e.e. Cummings once said that “to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best- night and day- to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
Journaling is the greatest bulwark in this battle. Writing and reading, everyday, is how we stay in touch with ourselves. If we ever stop pondering and questioning, if we ever stop pausing to examine ourselves, we’ll lose our individuality in the battle to remain who we are.
Journaling is crucial to a happy, creative existence, but that’s not to say the exercise will be easy. There’ll be shouting and screaming and tantrums. There’ll be moments when we’re discouraged, when we convince ourselves it’s not worth it. There’ll be other times when we’re just plain lazy.
But we must keep writing.
Because past the pages and pages and pages of pointless crap we write, there’ll be a nugget of a gold.
A sentence that gives us a rare insight into a relationship.
A day’s pages that give us a clue to our authentic dreams and goals.
Often times, our journals will cut through the most stubborn forms of denial: “No, no,” we’ll insist, “we’re happy at this house/with this boyfriend/in this position.”
But after weeks and weeks of endless complaining, it’s hard to deny the truth anymore. Journaling forces us to break through denial and demand answers.
Our boyfriend, we’ll realize, is a good man but not quite the right guy for us. Our house, though beautiful, poses a stressful living situation. We just might, we realize, prefer living alone.
Journaling gives us no choice but to confront these truths, which is not only inconvenient-it’s uncomfortable. Who wants to face the fact that they’ve been married to the wrong person for 10 years? Who wants to admit that they chose the wrong career?
Reacquainting ourselves with our authentic yearnings and desires often means starting over. And no one likes to start over.
Starting over is scary- it means completely renovating the architecture of our lives; it means giving up solidity and, for awhile, being unstable.
When we realize that we desperately long to live in the city, we can no longer hide from the fact that we have to move. If we want to move, we have to find a new place and a new job; we have to forge new social connections. The prospect of actually pursing our dreams is petrifying.
Rather than confront the possibility that we have to revise our lives, most of us will opt to skip journaling and stick to the script: “Overhauling our lives is just too much work…” we tell ourselves.
But no script has ever won an Oscar without a rewrite. In fact, the greatest screen plays go through multiple drafts.
If we are to lead rich, meaningful lives aligned with our dreams, we must be willing to reread and occasionally revise our stories. A daily practice of journaling represents the rereading phase. When we reflect on our lives through the practice of solidifying our experience on paper, we gain clarity and insight we might not otherwise uncover.
Through this rereading, we can assess whether or not the movie of our lives is living up to our values. Are we stuck in the hopelessly banal conventions of rom-com when we want to be living the excitement of travel adventure? Then it’s time to edit. Maybe we have to ditch the boyfriend and buy a one-way ticket around the world. Whatever the correct path, a daily practice of writing will lead us there.