Exploring your life on paper

Chapter 11

By JOYCE APSEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 22, 1999


Like Anne Frank, do you wonder whether anyone else would be interested in your life? What is happening to you that would make a good story? If you're comfortable writing about them, the biggest to the smallest details are good material for your journal. For instance:

n In Florida, you have to live with the hurricane season. Have you ever had to evacuate because of hurricane warnings? Have you or your family ever had to weather any kind of natural disaster?

n How do you feel about your class in school? Is there a really special friend there with whom you share everything? What makes your relationship so strong?

n What is your neighborhood like? What do you like to do outside?

* * *

In the first series of entries in her diary, Anne talks about her family and the boys and girls in her class and makes comments about what she thinks of them.

Make a list and comment on different people you know. Go back later and analyze your descriptions. Anne did so, and saw some of her early comments as superficial. Are some of your judgments of people based on what they wear, or momentary impressions, or anger?

At times, we all can be very critical of people, even those we love very much. For example, Anne's mother at one point tells her not to go upstairs to visit Peter, in part because this is creating tension between Peter's mother and the Franks. Even though Anne and her mom were part of a very close family, Anne writes very harsh comments about her mother, conveying her angry feelings:

* * *

"I'm in a very difficult position. Mother's against me and I'm against her. Father turns a blind eye to the silent struggle between Mother and me. Mother is sad, because she still loves me, but I'm not at all unhappy, because she no longer means anything to me." -- March 28, 1944

* * *

In fact, working through your conflicting feelings by writing them down is a good way to sort out how you feel. Later, you can come back and rethink and sometimes be amazed at your earlier comments. Writing down your feelings when they are angry or mean is certainly a way to help get rid of some of your anger and avoid striking out through spoken words or physical violence, both of which hurt others.

Next: Wanting to belong

-- Dr. Joyce Apsel is director of education at the Anne Frank Center USA in New York. Please address questions or comments about this series to: Floridian, Anne Frank and Human Rights, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or e-mail Floridian@sptimes.com.

On exhibit

"Anne Frank: A History for Today," an international touring exhibit, opens in January at the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg, 55 Fifth St. S. The exhibit, which traces Anne Frank's life and times through family photographs and diary passages as well as examines prejudice and violence today, is made available through the Anne Frank Center USA. Exhibit sponsors include the Eckerd Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Paul W. Martin Jr., the Sembler family and the state of Florida.

Activities to do in class or at home

1. Remember to write in your diary/journal at least three to four times each week.

2. After reading the Anne Frank article on this page, look through your journal. Have you written about any conflicts you might have had with a friend or family member? If so, after you wrote in your journal, were you able rethink your conflicts and resolve them?

3. Are you a member of any groups or organizations or do you have a special interest (hobby)? Write an entry in your diary/journal that explains how this group, organization or your special interest affects your life.

-- Lee Ann Yeager, St. Petersburg Times Newspaper in Education manager

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