In her closet, my mother has a duffel bag full of composition books that are filled with her crisp cursive writing – they make up her great novel. On her bookshelves, she has stacks of smaller journals that she’s written in almost daily. Whether it’s for Mother’s Day or Christmas, she consistently asks for the same two things: a new journal and a new book of Sudoku puzzles.
In an effort to be more like my hero, I tried writing for fun at a young age*. I started journaling in elementary school, but it bored me. I quickly became discouraged summarizing what I did every day, trying to capture every single moment. I currently have several journals at home from my younger years that only have five or six pages filled. I have so many because I loved buying and writing in fresh journals. Part of me thought that the problem was with the actual journal. Regardless, I’m still really glad that I have them. It wasn’t until April 26th, 2012 that I began journaling consistently and I haven’t stopped since. My first entry was about a boy named Kyle and even though I cringe every time I reread it, I’m glad I have the chance to revisit who I was at that time in my life.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I am developing an obsession with getting rid of my material possessions. I kid around with my closest friends and say that I’m going to get rid of everything except for my journals. Well, I’m writing this article to let you all know that it’s not a joke anymore. I’ve finally done it. I am writing this article while sitting on the floor of my empty room. All of my furniture has been moved into storage downstairs, all of my clothing has been stacked in the donation bin in the laundry room, the totality of my books have been donated to the library with cryptic messages hidden in the sleeves, my toiletries have been flushed down the toilet and thrown into the garbage. I’m sitting on the floor in the middle of my room, naked, and in the dark, taking pauses to look around at my barren white walls. I look down to my right and there lie my journals – and only them. I am finally content. Please don’t worry about me. But in all seriousness, my journals are the only material possessions that I could never get rid of. I’ve never even considered tossing them. I’m trying to force myself to consider it now and my brain just won’t let me. It’s replying “Stop! Shut up! That’s the dumbest idea ever and I am not going to waste energy thinking about something so stupid.”. Getting rid of my journals would be like losing a part of my identity.
It’s impossible to remember the exact details of my past (both recent and more distant memories). But by journaling consistently, I can actually get a more specific glimpse of those pasts. I get to see what sixteen-year-old Lola was battling with or taking joy in. I get to remember something that I would have otherwise forgotten if I didn’t have the written text to jog my memory. I get to see how much I’ve grown. I get to see how what I gloomily wrote about no longer matters or causes me pain now. There have been many times when I reread old entries and cringe out of embarrassment but there are also other times when my face grows soft and empathetic. I realize that my younger self still exists in my present self and I try to soothe li’l Lola. There are times when I wish I could go back and tell li’l Lola that everything would be okay and that really cool things would start happening soon. But with the chance to look back, I’ve learned that uncertainty is part of what makes goodness so sweet.
Journaling has made me a lot nicer to myself. The hypercritical voice in my head has been tremendously quieted. It’s as if once I write down my feelings, I can focus on them more clearly. Those feelings are immediately given room to breathe and space to just be. When that hypercritical voice speaks I realize how mean and stupid it, and everything it says, is. Journaling has not only made me nicer to myself but also a more hopeful person. I can read past entries and see how much something distressed me at one point but now holds zero effect on me. Now, whenever I am going through something pretty painful, I think about how in a couple of weeks, I’ll be writing about something completely different and unrelated. It’s so much easier to believe in the saying “this too shall pass” when there is substantial evidence for its truth. I’ve started ascribing to it not because someone says it to me but because my journals have proven it to me. Journaling really puts things into context. Whenever I’m feeling particularly down, it feels as if it’s lasted forever and will continue to last forever. But when I look back, I realize that it always goes away after time. So I take that into account whenever I feel down and realize that it’s almost over and that I can endure it simply because I’ve done it in the past.
Many people get confused and think that the law of attraction means that you say you’re a professional wrestler and then the next day you get signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship. That’s not how it works. I love to write a page called “Law of Attraction” every couple of months. I write down things that I’d like to accomplish or just want in my life and I write them down unabashedly. It’s always fun because I forget that I’ve written them and when I decide to go back and read through what I’ve written, I come across the page and see how much of it I’ve accomplished without even realizing it. It’s also interesting to see how I’ll have written something down half-heartedly and it happens later in my life. I don’t know if you believe in the law of attraction but I firmly believe that if you trick yourself into believing that you are already X, then you begin acting as X would, and eventually you become X.
Writing consistently and journaling is the single most beautiful gift that I can give to my future self. I think the reason why I wasn’t able to maintain a journal when I was younger was because I tried to write everything that I did down instead of just how I was feeling. Now I usually write about my feelings, but if I have a particularly fulfilling day I’ll write out exactly what I did and with whom. Journaling, and actually appreciating what I’ve written, is representative of a growing self-love. It’s acceptance. It’s me saying I love my past, present, and future selves. It’s me growing into love.
*I also tried to get into doing Sudoku puzzles too but I just can’t do them. They’re impossible for me. Those of you who can stick with a Sudoku puzzle after thirty seconds are jewels in my eyes.