I got blocked, because I could not see a future with the destruction, violence, and hatred that is bringing in 2020. I kept trying to write and the page remained blank. I chose then to observe and evaluate the next decade until some things started to make sense to me. I found a breakthrough from my fears. It is a chaotic world we live in.

  I am doing the best I can.

illustration by Denise Mcquiston

Denise McQuiston is a writer living in Massachusetts. She has studied Chinese Medicine and Qi Qong. You can visit her FaceBook page @ Self Healing movements.