If you had the opportunity to travel back in time and meet your past self from years, months or even weeks ago, would you? If you aired on the more adventurous side and answered yes, I know how to satisfy your appetite for introspection. Sadly, it does not involve the use of a time machine. The solution is rather uncomplicated: journaling.
Hear me out — think about how much happens throughout the course of a day, week, month or year. We develop different levels of relationships with various types of people, adapt our routines and expand our repertoire of knowledge. In spite of this, it is rare that we contemplate it all, and I find that to be a sorely missed opportunity.
Your college years can be a hectic time of academic pressures, social experiences and significant personal growth. Because of this, it is often too easy to fixate on what is happening next, instead of reflecting on the present. But why take the time out of our busy schedules to simply think about things that have already happened?
For starters, reflection is not only powerful, but necessary for individual development.
When we reflect on memories and begin to analyze them we not only draw lessons from seemingly insignificant occurrences, but also gain a more genuine understanding of ourselves. That is enough of a reason to pause for reflection — even if you only devote 30 minutes out of your week to the act. The question then becomes: How can we analyze our own experiences in the most profound, yet least burdensome way?
By allocating time to reflect through our own writing — I’m talking undistracted, unfiltered, pen-to-paper writing — we acquaint ourselves with the impact of our own life experiences. An extra emphasis on the physical act of pen-to-paper writing — the careful consideration of each word — that sharpens our perspective and matures our thought.
In the context of a journal, writing about ourselves creates a window into our own psyche, and allows us to solve issues without debate or altercation. Instead, individual matters are settled via internal inquiry and expression, which I find to be a much healthier method of resolving conflict. Writing functions as merely part of the therapeutic process of journaling — reading your own words is of possibly even greater value.
Summoning the voice from your own journal holds a literary mirror to your face, so to speak. You aren’t necessarily talking to yourself, but interacting with the deep-seated facets of your own character. In essence, journals force you to face your own perspective, which upon reading,
may prompt you to think more acutely about your own experiences and identity.
Likewise, the journal also serves as an unrivaled archive for your own thoughts. Even if you searched through every recorded database on Earth, you would not be able to find such an accurate representation of yourself. Medical documents may record every illness and vaccination you have ever had, but do not tell the stories of how you felt that time your mother cooked your favorite dinner when you were bedridden with the flu.
Your social media profiles may consist of every post or image you have ever interacted with, but neglect to describe how you felt beyond just a few lines of text and an emoji. In terms of authentically representing you, no other medium can begin to rival that of a journal.
For the past six months, I’ve been keeping a journal of my own, and it has quickly become one of my most prized possessions. To address the obvious, yes — I do recognize how atypical it is to keep a journal, particularly because I am a man. Regardless of whichever gender you identify with, everybody can benefit from writing in a journal.
I, too, am not immune to this societal pressure. I refer to my little black notebook in which I record my
innermost thoughts, feelings and ambitions as a journal — not a diary. For me, journaling has meant being able to finally channel my deepest emotions without the fear of judgement from opening up to other people. My journal also acted as a sort of therapist, and granted me the ability to express myself without having to explain myself to anyone. Additionally, the journal never judges, shames or questions the legitimacy of my own thinking. If anybody was to judge, it would only be my future self.
A journal also serves as a unique time capsule that records your own personal growth. Perhaps you may conclude that previously overwhelming events turned out to be relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things, or vice versa. You may even decide to pass your writing on to future generations. This cements your place in history. Someday, long after your passing, somebody might stumble upon your journal and reminisce in the deepest elements of your thought. Journaling ensures that you are, to some degree, immortal. So go ahead, put pen to paper and start writing.