The secret of my sanity
When I was in college, like every 19-year-old, I was feeling so many emotions at the same time. There was the excitement of new friendships, the confusion of not knowing what to do with life and the strange feeling of being an adult, but not yet, not fully. And like everyone who has ever been 19, I thought no one could understand and no one could ever truly know how I felt.
A lot of it manifested as anger and I responded with anger to most situations. I was angry with the college administration for their strange rules. I was angry with my extended family for living in a bubble. I was angry with 19-year-old boys who couldn’t express their feelings. I was just really angry.
Enter: Julia Cameron and her book The Artist’s Way. In the book, Cameron recommends writing three pages, every morning, about everything you’re thinking and feeling. She calls them "morning pages". For the 12 weeks I was using the book, I wrote my morning pages like my life depended on it.
I could have stopped at the end of 12 weeks. But something kept me going. I continued to journal every morning and I haven’t stopped since. It is the secret to my sanity.
#1 — Letting it all out
I’ve been pretty lucky to have a great ecosystem of people I can speak to about how I feel. I’m thick with my college and school friends and I have a great relationship with my parents.
But I know that sometimes my feelings are very intense and complicated for other people to understand. Journals, not people, make for great emotional punching bags.
I journal to let it all out — the good, the bad and the ugly emotions.
#2 — Learning to articulate how I feel
Remember I said I felt angry all the time? I didn’t feel angry, I just described it as anger. When I started journalling, I realised that I didn’t know how to articulate how I felt.
I’ve seen how much that’s changed thanks to journalling. As I write, I’m able to investigate deeper and deeper, and articulate exactly how I feel and why I feel that way. It’s helped resolve my internal conflicts faster and better.
#3 — Getting perspective
I often joke with my parents that I want to record our conversations and play it back to them in the future when they say something contradictory. Imagine having a playback feature in your life. Having a journal does exactly that.
Sometime in 2021, I opened up a journal from 2020 and realized that for a whole year, I had been writing about wanting to exercise more consistently, but not doing anything to get there. It jolted me out of my inertia and I was back to exercising more regularly.
Journalling is my emotional “windshield wiper”, swiping away everything that stands in the way of a clear view of things. I doubt I will ever stop journalling. And if I do, I hope that someone in my life will hand me a pen and paper and just ask me to write.