I've long been drawn to the concept of a daily journal. But in personal practice, I've missed far more days and years than I've recorded. Add in a penchant for cute notebooks (and the desire to get a new one every time I start journaling again), and before you know it — I've got two giant boxes of 1/8-used notebooks chronicling the last 20 years.
Elaine, a friend of mine, has been keeping a daily diary for many decades. Inspiring! It is not only a great source for future reference, it is also a way to honor a few of the details and gifts of each day. Juliet, another amazing woman and friend, wrote her autobiography at the age of 80; she's now 102. Reading it a few weeks back was a source of great joy. In it, she writes that if she could go back and do it all again, she'd likely keep a journal because it would make things easier to remember. I like that idea.
Inspired by the ample wisdom and experience of Elaine and Juliet, I am now renewed in my resolve to keep a regular written record of encounters, emotions, and activities.
But before choosing a new writing pad, I thought it might be fun to dig through my childhood diaries. I wrote regularly from the ages of 10-18. Up until a week ago, I hadn't read them for a long while. As I opened the first page, I wondered if perhaps I'd discover something new or surprising about my young self. What I discovered is that 10-year-old Emily is surprisingly the same as 30-year-old Emily.
March 1, 1996 (age 12): "Today I went to my Grandma's with my mom and my brother. It was fun, just like it always is."
Spending time with my mom and brother is still among my very favorite activities, and I miss Grandma a lot. Especially during rhubarb season.
May 15, 1996 (age 12): "I am listening to "Nobody Knows" by the Tony Rich Project. It is a very sad song, and I have no idea why I listen to it so often."
I still listen to beautiful, sad songs on repeat.
May 16, 1996 (age 12): "I wonder if I will be a good kisser or a bad kisser. And do you just learn how as you go along?"
Perhaps this is one of the more significant developments of the last 18 years. I did finally figure out one of life's biggest mysteries: the first kiss. But it took a few more years of pining away. To bide my time, I watched the 1996 film version of "Romeo and Juliet," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes, repeatedly.
August 21, 1996 (age 13): "As long as I get to sleep at 10:30 p.m., I will get at least eight hours of sleep."
What can I say? Adequate sleep has always been very important to me.
Reading through my old entries nudged me forward in picking up the practice once again. It was especially interesting to read about my perceptions of God, faith, and church throughout those teen years. It was a time of real development. Maybe at 40 or 50, I'll look back at this chapter of life in the same way. A time of great learning.
A journal can take many forms. Entries don't need to be long. You can call it whatever you want: a daily record, a journal, a diary. You can write in a book or use an app on your phone. At its core, a journal is a way to highlight moments, special and ordinary. A way to say, "God, I'm grateful for this life. Here are some bits I want to remember." It doesn't need to be shared or edited. There are no rules.
A journal is just one of many ways to pause. To pause and take note of this outstanding life we've been given. Whether it's keeping a daily journal or taking time for quiet reflection outside, what are some ways you might pause in the summer months ahead? Whatever you choose, it will be time well spent.