JULIA SERRA | OPNION EDITOR
When I was seven years old, my parents bought me a purple plush journal at the Magic Kingdom gift shop. That night I curled up in bed with a pen and lovingly addressed the new little book with “dear dairy [sic]” in my very best second-grade chicken scratch. From there I wrote in my journal a few times a month, writing three sentence descriptions of my days in school and half formed lamentations about my brother. I’ve been writing relatively consistently ever since. I have pages on pages on stacks on stacks of accounts of my day-to-day life. Everything from my first crush, to my friend’s inside jokes, to my spiritual crisis has been captured in these books.
This simple habit has changed the way I think about my life. It’s a comfort when I’m feeling lonely, a counselor when I need advice, and a punching bag when my emotions are bursting. It helps me to be intentional about the decisions I make and the way I treat myself. It’s one of the few spaces where I can be completely honest and communicate without consequences.
My close friends know that I have found incredible solace in this habit and want to try it for themselves, but I struggle in telling them how they should approach this new habit. For many people who haven’t tried journaling before, it can feel very unnatural at first. Occasionally I stop to ask myself who I am writing to and I can never think of an answer beyond “my journal.” I find that journaling is like any other new thing: you want it to meet you where you’re at. In order to get the most out of a journal, one needs to abandon the attachment to the traditional, “dear diary” approach.
When I look back I’m intrigued with my personal growth, but I’m always fascinated about the ways in which my approach towards journaling changes. As a child I was mostly concerned with practicing my writing. When I was in middle school it became a safe space for all the juicy gossip I felt bad about spreading. In high school I focused more on recording my day-to-day habits and interactions. Now I have fallen back into the habit of practicing my writing, but also using my journal to solve the issues I find myself facing in this newfound adulthood.
My journals have always been emotionally driven largely in part because I consider myself an emotionally driven person. For those who are more analytical, there are methods of journaling that focus more on tracking specific feelings or habits on specific dates. Bullet journaling has risen in popularity especially amongst those who struggle in journaling without a structure. The idea of having my entire life color coded, neatly handwritten, and spiral bound is extremely appealing. Other journals take the form of lists. This could include a to do list on a particularly stressful day, a list of things to be grateful for when life gets a little bleak, or a pro-con list when making a difficult decision. Remember that your journal needs to work for you. If this doesn’t look like the journals you see in movies or read about in books that is completely okay.
If you are thinking of journaling, but don’t know where to start, ask yourself what your goals are and find a method that feels natural to you. Whatever form of journaling you decide to practice, make it a habit. Schedule time to journal as often as you feel is necessary. Once it becomes habitual, let your approaches to this habit change naturally. If you maintain an open mind about your practice and try a new method once in awhile, you will likely find a lifelong practice that you can adapt to whatever needs you have in a particular moment in time.