My love affair with scrapbooking dates back to 2015, or perhaps earlier.
It started off with making slam books: a school tradition back in 2000s India where kids would exchange scrapbooks asking their friends to sign them at the end of every school year. It was usually a double page spread for each person, including questions about where they lived, their nickname, dream job, favourite music, and so on.
But, although I liked the idea behind it, it started to feel like a chore. Slam books back in the day felt like the ‘Burn Book’ in Mean Girls – it was primarily an activity for the popular kids who wanted to know what everyone else thought about them.
Since it was a tradition, I took part in it but quickly realised that it promoted a toxic culture because it forced others to write something positive about you, and kids would often compare and even fight over who got the best compliments.
It was a popularity contest. In the end, slam books made you envious of others. Regardless of how confident I felt in myself, I still wanted my friends to say nice things about me. It was a lot of pressure and ended up making me feel inadequate.
I grew out of it quicker than a pair of skinny jeans. However, I liked the idea of recording history by adding them to a paper I could come back to time and again, and decided that I would make my own version of it, but nicer and more wholesome.
I was 18 and struggling with my mental health. During my first year at university in 2015, self-doubt started creeping in; the fear that I would let everyone down, and I would amount to nothing. Losing friends, backbiting, unsolicited comments about weight and looks, all started to weigh down on me. Additionally, my overachieving personality, wanting to be a perfectionist at everything, took its toll on me.
I would spiral, feeling as though I had no control over my life. The only outlet that I had complete control over was scrapbooking.
So, I found solace in that.
The first scrapbook I completed at the end of my first year in 2016 was an A5 diary. It included doodles I scribbled, sticky notes my best friend and I had passed to each other during literature classes, photos from nights out that I originally didn’t remember being clicked, field trips with lecturers, and messages from the people I cared about most at the end of the year.
I loved it immediately because, for me, completing a scrapbook comes with a strong sense of achievement, almost like flipping to the end of a book which has built up much suspense over 200 pages. Except with a scrapbook, it’s equivalent to looking in a mirror.
As someone who has benefitted hugely from scrapbooking, I suggest taking one day a month to yourself
When you flip through the pages, you see how far you’ve come. You’re not the person you were eight months ago.
Any scrapbook is a labour of love. It can be a notebook or a diary or a big drawing pad; a blank slate you turn into a landscape of memories.
With the advent of technology, many resort to creating boards on Pinterest, opting for different aesthetics, saving images from all over the internet to reflect their interests.
While I use Pinterest in limited capacity, I have always been a ‘use glue and paper’ person, which I think is symbolic of how I try to hold everything in place and be in control. Scrapbooking showed me this.
The scrapbook containing photos, movie tickets, mini golf scorecards, boarding passes – to name a few – is proof that I took the ups and downs in my stride.
Over my three years of undergraduate education, I created three journals – around a hundred pages each. I tried to document everything. Friends gained and lost and relationships I was in, illustrated through photographs, doodles, and sticky notes with dates and captions scribbled in a variety of colours.
It didn’t have to be pretty or organised because it wasn’t for anyone else’s viewing. Locked away from the world, this was me trying to make sense of my own head. I would like to think I succeeded, and I can’t recommend it enough.
More importantly, I felt proud of how far I’d come. This year, I feel more in control of my life. I’m freelancing for my favourite magazine and a podcast I love, and for the first time in years, I’m looking forward to what the future holds.
To see it all laid out in front of me like that was the perfect way to reflect and take stock of the changes I’d made. Sure, it’s great having photos stored on your phone, but paper holds more power than we give it credit for. It’s equivalent to the select few still enjoying paperbacks.
Holding paper in your hands somehow makes a fleeting moment in time feel more real.
Scrapbooking is cathartic. As someone who has benefitted hugely from the practice, I suggest taking one day a month to yourself. Put your phone away and turn your favourite tunes on.
Collect your thoughts and leave a message for future you: the good, the bad, the ugly.
Every person is a lesson learnt. You grow and learn. There are no regrets. It takes a while to learn that and I’m still learning every day, but if some paper, scissors and glue can help maintain my sanity, it’s a practice I want to continue for years to come.
And as my memories blend into one, a scrapbook feels like the perfect way to preserve them. Recently, I completed my scrapbook which covered my second master’s degree, and there may have been a tear in my eye.
As the sun sets on my master’s and I get my friends and lecturers to sign the last few pages, I know I will revisit this scrapbook regularly to remind myself that I made it.
It is a reminder to my past self that everything works out; a note to my future self that there might be a long road ahead but we can do it. It’s a love letter to my life.
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