“On Journaling” by Shannon Murphy

“On Journaling” by Shannon Murphy

R.I.P. to the many (many) New Year’s resolutions that I’ve abandoned mid-January, left to rot in a wasteland of dumbbells and green smoothies and motivational quotes.

However, a surprising turn of events: in 2016, I did something right. Shock of all shocks, I successfully finished the year out strong, completing my selected activity every single day.

 What was my resolution? Journaling. I’m not really sure how I got hooked on the idea, but somewhere along the line I decided to give it a go. It always seemed like one of those things that people who really have their lives together do, like those people who have five-year plans and wear matching pajama sets and take their coffee with almond milk.

Being the stationary snob that I am, I purchased the most pretentious notebook possible (a black leather Moleskine) and got to work. It felt really, really strange at first. Really. I felt silly, listing out what I had done that day or how I was feeling. (Visual: Diary of A Wimpy Kid)

But, as I got more accustomed to it, journaling started to feel natural. I began to think of it as writing to my future self. What would I want to remember about this day, what would I want to memorialize? The Big Secret: you definitely do not have to have your life even a little bit “together.” In fact, I would say it makes for a much more interesting read when things are a bit messy.

I think the key is to not think of it as a chore or an obligation. I told myself that I could write as little or as much as I felt, as long as I got something down on the page. It doesn’t need to be revolutionary or artistic or even legible. If I was somewhere there wasn’t an opportunity to take out my notebook, I typed out a quick blurb in the Notes app on my phone and then wrote it down when I had a chance later.

Sometimes, an entry was as simple as “September 6th: Long day. Must. Sleep. Now.” scribbled down at 2 a.m. just before passing out. Other days, I would write a complicated analysis on a book that I was reading. On one particularly pessimistic day, I literally wrote four pages of pure, unadulterated Rant on every little thing that was annoying me, from the lengthy line for coffee to the state of international affairs.

The trick was letting myself write what I needed to, without worrying about how it sounded or what it looked like on the page. To be honest, without context, ten years from now I probably won’t even be able to decipher what it is I wrote; my cursive is that abominable. But, the parts I can decrypt will be a wonderful way to remember what it was like to be a teenager. 2016 was a big year— high school graduation, going off to college. Lots of lasts and many more firsts. To have a concrete representation of the year is something I came to treasure.

Once I fell into a routine, it really did become a habit (now if only I could manage to make that happen for exercise). It became a reflex; something exciting, or sad, or thought-provoking would happen, and I would immediately begin to plan out my entry for the day. Suddenly, it was June, and I was six months into the year without once forgoing my resolution.

It sounds cheesy, but writing in my journal helped me realize things about myself. (Yikes.) What was actually stressing me out, or what the root of my worry was became much clearer. Journaling is definitely therapeutic (and, bonus! cheaper than actual therapy). As an outlet for ideas and creativity and nagging thoughts, it becomes a judgment free zone to mentally spread out, and an unbeatable exercise in self care. My best friend is probably thankful that I didn’t call her *every* time I had an emotional crisis, because I could first turn to my journal to release my anxious ramblings.

This year, I hope to stick with it again. (So far, so good!) I even set some new goals, like trying out more doodling and taking more time to write about politics. So, if those new workout clothes still have the tags attached, try trading in your gym membership for a pen and notebook. Take it from the least put-together person in the world— I promise you will be happy that you did.

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