Ever since I formally started working on my book, I’ve been regularly revisiting the past. Working on a journal collection is precisely what it seems like: it’s bittersweet, rewarding, and at times, overwhelming. In hindsight, your life looks like everything happened for a reason, like the pieces of a puzzle. You thought things were going to kill you, and then they didn’t. Ten years later, you’re reading back your old entries, thinking, “Would you look at that? I made it, after all.”

At the time of this post, I’ve revisited and worked through 8 out of 18 journals already. The first phase of this is reading old entries, pulling out the good ones, and making notes on the ones I want to revisit later for edits. Some entries are good as-is; others need a little refresh and a bit of context. Almost all of them are getting names changed to pronouns—for privacy, but also because, honestly, the names don’t even matter. The experience does.

The lows

In January, I revisited the years 2009-2014, when I graduated from high school to some time after college. Those years were tough on me. I found myself struggling with new responsibilities, college life, and adulthood. Maintaining friendships was among my most difficult challenges; I even wrote an essay about it. I pulled many entries from these years, and I’m sure the bulk of my book will revolve around themes of love, loss, and emotional resilience.

As expected, there have been quite a few challenges while working on a project like this. Reliving past trauma is the biggest one. It’s tough revisiting times in my life where I was deeply hurt, struggling, or sad. It’s hard reading about people I was once happy with, and now they aren’t in my life at all. In hindsight, it’s also tough seeing myself invest so much time in energy in others who were no good for me.

To help with the challenges, I’ve been pacing myself. I do two or three pomodoros while working; that’s 25-minute, distraction-free sessions punctuated with a 5-minute break. Any more than this at a time is too much; I get stuck in nostalgia, grow overly sentimental, or worse: inspired to reach out to certain people I probably shouldn’t. It’s also crucial that I ask myself, “Do I mind if everyone reads this bit of prose about me?” before I decide which entries to pull and which entries I shouldn’t.

“I am miserable and missing people who are made up of hopes and dreams and wishful thinking.”

August 2012 (Age 21)

The highs

But there are lovely parts, too: like realizing how much I’ve grown over the years and feeling wildly proud of myself. I’ve always been sensitive to my feelings and others’, and although this trait was deemed “no fun” or “too much” by too many people in my life, it’s a trait that makes me the beautiful, kind, and thoughtful person that I am. Reading back my journals, I’m so proud of myself for always feeling my feelings and staying true to myself, no matter what.

It’s also lovely reading back joyful experiences that I’ve forgotten, like moments between classmates and professors, spending time with family members before they passed away, and all the happy times in my relationships before they eventually came to an end. It’s a relief to read back the good things just for proof of their existence—because we so often remember the bad. 

Perhaps most importantly, reading back my journals has given me the opportunity to forgive myself for things I couldn’t at the time. I have much more kindness and love for myself in hindsight, when I might not have had it before. Not only has this project been important for my creative dreams, but it’s been an essential part in my healing journey, too.

What’s next

Over the next few months, I’ll continue working through my stack of journals and updating you all along the way. If you’d like to support my journey and unlock exclusive content, kindly consider supporting me on Ko-fi. I’ll be sharing more thoughts, bullet journal content, and more just for one-time and monthly supporters as a “thank you.”


Are you working on any projects lately that are close to your heart? How has that process been going for you? Leave a comment and let me know.

4 Comments

  1. I also recently re-reading my old journals from 2008, it was cringing in a way, but, it was also lovely to learn my growth, how my views and perceptions changed over time, my sadness and happiness moments, and I don’t regret not throwing them away.
    xx

    1. Haha my journals from 2008 are SO cringey, too! I was a junior in high school and *very* co-dependent and emotional. But I’m so glad I didn’t throw them away either because they’re invaluable. It’s nice to look back and see your growth.

  2. I have had journals on and off since I was in middle school, and I can’t even fathom going back and reading them. I feel like I went through so much and the idea of reliving those things kind of scare me. At the same time, maybe I would like the idea of going back and seeing how much I’ve overcome. I can’t wait to read your collection of entries! xx

    Melina | http://www.melinaelisa.com

    1. Oh, rereading old journals, especially from your adolescence, is definitely a very scary, bittersweet experience! I’d only recommend it in doses on a strong mental health day, haha! It’s all worth it in my case!

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