Journal, for that matter

Journaling can change you. I started journaling about 5 years ago. A good friend told me that if someone close to you is fighting cancer, you'd better keep a journal. That fight is a roller coaster of emotions: good news are received with exhilaration, setbacks sink you in despair. The only way to keep some objectivity is to journal the process, and review it. I still keep those notes but have never read them again ever since.

But soon enough your objective log of events calls for something else. You dump your thoughts, your feelings, your ideas, your pending actions. I never got to do it regularly, but every now and then I feel the need to write. It degenerated into some form of free writing, straight from the brain into written words. I do it in the iPhone (Day One app is the best), I do it on paper, on my notebooks, on my little Hobonichi Techo daily planner. The liberating feeling of dumping your worries out in the open world is addictive. Liberation probably comes from the fact that, when read, those worries always seem much less daunting. But perhaps the biggest impact comes from reviewing your notes written one or two years ago.

My reaction is always the same. Many of my notes deal with issues at work that I needed to sort out and seemed life-or-death back in time. Invariably, all those things worked out just fine. "Hey, I remember this thing! Oh boy I was really stressed out back then, but in the end it was not such a big deal." Then I would read a note about my son, or my wife, or my friends... and it is still relevant, still touching. Reviewing my own notes gives me a sense of perspective that grounds me.

But this perspective has even a more subtle and positive side effect. When today I write in my journal I can't help thinking: "What will I think about myself when I read this 20 years from now?" So by judging my 5-years-ago self I also put myself in the mood of being judged by my 20-year-older self. You develop a sense, little by little, of what it would be like to look back in time and weight your time here. In most cases, your worries won't hold up.

So try it out. Do it for the relief and stay for what it teaches you.

Have a nice weekend and see you next Friday.

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