If you ask me to learn and remember by heart a script for a play, I would be able to recite every line in just a few days even though I have no previous acting training. If you ask me to remember my childhood you may be surprised to know that I have ZERO memories of my toddler years.
I think I have a good memory and I rarely forget many things, unless you ask me about my childhood. Short term memory, great. Long term memory, awful.
Memory is quite tricky, don’t you think? First, let’s say that you have to remember to take out your dinner from the freezer before you leave in the morning. If you forget, dinner will probably end up being a weird concoction of fridge leftovers. What happens? You always forget.
Other times, you simply cannot forget. Those bad news you heard at work just keeps haunting hour after hour. The saying says, “If there is a solution, why worry. If there isn’t a solution, why worry”. However, it simply isn’t that easy to get rid of things that worry you.
A few years ago I decided to buy myself a notebook during a trip to Estonia. I found a beautiful market that sold artisanal food, toys and art supplies amongs other items. I saw this notebook with all these pages manually sewn in together making it resemble the type of notebooks that our ancestors would use. I thought I could start a journal and I bought it.
Journaling in the Park
The first journal that I had ever come across belonged to a 13-year-old girl named Anne. One might think that at 13-year-old a girl might only want to write about “girl things”. She did. However, this girl, Anne Frank, has fascinated thousands of people as she delivered through her journal a priceless and treasured image of a brutal time in history.
I have always been attracted to old books and manuscripts because thanks to these, centuries later we are able learn how other people have interacted with the outer world and sometimes with their inner world. These people have left in written their theories, their thoughts, their feelings and their predictions.
The contents of a journal are to be constructed by the “journaler”. There are no rules, no length requirements, no formatting needed. The key is to start writing and that is what I did.
I think that it is kindly disturbing that I find it easier remembering what other people have written, expressed or lived and find it slightly more challenging remembering my own past experiences. I can remember historic dates and events that happened in history but of my one life, I can’t.
A few privileged (or maybe not) people can remember more. They actually can remember every day of their life.
Hyperthymesia is the termed associated with the ability to remember in incredible detail every day of one’s life experiences. People with this condition can remember in a matter of seconds a random day that may have occurred 10 years ago from the moment of waking up to going to bed.
I bought this notebook with the goal of being able to write with no obligations events in my life that I truly wanted to remember. I was not aiming to record every day, just a few ones or a few moments that I just didn’t wanted to forget. Whether that was a very special celebration, getting my driver’s license or even just a long needed phone call with a friend.
Today, I keep this notebook and many others. As selfish as it may sound I want to preserve the memories of my life. Some days I may write pages of thoughts while other days perhaps just a quote that made me smile. I even have days where I use it to relieve feelings of worry, sadness or despair.
Journaling is a common and thoroughly recommended practice within the healthy living community. Many people will dedicate a few minutes of their day to sit down with their thoughts, craft their gratitude list or reflect on an aspect of their day.
What are we really living and experiencing if we cannot remember about it?
I don’t hide my journal but I consider it to be private. I am not sure whether Anne would have wanted anyone reading her personal writing but I am sure I want it only for myself, for now. While a journal is not exactly a diary, it is a tool that can help people express more candidly in a way that they cannot perhaps verbalize.
In today’s technological world it is naïve to think that everyone will buy an artisanal notebook and start writing personal entries when we carry a smartphone watch in our pockets.We have the tools to help with memory just at the grasp of our hands. Most people use all sorts of apps and software on their phones and computers to simply remember things. However, people do journal in slightly more sophisticated ways.
What we always hear from social media is how deceiving and untrustworthy it is to believe the comments or images posted in someone’s account. “That is only the good side”, many people say. Well, I say there is much more than that.
I write about extraordinary and staggering events such as birthdays or celebrations. I see people writing or talking on their social media accounts about these events too. I write quotes that made me smile and reflect on them. I see these on social media too. I write about my bad days and how I try to remain positive. People are vulnerable in their blog post shares too.
We have these communications outlets that we can use to express ourselves. Who says that our ancestors would not have jumped aboard and taken their diaries viral? It may be that because we remain behind a screen that we can be both fearless and fearful. We click send and we are exposing part of our lives to many other people. The level of privacy and the contents, again, are decided by the “journaler”.
There are more recent developments in the world of journaling where people can keep their entries in specific apps such as DayOne or Momento or Askt. These new outlets can make online journaling more private as users don’t necessarily need to social interaction to make use of them.
I say take the “classic” route and go for a rustic notebook or maybe download one of those apps and start arranging a daily/weekly/monthly summary of your life. Even better, do both.
I recently went back a few years in my writing to see what I had decided to share. I laughed when I read totally absurd yet extremely meaningful song lyrics that a couple of friends and I created about shellfish during a trip to Vienna. I would not have remembered the song today if I hadn’t written it done. It.was.about.SHELLFISH.
I keep a journal to keep meaningful things, not always important, but surely life changing things to ME. I am writing my story or else it will be forgotten. What is your story?
-Do you journal?
-If you do, what outlet do you use?