You are truly a fascinating medium into past versions of myself. I remember when I was younger, my father implemented a rule that my sister and I had to write at least a page in our respective diaries everyday in order to improve our writing and record our thoughts. I didn’t mind too much, but it had felt like a task more than anything. An extra assignment to add on to my daily homework.
However, as I grew up and it was no longer a mandatory part of my daily routine, I began to implement the system of diary writing voluntarily. It went from literally outlining everything that happened that day with robotic rhythm to how I felt and what I thought that day with pensive acuity. Granted, it was much harder to write consistently. Sometimes, months went by with no word from me. Nevertheless, I needed an outlet for my thoughts and I wanted to record my life.
The journal I’ve been using is about three years old now and I’ve only just reached halfway. I have been writing more frequently as of late, but I noticed that I kept turning to it only when I felt particularly down or stressed, as an outlet for all these negative feelings. Once I unburdened myself, I really did feel better afterwards. I felt less sluggish, more prone to productivity for the rest of my day. It worked in the same vein as exercising. After working out, I feel lighter and more active, more eager to do tasks and work. However, I realized that this would result in an inaccurate portrayal of my days, because it solely portrayed a woe-is-me persona, a side that could seem ungrateful because I was so busy focusing on all the bad in my life. I didn’t like that. It made me forget that my life is filled with happiness, too. It was all about recognizing and treasuring those moments. I started practicing writing about the good, too, to make sure that I reminded myself of all the great things in my life to appreciate, to record what makes me happy and what lifts my mood on bad days. To appreciate the people in my life and thank the luck on my side instead of wishing for more of it.
And then what I realized next was that, although I was writing more often in my journal and I was covering more things in my life, everything from bad to good now, I wasn’t actually reading back on my words. I wondered why. Why didn’t I want to read what I had written? Wasn’t I writing for myself? And the interesting thing is that at times, when I stumble upon old diaries I wrote as a little kid, I would open them up with a smile and become amused at the things I said. Again, my entries mostly recounted what I did that day rather than how I felt, in order to quickly get the “homework” done, but what was truly surprising was how distanced I felt from my past voice. It was like reading somebody else’s journal, and this was fascinating because people really do change and grow up. Every entry in my journal was written by a different person. Is someone truly the same person more than one day of their lives?
Memories and relationships change and even get distorted over time. And every entry is written from a perspective and a voice that can never be trusted, like an unreliable narrator, but each entry also can hold a surprising amount of truth, serving as an unexpected eyeopener or reminder years down the road. For example, I believed I had always been close to my mother and that our relationship had always been great, but one day, I read some entries from a much younger self and was surprised by how I did not seem to have gotten along with my mother all the time when I was younger–not as well as in the last ten years or so. This doesn’t necessarily point more to my mother’s character but my own as a child. Perhaps those were bad days and I was sulking over trivial things like a spoiled brat. Perhaps she was actually cranky those days from exhaustion. Either way, I did make some points, even as a kid, and now, those words come back to me at certain moments and I’m startled to realize there were some truth in my words even as a child. Never belittle children and their perceptions. This sounds more dramatic than I mean it to, but I really mean to point out how intriguing this is. The words I wrote as a child don’t come back to me hauntingly or anything like that, rather I’m in awe of past observations long forgotten from growing up. But not everything really changes. Maybe what just changed was my maturity and ability to deal with tensions and clashing personalities. In some areas, my mother hasn’t changed, and neither have I. What truly changed was that somehow we were able to work and grow over everything to keep getting closer and closer, to cultivate our relationship over the years.
Recently, I decided to look back at my entries in my current journal, and again, I was very surprised by my past selves. Firstly, the journal entries went further back than I had thought. They began in 2014. Secondly, these days I’ve admittedly been very sensitive and depressed, and a lot of times, the mind can be a trickster. I’ve been writing more negative than positive, that’s why I had that initiative to write more good things in the first place. This resulted in me thinking that I’m a terribly depressing person overall who only has dark thoughts. But as I read back to when I started the journal, the entries were surprisingly filled with so much positivity, so much determination to improve, change, and be optimistic. I can’t be sure if that’s just how I was trying to come off to serve as my own little cheerleader or that is truly how I felt, but it’s like getting a long lost letter from a good friend years after we got disconnected and grew distant. It was welcoming and instantly reestablished the bond between two people, in this case between my past and present self.
As I go deeper and deeper into the journal, there are gradually more internal struggles with trying to find happiness, but still there are lines of me reminding myself to not be put down by anything and to keep charging forward. This cleared up any misconceptions I may have been having about myself lately, that I’m an incredibly negative person full of doom and despair. I’ve actually been, innately, quite the positive person. I’d taken after my mother in that respect, but for too long, I’d somehow twisted things and tricked myself into thinking I’ve always naturally been pessimistic. It took this long for me to dive back into myself by going through my own writings, to remember that this is not who I am. That broken bond snapped back together and I felt in one piece again. Just a few days ago, I realized that I always wake up cheery. I never wake up in a bad mood, and this is characteristic of a more bright and optimistic person than the one I’d made myself to be over the last few months, maybe even years. It’s like I had forgotten and lost the sense of who I really am over a lengthy period of time and all these feelings of helplessness and hopelessness were not from how my life is right now but from how I’ve been seeking something, something new, without knowing that it was something I once actually had within me but had lost.
This doesn’t mean that everything is okay again, of course. But it’s an enlightening discovery that has rekindled something within me that I really needed, that puts me back on the track of my 2017 new year’s resolution to become a more positive person. Actually, it reminds me that I always had been a positive person. What I need is to find myself again, to remove all doubt about who I am and who I want to be.
And with that, I randomly recommend you watch Moana, which I had earlier this week; the theme of finding and shaping the self was so beautifully potrayed in the film, and the animations/graphics were gorgeous. It was extremely relevant to me and my struggles, and I think it gave a helping hand in my coming to this conclusion. Listen to the awe-inspiring soundtrack below. I can’t get enough of it.
If you don’t have a diary already, I recommend you opening one up and facing the first page.