Let’s be honest here: If you’re not a self-proclaimed writer, you probably hate writing. Essays are your worst nightmare and the thought of writing anything, much less willingly, seems impossible. But this week I want you to consider something. Why not keep a journal?
I’m sure the back of your mind goes back to elementary school and glittery notebooks with a lock and key, full to the brim with gushing thoughts about a childhood crush. And I’m sure you might be cringing about the idea, but don’t you wish you could read that? Seven-year-old you proclaiming their love for some sticky second-grader you haven’t thought of in years?
It’s about as hilarious as you probably think it is. I have journaled more-or-less weekly since I was in seventh grade and have various journals dating back as early as fourth grade. I used to have more, but a younger version of me was embarrassed and shredded a great deal of them from early elementary school.
While yes, it’s fun to laugh at yourself, there’s a lot of other reasons to keep a journal. So before you scrap the idea entirely, here’s a list of the benefits.
Perhaps most importantly, it’s great for ranting or getting rid of your negative thoughts. Sometimes you just need to get things off your chest and sometimes repeatedly ranting to friends can make you feel like a burden. Journaling can be a great way to say what you need to and expel all of your pent-up rage, sorrows, sadness, etc. You get to throw all your thoughts into the void and feel lighter afterwards.
It’s a great opportunity to cleanse your headspace, and you’ll feel a lot calmer and at-ease once you finish. The journal is your space, and you can say whatever you need to without judgment or consequence. Scribble, rip it up, paste in movie tickets or failed test grades. You get to do what you want with it. It’s an incredibly helpful outlet when you need it to be.
Going forward from that, we don’t always sit down and reflect on our lives, but sometimes it’s good to. Do you remember that time in high school when you felt like the world was ending and everything was falling apart? As awful as whatever the worst week of your life was, it can be good to look back at that. You thought the world was over, but here you are: Still standing, still breathing. By looking at old entries, you get that absolute certainty that even when things got bad, they got better. This fact often feels impossible and ingenuine when you hear it from others, but to see it first-hand from yourself has a lot more power. You have survived every hardship in your life up until today, and journaling lets you look back at those moments and know with certainty that you can face the next hardship and come out strong.
Do you remember learning about primary sources in elementary school? Well, here’s your chance to be one. Everything you write about becomes a part of history. I have journal entries from Newtown, when same-sex marriage was legalized, the night Trump was elected and more. Writing about real life events makes you a part of history, and those entries will be especially interesting to look back on thirty years from now. We’re living through a crazy period of history right now, so preserve it. Don’t forget about the anger you feel. And when someday, your grandkids ask about what it was like living through all of this, pull out your old journals and show them.
Lastly, skills improve from practice. Journaling can be fun, and it’s an easy way to improve your writing and better your grades. The more you write, the better you become at it. If you get in the habit of writing, the essays you have to write for class won’t feel so painful anymore.
So, try it out! You finally have an excuse to use one of those fancy journals you have sitting in the back of your closet. Go rant about the disappointing season finale of your favorite TV show or how much you hate your biology class, and see where it leads.
Courtney Gavitt is a Staff Writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.