Documenting a year in the life

At the beginning of last year, I was feeling unsatisfied with the way I lived my days. After spending all of winter break watching TikToks and laying around, I entered the new year wanting to intentionally put more meaning into my life.

I decided to put a lot of emphasis on being reflective, which was the pretentious word I chose for just making note of what I did each day and appreciating it. One of the ways I implemented this change was by deciding to journal, every single day.

I found an untouched journal I had gotten as a present a few years back, and sat down on Jan. 9, 2022 to write my first entry.

“I woke up today,” I declared. This opened nearly all my entries,  and I continued to set the tone for the rest of this year-long experiment. 

I decided every night I would write down what I did that day and everywhere I went, in what turned out to be relatively objective writing.

I knew it would feel weird getting comfortable with the process and decided to ease into it over time. I started to develop my own conventions for recounting my days, shortening class names and using umbrella terms for insignificant and repetitive activities. Each night I would sit down and record what I did each day, and I looked forward to every entry. 

But, as the newness wore off, I also realized that my journal was not the highlight reel I expected it to be.

Between a breakup and my worst class schedule yet, my writings turned bleaker and more canned and I still was unsure of how to utilize my journal to help process everything that was happening. I have never been someone who is super in touch with their emotions and knew that my journal was a way to improve on this, but I found it hard to even admit how I was feeling to a blank, impassive page in my book.

Stumbling through the rest of the semester and the relationship of my journal, I did become more comfortable with how to recount each day. Journaling didn’t feel new anymore, but it was a constant end to each night.

Serving its original purpose, I reflected on the past few months by leafing through its pages and decided to spend the summer focusing on how to spend my time more purposefully. 

From focusing on my mental and physical health to embracing new experiences, my reflections gradually lost their blue tinge as well.

While the summer still felt shaky as I established new habits and found old ones again, my journal started to feel more like the highlight reel I originally wanted. 

I would look through those entries and remember the days fondly, almost like a dreamy time to focus on growth and restoring the enjoyable consistency I wanted in life. 

As I entered the fall semester, things finally started to fit into place. Each day felt different as I logged them at night, even if they were fundamentally the same. 

Some entries read the same as ones from the spring, but I could look back and surmise the differences in my moods when writing them.

I started to realize that even though I wasn’t open with my emotions to this journal, I had succeeded in preserving the events of each day, and with them, how I felt at the time. 

Even if I didn’t explicitly write “this day sucked” or “I had so much fun today,” I could often recall the time period and what was on my mind then.

As I approached the end of the year I realized I would soon be free from my nightly ritual, and my feelings were mixed. I was getting tired of having to stay up and write, but I valued having an account of what I did.

I would look through my previous entries some nights and reminisce on a fun concert or a regular day going to classes, but I knew that the journal was only a temporary measure. 

I have become more reflective and appreciative of what I do each day, even without having to intentionally write it all down. Having a constant log of what I do is neat, but now I have to work to remember each day and what makes it special on my own.

For this year, I decided to take a step back from my incessant journaling and try to get more in touch with my emotions, writing only when I feel like I need to. 

Even though writing one entry per day was a small change, I was able to learn so much from it and know that to move on, I need to echo my final words for each night and let that part of me rest by “getting ready for bed.”