As a kid I never thought the practice of writing my thoughts and memories down on paper would be such a significant part of my life and routine. TV sitcoms in the late 80s and into the 90s would kind of poke fun at young teen girls who would keep diaries, starting each entry with “Dear Diary” as if that was a requirement for anyone who decided to write in their notebook. While I kind of bought into the idea of being one of those girls who kept a diary, or journal as I call it now because it sounds more mature, it surprisingly became a constant ritual I kept doing into my adulthood.
There’s a body of research to back the benefits of keeping a journal like reducing stress, better well-being, and having a place to unload any negative thoughts that may be swimming around in your head. Way before I knew writing would be a passion of mine, or even knowing I was unconsciously reaping the advantages of journaling, I found comfort in writing what I wanted to process or even remember.
I had mentioned in another post how rereading older journals you have long since filled up and stashed away felt like unearthing a time capsule but for the written word. Since that time I was searching for older entries about a former friend who had passed away, lately, I’ve been flipping through more of my completed journals to see what else I had written about and where I was in my life at the time I had recorded it.
What I discovered in rereading these books about me was how much I had grown and changed. I was able to recognize the mistakes I have made, the scary leaps of faith I had taken which would ultimately shape the person I am now in positive ways, and the roller coaster of lifes ups and downs that have been equal parts joy and pain. Reading some of these entries weren’t always easy, but I was glad I had some historical record of where I was and where I have been since that time.
When you put a lot of distance between the event and emotions you felt, you realize how much you forget as the years go by. After reading some of what I wrote, I was incredibly grateful to have some of these memories captured for me to come back to if the feeling ever struck.
No matter how trivial some of what you write might feel, every word, every feeling, and every moment make up a large picture to give you perspective. If I hadn’t continued with the practice of journaling, I might not see with my own eyes how much growth I’ve gone through over the course of my life. I have plenty to be proud of to get me to where I am now. This doesn’t mean I don’t have more growing to do. We’re all works in progress, whether you’re age 22 or 82. Having these pages and pages of a life I have lived so far is reassuring to know I’ve been going down the right path, even if it didn’t feel like it at the time.
Journaling can be a huge commitment and it may not be for everyone who doesn’t want to carve out time to sit with their thoughts and reexamine the person they are, but I’ve always stood by the belief that it’s therapeutic to relinquish everything you’re holding onto deep down inside and hand it off to a personal space that’s free of judgement and criticism.
Your thoughts are your thoughts. Your feelings are your feelings. All of it is valid. And who knows? You may even learn something about yourself in the process once you give yourself a bit of time and distance.