Life story preserved on paper

Local woman’s life documented in journals and tickets

Melinda+Whitlock+has+been+journaling+every+day+since+1975.+Her+collection+now+consists+of+nearly+80+journals+filled+with+her+life+story%2C+but+also+has+an+impressive+pile+of+concert+tickets+that+hold+memories+of+their+own.+

Annika Pepper

Melinda Whitlock has been journaling every day since 1975. Her collection now consists of nearly 80 journals filled with her life story, but also has an impressive pile of concert tickets that hold memories of their own.

By Emily Davis, Starr's Mill High School

Words have always been something precious to local Peachtree City resident Melinda Whitlock. Even the building that houses her business is practically built upon words. She wrote important quotes and prayers beneath the floorboards to her establishment while it was being constructed.

Now, within the walls of this business, Whitlock opens her vast collection of memorabilia and numerous piles of journals.

“The Bellamy Brothers–that’s just an invitation to a private party,” Whitlock said, as she tossed another ticket into the ever growing pile. “This is the guest pass we wore to Ringo’s party… This was actually the album they were releasing at the Elton John party… And this was like one of the best clubs in New York.”

Melinda Whitlock, mother to Starr’s Mill freshman Andie Whitlock, has written in journals every single day for the last 40 years. Even as she maintains her own business located in Peachtree City, Whitlock Ellis Wealth Management, she continues to make time to journal. Among her notebooks, she has written down thoughts about the present day, plans for the future, and other memories.

“Journaling does serve as a historical record but it also helps me process emotions around certain life events,” Whitlock said. “It’s a great place to dream as well as set goals and monitor progress in achieving those goals.”

Her writing journey began at age 12 or 13 when she saw an older girl at camp with a diary that had a lock on it. As soon as she returned from camp, she immediately went out to get a similar journal. From there, her collection has only grown. She now possesses almost 80 journals and notebooks filled with her life story.

“There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness, and people will talk about living in the moment,” Whitlock said. “Sometimes it’s happened by accident and I’ll go back and read it, and it’s like ‘Yeah we made the most of that moment. We made the most of that piece of time’.”

With a great passion for reading, specifically biographies, Whitlock has built herself a library with floor to ceiling shelves equipped with a rolling ladder. Having such a passion for reading biographies though, it is almost ironic that she has essentially written an autobiography over the course of her life. She has written much about the ups and downs of her life, including various pivotal moments, including a horrific car crash.

“I was in a cab in New York that ran a red light, and another cab flew over and hit my door,” Whitlock said. “There was no seatbelt in the back. I think seven cars were involved in all. So I nearly got killed and it was quite an experience, quite a learning experience. And I think when you have a few of those events, and then you go back and look at it, once again, it’s like it puts you right back in touch with what’s important. So I’ll celebrate everything, because I’m still here.”

Her injuries from the crash left her with all of her ribs broken, a broken pelvis, broken hip, a punctured lung, and several other immobilizing internal injuries. This experience taught Whitlock new views on life and on people.

For life, she grasped the reality of tomorrow not being guaranteed, which has led her to always celebrate things. As for people, she has realized that she can always count on the kindness of strangers to comfort her.

“People have always taken me in,” Whitlock said. “And in a world that you hear so many bad things all day, every day, going on, it’s hard to trust that that’s still in play… I still think that there are very good people in the world, and you’ll see it if you look for it.”

Annika Pepper
The events of Whitlock’s life are recorded ih piles of notebooks and tickets. She has been to countless afterparties and has met hundreds of people including famous artists such as Ringo Starr and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The paper and ink of the journals are not the only items that hold memories of Whitlock’s eventful life, however. She has also been to countless concerts, has had lots of special access passes, and has even been invited to several afterparties. Whitlock has seen numerous iconic artists such as Elton John, Bon Jovi, Frank Sinatra, Aerosmith, and Lynyrd Skynyrd — an iconic band was actually on the road with for some time.

“My very first concert that I remember vividly was the Eagles (11/12/1979). I was 12 and it made such a huge impact on me,” Whitlock said. “It ignited a love for live music. A real standout moment was seeing Leon Russell perform ‘Song For You’ (2/6/1982), with The Burrito Brothers. I was 15 about to turn 16 and the tickets were a birthday gift from my mom. I knew I’d just witnessed a once in a lifetime performance.”

All of these people, concerts, and parties, though, were thoroughly enjoyed by Whitlock only after she got her education, something she finds valuable for everyone.

“To me education has always been important, because that was to me, no one can take it away, no one can do it for you,” Whitlock said. “You either do it or you don’t.”

And her education has clearly carried her far as she has gotten to not only go to those unforgettable concerts and events, and not only been able to start her own business. Because of Whitlock’s prosperity, she has also been able to travel, documentation of which is scattered throughout her journals.

“You start to see patterns about what’s important to you,” Whitlock said. “Travel’s always been important. Good friends and family has [sic] always been important, that’s nothing different.”

Whitlock has traveled to nearly every single country in the world, with the exception of a few middle eastern regions. Africa, however, is one of her personal favorites, and Whitlock can recall writing about remarkable events, such as escaping monkeys and witnessing zebra migrations within her journals.

“I’ve been all over Africa twice,” Whitlock said. “I love Africa, I love it. And that’s something I wrote a lot about because you just cannot believe the rainbows, you can’t believe the animals — we had a stampede of elephants one night … They move the earth. You just can’t believe how big and powerful they are.”

Whitlock has accomplished much in her life, and so far her journals are the primary historical record of it. Everyone’s life story is captured in photographs over the years, but very few people can say that their life story is found in the paper of memorable concert tickets and 40 years’ worth of journaling.

This story was originally published on The Prowler on February 3, 2020.