Human collective history changed earnest with the invention of writing. What we know about peoples past pre-writing is only based on anthropological theories. Whereas peoples before the advent of writing rest in silence, writing and the subsequent spread of it gave voices to individuals that we can hear today. But I won’t bore you with the fascinating details of the history of writing (but I do encourage learning more from experts). Today some much is published online that it is easy to become inundated with thoughts and opinions of others. That is not so say that your voice is insignificant.
Keeping a written log, whether by hand as I prefer in leather-bound books, or on your computer, is good for you. We live in hurried, hectic times where we are all conscious of how much time equals how much cash. Life rushes by and memories, whether pleasant, difficult, confusing, or otherwise get lost in the muck of our already overloaded synapses. I am probably the most guilty as my memory is a mishmash of random thoughts and facts and emotions. To organise past happenings I began writing in order to remember. I gave my past self a voice to my present self, and possibly to others in the future. I chose to write by hand for the same reason I chose to read physical books, the tangibility, the connection, and for nostalgia of course. There is something innately satisfying about toting around a journal of your own with some pages filled with words your hands wrote and others blank, patiently awaiting your hands to scribble symbols that combine to form thoughts.
My biggest regret is that I did not take up journalling earlier in life. I am reminded as I scroll back occasionally and see pictures of myself on Facebook and think, “What was I doing?” Embarrassed in part by my past self, but also curious what was going through that younger noggin of mine. We change so much, so fast. I can only assume through the lens of Present Tom at what Past Tom was thinking, that is not a true first-hand account.
I first starting keeping tabs on day-to-day happenings when I first left the States in 2013. I bought my first journal in Brisbane in January 2014 (I would know the exact date, but that particular volume is in Georgia, while I type here from Sunshine Coast, Queensland). And since that particular date I have rarely missed a day. For the first few months, my scribbly handwriting resembled Sumerian cuneiform and the descriptions were spartan, concerning just basic events. Looking back I can see a progression to ever-more descriptive writing, still in shorthand, but decipherable even to others.
However even reading back on the entries that were short and terse, I am transported back to that particular day and, usually, even the exact spot where I wrote that entry. Others mention the same sort of memory transportation. My memory of that whole day unfolds in my head in a clarity that otherwise, for me, doesn’t exist in pre-journal days. I view that moment in time from the perspective of my past self and can compare that memory to that of my present self, making for an interesting mental exercise. And the main reason to write is for yourself. I find it organises thoughts, is a stress reliever as you release thoughts onto paper. You expel and make room for whatever else stimulates your brain.