By Raizel Harjosubroto
It was during a subway ride when I realized how little space I’ve trained myself to take. The man sitting across from me in the subway had his legs wide open as the young woman beside him squished herself up next to the window so that she wouldn’t be in his way. She seemed unbothered—yet uncomfortable—because, like me, she might have been taught not to inconvenience anyone. Stay out of people’s way. Don’t make things a bigger deal than they need to be.
I wanted to yell at the man for taking up more space than he needed. Suppress. I wanted to talk to the squished woman next to him about how irritating it was to see this happen to her and how it’s always happening to people sitting beside men. Suppress. I wanted to rant to the folks sitting beside me about how women are taught to always comply without making them feel like I was rambling. Suppress. I wanted to complain about TTC etiquette and why I’m always the one who makes sure I don’t go over the seat divider. Suppress.
Am I always going to suppress?
Not in my journal.
As a woman of colour, an identity that has two layers in it, being able to say and do whatever I want in my journal is not only empowering; it’s therapeutic. As the writer of my journal—the author of this documentation of a chapter in my life—I’m focusing on my own thoughts, experiences and feelings. And because I have the freedom to write on and on about my thoughts, suppressing them is no longer an option.
Journaling is a reflective experience. It’s an opportunity to investigate my feelings, and gain mental and emotional clarity. Seeing my thoughts in a physical form forces me to confront feelings that aren’t always pretty. It’s my chance to sit with my anxieties. Rest with them.
I have always actively avoided confrontation. Being openly vulnerable in front of someone is scary. I’ve never felt that my feelings or ideas were worth talking about. But writing them out becomes a conversation with myself and, in turn, can soon become the conversation I have with someone or something that is bothering me or pleasing me.
There are no rules when it comes to journaling. When I’m writing in my own journal, I feel empowered enough to let my perfectionism rest. My journal is a place where I don’t worry about grammar, punctuation or spelling. It’s a place where I don’t have to worry about looking cool amongst peers or sounding smart in front of a professor.
Setting time aside in your day just for journaling is also empowering. Write in a journal you want. Write with a pen you want. Write in a place where you want, where you feel most comfortable. And write whatever you hell you want. Self-care routines are hard to do and journaling can help you begin to practise one. My favourite time of day to write in my journal is right before bed, when I can reflect on what happened during my day and list my feelings. Some mornings, I like to write my stream of consciousness, where I can dump my immediate thoughts that make no sense so that I can clear my mind before I start the day.
Journaling is something that I encourage everyone to do. It is empowering. It is therapeutic. It is a space for people to take as much space as they want and it’s a time for reflection and self-discovery as I learn more about my feelings and how to confront them. It is a place where I can unapologetically be me.
So when another man scoffed at me when I accidentally stepped on his shoes—that were under my seat—and I didn’t feel confident enough to tell him to mind his own space, I could go home and yell at him in my journal. Even though he won’t hear it, I’m releasing that anger and it is empowering. It’s a feeling I’ll take when I’m in other situations where I feel like I’m the one being stepped on.