I grew up on a mountain in rural Vermont, about a 10-minute drive from where Robert Frost lived and wrote. An introvert from the start and an only child until I was 6.5, I spent a lot of time alone as a kid. Whether I was climbing my favorite oak, exploring our woods, streams and meadows, or curled up with a book, it didn’t really occur to me to want company.
I did have a few “best friends” in elementary school — but these flames would burn bright for a few months and then fizzle out over the summer break, when I was happily whiling away long summer days on the mountain, or away on annual family trips, oblivious to the friendships forming in neighborhoods in the valley below.
But then, one winter, my parents sold some of our land to a family moving to the area. They were going to build a house, and I’d have my first neighbors! They had 2 girls, too. The older one, Emma, was in 7th grade, too.
In my 7th grade yearbook, Emma wrote, “Have a great summer!”
In my 8th grade yearbook, she filled the back page.
Emma wasn’t just my first neighbor — she was my first true blue, tell each other everything, pretend you’re long-lost sisters-level best friend.
Her friendship couldn’t have come at a better time. I don’t know how well you guys remember middle school and high school, but A LOT happens in a pretty short period of time. Puberty is wreaking havoc in the background of everything, and you’re also contending with crushes, first relationships, first breakups, and first betrayals. And, on top of all of that, you’re expected to work hard in school and start making big decisions about The Rest of Your Life.
Needless to say, my lifelong journaling habit really took off during those tumultuous years. I was delighted to find out that Emma also kept a journal... for a minute, and then I was desperate with curiosity to know what it was that she didn’t tell me, but instead saved for her private journal. Soon, we started reading each other small excerpts of our journals, then handing them over with dogeared pages and nervously watching as the other read, and finally just swapping journals over the weekends. The anxious thrill of sharing uncensored inner thoughts—and connecting on a deeper level because of our shared vulnerability—was intoxicating.
With Emma, I learned how to push against traditional social boundaries, and dive wholeheartedly into emotional vulnerability. I learned that the words I think and write just for myself can resonate with others and strengthen bonds.
I’ve had friends since, and I’m sure I will again, that are uncomfortable with my openness and vulnerability. Maybe even you, dear reader, feel that the #empoweredWritten project is a bit of an overshare.
But I have seen the magic that comes from freely sharing my truest heart. My dream is to pour love and vulnerability and truth into every one of my Written Paper Goods cards, and for my words to help others grow closer to the ones they love.