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What I’ve Learned From Writing to Myself Every Week Since I was 16

You can learn a lot from yourself

Growing up I never thought about keeping a journal. I wrongly believed in the stereotype that a diary was only for little girls. Now that I have kept a journal for nearly 7 years I realize not only how foolish I was, but also, how many people don’t have a journal of any kind.

There is so much value to be had in documenting our personal experiences and thoughts even if the only intended reader is ourselves. I would have never started this if it was not for the following Google chrome commercial that I saw when I was 16:

The idea in the commercial is like a modern way of keeping a scrapbook for your child. I loved the concept. Being a high school student with some free time, I decided to start doing this for myself.

At first, I just wrote about what was happening in my life, but as I got more comfortable I began writing about how I was feeling, and what I was thinking about in that moment. I tried to write to myself once at the end of each week, but I soon realized how easy it was to forget things from earlier during the week.

Too much happens in our lives to remember everything, so often we only remember the big moments, but as we get older some of those memories begin to fade as they get replaced by newer ones.

This is the bittersweet truth of aging.

Journaling can be a way to preserve the memories of our past experiences so that we can reflect upon them when needed, and ultimately continue to move forward with our lives.

Writing your thoughts down allows us to tackle the problems in our head when we are clueless. From heart breaks, to failures, to questioning what I am doing with my life, I have written about it all over the years. Being able to look back at these thoughts has been only beneficial for me.

It is instinctual to try to block out the bad moments and how we felt during those times, but those hard times are important for us to grow. Everyone makes mistakes and has things that they regret, but not everyone knows how to deal with these events.

Learning from our mistakes and the things we regret is the ONLY WAY to get over them. You can always ask “what if?” but you will probably never reach closure. Or you can ask yourself “what if I never made that mistake again?” and figure out how to make that a reality.

Photo by Anthony Tori on Unsplash

Every Sunday evening I read back at what I was going through in my life at that same week 1, 2…6 years ago. It allows me to reflect and remember that I have made it this far.

Despite many, many struggles I have been able to keep moving forward to ultimately reach this point in my life, just like you.

It is so easy to get caught up with our problems right now. We constantly worry about how everything will turn out, and this can be overwhelming.

But what is important to remember is that you have faced every obstacle and kept going forward. You may not have come out in the best condition, but despite some bumps, bruises and pain you have made it this far.

Never forget this.

Journaling can serve as a personal reminder to yourself of how to be happy. Reading over our thoughts we had when we were happy can remind us to seek that quality of life. There’s a good reason why the three unalienable rights are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Reflection won’t let you replicate that feeling, but you should be thankful for the experience. Use it as a baseline to seek other moments that will bring that joy back into your life.

I encourage everyone to keep a journal; where you don’t just write what happens, but how you feel during this time in your life. So if this is something that interests you here’s my suggestion to get started:

  1. Every Sunday night before you go to sleep set aside 15 minutes to reflect on the past week.
  2. Write about whatever comes to mind about your current life. What did you do? Are you happy? Sad? Have you been reaching your goals or slacking. Be willing to write things that you might not be comfortable talking to someone about.
  3. During the week, whenever something of note happens, make a quick bullet note on your phone. Then on Sunday night you can reference these notes if you feel anything that happened was worth writing about.
  4. Same goes for pictures or videos you take. I journal electronically so that I can even include funny memes or jokes too so I can have a good laugh when I read it over in the future.
  5. After a year of doing this, read about how you were feeling exactly a year ago. Compare it to how you feel now. Which direction are you headed? Do you even remember the problems from a year ago?

Time will pass and soon enough it will have hopefully become a habit. I know this may seem like a lot of work, but future you will one day appreciate it.

There is nothing you can do to help your younger self, but if writing down your thoughts now could help future you, why wouldn’t you do it?

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Originally published at theascent.pub

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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