11 Things I Learned From 20 Years of Journaling

11 Things I Learned From 20 Years of Journaling

Some call it a diary. Some call it a journal.

I call mine a journal because calling mine a diary just makes it harder to write.

I can still clearly remember how started to journal. I was in the fifth grade at that time and something awful happened in school that I cannot share with my family. I do not want to cry because that would mean that my family would start questioning me.

Then I saw an unused composition notebook with Jolina Magdangal smiling on the cover. I grabbed it and I started to release all my anger and frustration in two pages. I feel good afterward.

I hide my journal under the bed for fear that anyone would read my horrendous thoughts. My journal became a safe place for not only to release my emotions but also for me to dream and make plans in the future.

For years, I never openly admitted to anyone that I keep a journal probably because I assume that only people with big secrets keep them (the effects when you have watched a lot of TV series). I do have secrets, but those are petty things compared to those in TV dramas or in novels.

I thought that it was just a phase that I can outgrow once the tumultuous teenage years will pass but it didn’t. As I grow older, I rely more and more on my journal writing sessions to make big decisions, intensify my passion, following through my plans, and sorting out my numerous thoughts. It seems like I’m going to be journal until I’ll become gray and bent.

After 20 years of off-and-on journaling, here are the things that I learned and realized.

I cannot write every day

If my schedule permits, I would really like to write every day. But these days, that is not just possible. My hands are pretty tied up with my full-time job, homeschooling my six-year-old daughter, and chasing my two-year old twins who have just learned to walk. You probably guess how messy our house is!

Journal writing is one way for me to check myself if I am still okay. Whenever I catch myself thinking a lot of negative thoughts, I would distance myself from the house and go to the nearby wooded area and write.

I rarely censor my writings when I write in my journal

I don’t think that someone would be interested in knowing my thoughts so I don’t bother to be careful in writing. I mainly write for myself so there is no pressure to impress anyone who might be interested in taking a peek at my journal. That is probably the reason why I have horrible penmanship.

Because I don’t censor my thoughts, my words flow from my hand to my pen and to the paper naturally. Sometimes I wonder if my hand has its own brain because it just moves automatically when I write in my journal.

One journal is not enough for me

I have one main journal where I regularly write. Sometimes, I would like to call it my brain dump journal because I regularly write whatever is in my mind at that moment in that journal. But I have other journals for gratitude, yearly plans, inspirational quotes, random thoughts, random lists, sketches, and Bible quotes. I might even add a journal to chronicle my journey as a wife and a mother.

Why too many? Because reading my past entries would remind me that a certain thought or happening is important to me. There are days that it is so hard for me to even start a single word in my main journal. I would leaf through my other journals and I would come across a quote or two, and that would prompt me to start writing.

I don’t hide my journals

I often place my journals on my desk or on the bookshelf. I don’t feel that it is necessary for me to hide them, especially my main journals because I need it at any moment. If I hide them, I would probably write less.

The only time that I got into trouble for not hiding my journal is when my aunt read it and found an entry that angered her. She confronted me. Afterward, I burned my journal. But it never stopped me from starting another one.

I do not know what to do with my journal

The oldest journal that I still have was the last one that I kept when I was still in college. Those before that either got lost or got discarded along with my huge pile of school papers.

You might think that I feel remorse, but I don’t.

I’ll probably have 10 journals that are still kept in our old room in my in-law’s place. Now, I have a problem what to do with them. The only use that I think of them is during my death – I’ll probably mark certain pages that I would like to be read during my wake.

I don’t like to read my past brain dump journals

I am not a big fan of my own journals. Reading my journals makes me cringe – it’s like I’m watching a sappy drama series.

But in the past two years, I pushed myself to write not only at times when I need to release my negative emotions. Now, I write when I am celebrating some wins in my family and work. Sometimes, I write two paragraphs complaining about something then I would reframe the situation and see a better perspective. I can leaf through those journals anticipating good memories.

I have to have a good paper on my journal and my favorite pen or else I cannot write well

If you would search for journals or diaries for sale, you would be astounded with the various options available. Some are covered with leather, some have a lock and key, and others have passwords. The prices can vary from a hundred pesos to an astounding five thousand pesos!

Not for me. I don’t have a specific requirement but journal shopping for me is like selecting a wedding dress – I know that it is the one for me once I see it! It has to have the right cover and paper texture. I also use a retractable Pilot pen because it glides effortlessly on the paper.

Starting a new journal is like a new year to me

I am always excited to start writing on a new journal. An empty journal holds many possibilities. Mostly, I would debate with myself whether I should start writing about my plans on that year again (even if I have a separate annual plan journal). Or I would think of making a list of my favorite things or favorite quotes.

I use my journal to coach myself.

This is probably the reason why there is no great need for me to vent to anyone (my husband is an exception though). If I am perplexed with my thoughts or high emotions, I would grab my journal and go somewhere quiet where I can sort out my negativities.

Other times, I would pray or meditate. When I’m calm, I start to write.

My journal helped me realized that I want to become a writer.

I went to college thinking that I want to become doctor, but only to realize that I should become a writer because writing comes naturally to me. I might have brushed the thought of becoming a writer because I thought that most writers are meager earners. But that must have been true 20 years ago!

Although my writing skills is still a work in progress, my habit of regular journal writing had greatly helped in improving it. I got into online freelancing due to my writing skills.
I can see patterns in my life.

Soren Kierkegaard said “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Anyone who has kept a journal would agree to this maxim. Some entries in my journal give subtle warnings that something big is about to happen. And still some signifies that a great loss or challenge is about to come.

But in no way I can use my journal to predict my future. I can only wonder on what the future holds for me. My journal only accompanies me to the unknown future that I could someday write about.