What It’s Like to Keep a Diary for 19 Years

People close to me know that I’ve been keeping a diary (“journal” as I chose to call it in high school since it sounded more “mature”) since fourth grade. I have stacks of diaries kept in my room, locked in cabinets that only I have the keys to. My diaries come in different shapes and sizes, and no two notebooks are alike. I do not know exactly what made me want to pick these notebooks, but as I leaf through them now, I realize there’s a certain ease in writing on them. No notebook is too thick, nor is there any that is too thin.


Some of the journals I’ve kept through the years

I never thought that the poetry journal (that’s the apple green notebook on the photo above) that I started when I was nine would evolve into an almost two-decade long dedicated habit. Last week, I’ve just finished the pages on my journal and I’m onto fresh sheets again.

Journaling has been one of the few constants in my life through these years. Imagine, I started it in fourth grade, and the practice has been with me throughout elementary, high school, university, my first job, first boyfriend, first heartbreak, job changes, relationship changes, travel adventures, health struggles, first home, and now, my fresh life as a first-time mom. I’m guessing that my journals know more about my life than I do, since I’ve written things that I only meant and felt at the time that I wrote them. The many inner thoughts that they keep are the reasons why I haven’t allowed anyone to read even one page, and the reasons why I treat them like the most precious jewels in my room. Up until now, I am unsure as to how I’d feel if someone breaks in the locks and gets access to them.

If you ask me why I keep a journal, I don’t really know the reason why—all I know is, keeping, writing on, and taking care of one makes me feel good. And if something feels good and it does not cause harm nor cause a disadvantage to others, then why stop?

I know that in the last 19 years, journal writing saved me from saying and doing more hurtful things than they already have been, and it also saved me from more impulsive decisions that I would have just added to my already long list of “bad” decisions. In many ways, journaling saved me from the countless implications of being human: driven yet fragile, hopeful yet confused.

What I’ve also noticed is that journaling is continuing to help me organize my feelings and thoughts better, given that it is not every day that I get to have the privacy of space or luxury of time to write. It is helping me appreciate the idea of emptiness and the importance of stillness, because many times silence within is all I ever need to better weave through my decisions. When I’m preoccupied and I finally get the chance to write, sometimes I’ve already gotten over the feelings, or have already arrived at a decision, and all I need to do is to articulate them for my safekeeping.

I am not saying that journaling is the best way to deal with everyday endeavors; I’m only sharing what’s been working for me. I am always thankful for the gift of writing that’s been honed through thousands of years, with engaging in it now as easy as dropping by a shop to purchase a pen and paper (and it seems like shops never run out of stock!). I wish to continue journaling until my hands can’t take it anymore. By then, I may be just as ready to leave my journals behind, because at the end of the tunnel, I’ll be at peace knowing that leaving them behind may impact another person’s life, just like how those words and sentences made an impact on me.

A blessed long weekend everyone! 🙂

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