I was on a mission at Walmart the other day, with my aunt who is only two years older than me. Our search for whatever-it-was (I can’t remember the item now) was hijacked, however—though I didn’t realize it until my aunt burst out laughing.
“You really can’t help yourself, can you?” she exclaimed.
“What?” I asked, genuinely confused.
“You are totally ogling those spiral bound notebooks. You’re obsessed.”
Oops! Caught. What could I say? She was right. Even now, at the ripe young age of 46, I can’t help myself. Every fall, I am lured by the seductive cry of the wild—if “wild” can be used to describe the seasonal overflow of pre-sharpened pencils, whimsical erasers, bags of pens, fluorescent sticky notes, sketchpads, notebooks (yep, with spiral bindings being especially alluring), and other crucial necessities.
We shared a chuckle at my expense and like the mature adult I am, I refrained from putting even one super fun notebook in my cart, and got back on task. (Just what that task was still alludes me because I spent the rest of the time in the store wondering if the notebook I had my eye on would still be there by the time I could get back to it.*)
Anyway, I’m not actually writing to reveal my weirdly intense penchant for spiral bound notebooks. Instead I want to explain why I so earnestly seek them out. I blame it on the school system. No, seriously. All those formative years spent shopping for school supplies, reviewing class schedules, and marking up day planners, created monster-Ev—a completely non-mythical beast, who craves nothing more than purple ink and a year-at-a-glance calendar once the leaves start to change.
September always seems like the “official” start of a new year for me, and while I spend time in January reflecting back and looking ahead, fall is where my obsessive self really goes to town. (Only figuratively, of course. Literally, I’m on the couch, coffee close by, shiny new notebook in hand.)
And this year, taking stock of where I am and what I’m doing—and carving out time to do some planning and mapping—seems especially important. I have goals and re-envisioned dreams on every front, it seems: Home. Family. Friends. Health. Work. Community. I kind of feel the way I did when I moved from elementary school to junior high—like I’m on the cusp of a big change or a new stage of development. Dang it, that definitely calls for neon highlighters!
I’m being light-hearted and silly about it, but part of me feels anything but (kind of like how in the week or two before starting a new job or taking a class, you’re simultaneously fidgety with giddy excitement and gut-sickening dread).
Some seasons call for pulling back, to rest, restore, rejuvenate. Other seasons we need to push, to grow, to go, go, go! (I suspect I’ve given away which one I’m experiencing.)
Most of all, I regularly plan and prioritize, evaluate and possibly restructure, consider and recommit to—or dump—things because I’m keenly conscious of quickly time passes—and in the words of Annie Dillard, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I hope I have decades ahead of me, but if I only have years, or months, or even weeks . . . I want to make sure I’m doing what I want or need to be doing—and life isn’t static. Different phases and stages call for different focuses.
Happy New Year—I mean, autumn. I hope your plans and schedules have you filled with excitement, optimism, and renewed energy—and if they don’t? Well, maybe you need a rest or a change . . . Either way, you definitely need to splurge on a new notebook and get to work.
*P.S. You can rest easy tonight, with no need to lie awake in tortured suspense. My dream spiral bound notebook was not gone! I returned to the store later that week, and—phew!—got the one my heart desired. It was a close call, though. There had been tons of the style I wanted, and I got the last one!
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“New Year Plans, er . . . ” by me, Ev Bishop, was originally published in the Terrace Standard, October 4, 2018 as my monthly column “Just a Thought.”