Throughout my entire life, I have written about 12 full journals.
Since I was 10, I’ve been documenting my deepest thoughts, funniest events and saddest moments in writing.
About a year and a half ago, I started reading my old journals. I usually avoided reading anything I wrote in the past because I always hated it. I couldn’t stop having thoughts like, “Why was I so dumb?”, “Was everyone really mean when I was a kid or was I just too sensitive?” and “Was I that annoying?”
When reading these old journals, all I wanted was to tear everything up, burn it and throw it in the trash. That way, no one would ever find out the horrible things I’d just read. No one would find out that I actually didn’t like one of the girls in my little friend group. They wouldn’t discover that I once had a crush on the guy I hate now because he bullied a lot of kids. No one would see that I tried too hard to impress the wrong people. I wanted all of this gone.
The only thing that stopped me from doing it were the good memories. In these journals, in the middle of all the bad things, were also the best moments of my life. I detailed exactly how I felt while bungee jumping in New Zealand. I described late-night conversations I had with my friends in a treehouse in the interior of Amazonas. One time, I even wrote about the night my family and I tried to catch the Northern Lights in Alaska.
While reading those thoughts again, I was able to relive eight years of my life in detail, seeing not only what I did, but also analyzing the thoughts that accompanied the actions. It was amazing to see the contrast between the person I am right now and the person I was back then.
Reading the old journals made me laugh, cry, get angry and above all, feel nostalgic.
All those memories eventually became a book of short stories that I published in my hometown right before leaving for college. After flipping through all 12 journals I kept in the bottom drawer of my dresser, I selected the best collection of essays I had and organized them to make a little book. I changed the name of the people in the stories and the locations to make it harder for people to identify who I was talking about.
To this day, this book is one of my biggest accomplishments. Every time someone mentions one of the stories I published, I feel nostalgic all over again, even though I also cringe at my behavior in these stories most of the time. Journaling gave me this outlet to express all of my feelings and helped me create this memory book every time I felt “saudades.”
In Portuguese, saudades can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Usually, when you feel it, you long for something that happened in the past, feeling nostalgic about it because once upon a time, it made you feel good.
Having my journals to look back at gave me the time machine I needed every time I wanted to visit certain moments of my life again.
When I went to college, I promised myself I would keep the habit of journaling all of my thoughts. For starters, it would give me an outlet to express anything that I might not be comfortable sharing with someone else. And, in the future, I would be able to relive all of my college adventures, the people I met and the things I accomplished.
During my first year of college, I put my journal aside a little bit. I only kept my promise of journaling everything for the first two weeks of class. With all the new things around me and the excitement of being in a new place, I barely recorded anything in writing like I used to.
I still didn’t want to forget anything, so whenever there was a major event or something that I most definitely wanted to record, I would either jot down a quick paragraph or make bullet points of the event. Now, I have half a journal full of bullet points of what happened during my first semester of college.
To compensate for the lack of writing, I filmed many things. In my camera roll, I have a collection of videos that I made during that year. I also downloaded the app “1 Second Everyday” where I’ve filmed one second a day every single day since I got to college.
With quarantine and a lack of social interaction during my second year of college, I got into journaling again.
After quarantine started, I started looking through my videos and filling the holes between my bullet points. With that, I created a whole new narrative of my first year of college, generating enough content to (maybe) start my second book.
This became my way of being able to express my feelings (and keeping sane) while staying isolated. Even though this semester was uneventful for the ones looking on the outside, while journaling I also noticed how much we can do and how much we can live just by ourselves.
For anyone looking to start journaling, do it. In a few years, when you want to remember how you felt during your first time, how that one party where you got stuck in the snow wearing a sleeveless shirt went or how you survived a global pandemic, you will thank yourself.