By Carolyn Shields
There's something about blogs that can never replace the beautiful and romantic art of journaling. An avid journaler since I was eight, I've filled twenty-two volumes with ridiculous episodes of my life. And I name every journal too. (My hormonal, ever dramatic ten year old self titled one, 'The Journal of Weeping Pages.')
In the past twelve years, I've recorded the raw emotions I felt hours after my dad announced his deployment. I frequently reread the entries from my European adventures as a teen when I tasted that rare freedom, and I can vividly remember sitting in the chapel when I wrote, in shaky script, that he broke up with me.
Everything is so raw. Every line is so true because no one is going to read those secrets that you kept tucked in your heart. It's just between you and your bound paper. It's a beautiful privacy that isn't shared with the global world like a blog, but arguably the most beautiful thing about recording your life is seeing how you've grown between those pages.
There's a few tear splotches, smeared ink from turbulence, grammatical catastrophes, stains from pressed flowers, and years and years worth of prayers, aspirations, embarrassment, and aching wonder found within those volumes I keep on the top of my bookshelf, behind trinkets gathered around the world. But the life that happened outside of those margins is too beautiful not to log.
Must one journal every day? Why on Krypton would one do that if there's nothing worth reporting to your future self? Write how you feel, what made your face beat red as you struggled to hold in laughter due to the inappropriate time, write to God and ask him why. As Hemingway said, "Write hard and clear about what hurts." I encourage you: just write. And then, one day when you go back and reread passages with a forgotten date but scribbled in the top right corner to ensure personal commemoration, you will understand. How much you've grown, that is.
Why do we journal? To reduce our stress and anxiety, to create an appropriate channel for overruling emotions, to "increase our memory by 11%", to keep from forgetting.
I'm terrified of not remembering everything. What if a beautiful moment happens and I forget it? It's completely an irrational fear, a reality that the majority of the population lives with, and it's inconceivable to ever believe that I can remember the entirety of my life. But I have this hope that one day, when I can no longer get out of bed, my granddaughter will come visit me. Maybe my age now. Or a little younger. And she will pull a volume down from my bookshelf and read to me the words I wrote years ago, and I will smile, remembering...
Another reason to journal. There's something unique about pulling your 6th grade journal down from the shelf to understand your old mindset so you can more fully understand your little sister. Were you really as crazy about boys back then as she is? As dramatic? Or when you have a date with a girlfriend who is overcoming a breakup, it's exquisitely empathetic to refer to a source that once caused you so much pain to write, become a gift of sympathy. If those aren't enough reasons why we journal, there's also one hundred benefits which can be found here.
Naturally, saying this, there are certainly some journal entries I avoid. No, I don't want to forget them, but I don't want to purposely remember them at the moment either. Some from high school are far too embarrassing and some from recent events make me want to throw up in a sad little way. But I don't want to forget, and I think this is part of the human experience: that is, being able to recall exactly how much an aching heart hurts, how those simple memories at college outweigh any Eastern coast vacation, and how exactly it felt to be reunited with your father after a year of separation.
That's the root of why we journal. To remember.
Introverts be warned.
So many of us handle our fears and tears by journaling them away and then shelfing them, but no journal can ever give advice, no journal will ever be empathetic or hold us close. It's crucial that we open up to our friends instead of penning away every negative experience. Journaling may provide temporary relief in this sense, but a journal won't check up on you twice a day like a good girlfriend will.