Confessions of a journal-holic

Maddy Berger

I’ve been staring at this blank page forever. Every few minutes, I return to Google to search “women’s publication ideas,” only to be met with recommendations involving losing weight, cute hairstyles, how to get the perfect guy, and a list that takes me back to elementary school when I would beg my mom to let me buy the latest J-14 magazine at the grocery store. This google search fails each time and I’m back to this blank page. 


I think my problem is that I don’t feel qualified enough to write a piece giving advice - who do I think I am? What kind of wisdom could I possibly have to offer as a college freshman? And yet here I am, about to give some advice, but take it with a grain of salt. 


Advice from a self-proclaimed journal-holic: maybe don’t journal. 


Journaling is something that I see being preached about constantly. For pretty much my entire life, English teachers, guidance counselors, friends, random people, etc. have all reccomended journaling as a therapeutic way to reflect on your feelings and experiences. I figured I had to see if journaling was all that it was hyped up to be, so I got my first journal when I was in my junior year of high school. I enjoyed being able to articulate my emotions on paper because I felt that it gave me a greater understanding of myself, and I liked writing about the experiences I had, knowing that I would come across this journal later in life and appreciate reminiscing over my teen years. 


Two years later, I’m still an avid journaler - I’ve filled nearly four of them. And up until recently, I would rave about journaling to anyone who would listen, going on about how great it is and how I would recommend it to everyone. By “recently,” I mean that this story began as an encouragement to start journaling.


I love looking through old pictures, listening to old music, watching old movies - all things that remind me of the past. I’ve had a pretty happy life, so looking back on it brings me joy. This feeling of nostalgia is powerful and comforting, but journaling results in a kind of forced nostalgia. 


Every time something exciting happens, I feel an urge to write it down - to document it in some way - in fear that if I don’t, I won’t remember it someday. It almost feels like I’m constantly adding to the screenplay of my life, and just like they do in the production of real movies, I’m romanticizing it. 


I write about the fun, the drama, the sadness, the romance, the excitement, the frustration, etc., but the one thing that I always leave out is the mundane. Never mentioning the hours spent on homework, the daily trips to Marketplace, the C1 bus rides. It feels useless to write about those things because they happen all the time, but why do I consider it useless? If I view the purpose of journaling to be the preservation of the past, why do I only include bits and pieces of it? Looking back on these journals might give me some sense of nostalgia in the future, but this nostalgia won’t be completely authentic, as it will be a series of excitements unrepresentative of everyday life. 


I view the documentation of memories as a highlight reel. Growing up hearing about my family members’ teen lives, I only heard about the exciting stories, so naturally I’ve learned to romanticize these years. As a kid, I always wanted to be 16, 17, 18, 19 because these were the times I thought would be the best years of my life, and now that I’ve made it, it’s surreal. It’s surreal living at an age that I look forward to romanticizing in the future, because I end up holding my life to such a high standard. 


I convince myself that I always need to be making memories; I justify bad decision-making by saying it’s an experience I ought to have; I feel like I’m disappointing my younger self if each weekend isn’t crazier than the previous one. And maybe it’s wrong for me to blame this glorification of life on journaling. Because the benefits of journaling - being able to put my stream of consciousness onto paper - is therapeutic. 


Ironically, this story kind of sounds like something I would write in my journal - spiraling about the true meaning behind parts of myself that could be completely wrong. But I do think it’s true that journaling enhances the internal pressure to experience new things, and although I crave the spontaneity of living in the moment, I counterintuitively find myself living in the past and future. 


There must be a way to journal without this existential dread, but I haven’t found it yet. So for now, I continue to journal, despite the fact that I acknowledge my somewhat toxic mindset towards it - hence, “Journal-holic.”