I have been writing down events of my life for the last 10 years. I want to celebrate this achievement. 🎉☺️ This diary helped me a lot in the past, and I wish to convince anyone who is on the fence about starting one to go for it. Those are my personal observation.
I started writing a diary because I wanted to avoid cognitive biases and have a more objective memory for my future self. I also wanted to learn more from myself and discover how I process emotions and time. Before starting writing the diary, I noticed that often a single bad experience can change our prospective to over 100 different positive experiences.
Out of 100 packages being delivered perfectly, that single package that arrives broken will make us complain to the post office! The same is valid for people, and time has an effect on it.
I always thought that time is like one of these old movies on highly flammable tape. 📽 One of those like in Cinema Paradiso, and we are the young Totó (Salvatore) super curious to see how the story goes.
Because it is our film, we can always cut the tape and re-arrange it, give some editing. We delete scenes that we don’t want in our final cut. Hell yeah, we do even some CGI if we like it better than what the cameras captured!
But that is precisely the issue: Time flows… fast! I noticed how my brain can re-arrange events to make me feel better about anything, even if that is not the reality. To me, writing down my life events and memories helps to keep the story coherent, especially in the future when I will forget most of the details.
If some editing happens, that is ok. More or less, I will be aware of both the stories: the one that I chose to remember and what I wrote on the journal. Our brain does not have infinite space, and we use a very lossy compression algorithm! 🤣
I met many people who gave me joy in the past 10 years. For one reason or another, they are no longer characters in my film. Some are no longer with us 💀 some others argued with me 💔, and others moved on to the next chapter of their movie ✈️. Thanks to my diary, I still remember both the happiness and the sadness that they caused me in different moments, without holding any specific feelings as the only way to remember them.
I write to improve myself
Thanks to the diary, I learned about compassion towards other people and towards myself. For example, one thing that I have noticed during the last 10 years by reading is how easy it is to go back and say: Oh! That was stupid of me!
It is super easy to have regrets or feel ashamed of something that happened. My diary gives me the instrument to reflect on my reflection when I look back: I assume that it is normal to want to do better, even if the things that we want to improve are in the past. I am not an expert, but I believe that regrets and shame are powerful mechanisms for self-improvement.
The important thing about regrets is to know that I am learning. I am improving myself so that if something similar happens in the future, I will know what to do.
Being present and living the moment
Another thing that I noticed is that writing a diary and forcing myself to describe as much as possible the details, helped me to be present and live the moment.
I still struggle a lot with it, and sometimes time flows too quickly. Writing down what I saw, the emotions, the sensations, or small details of my experience does not only enrich the story, but it allows me to teleport mentally when I am reading back again the page. I am forcing myself to look around more, to capture feelings and sensation in my everyday life so that I will be forced to write it down later.
The opposite scares me a lot: not being able to enjoy the important moments of my life and reaching an old age where I didn’t pay attention to things that matter. 😱 I am scared of having passed my whole life in front of a screen or phone rather than looking at the colors of the leaves or the smile on people’s face.
What do I use and how often?
I have been using Day One for the last 10 years. It is a decent journaling software that has superb features like tags, geolocation and a nice text editor. It helps me by adding more information/metadata than the analog counterpart: pen and paper!
I tried to move to other solutions unsuccessfully. It works perfectly with my iPhone, iPad, and Mac, and it has features that help me go back in time and reflect: I can see what I wrote on the same day a few years back. It is like selecting a chapter on our movie.
At the beginning, I was writing it every day or even more. It used to be my companion before going to bed, but now I can’t find the time and I write only when I feel like. In the last 3/4 years, after burning out at work, I found myself writing once or twice a week. Being honest, I feel guilty of not writing every day anymore. I am scared of forgetting things, missing memories and not calming my mind down, but that is a pressure I would rather not feel. That is why I write when I feel like writing: it should not be a cause of stress.
This show has everything
I wrote almost the entirety of my 20s. From September 2012 until now. I will continue writing. Toto from Cinema Paradiso might say that this tape is a perfect pilot for a TV show instead of a single movie!
Even if the story will be inconsistent and too few recurring characters, I am sure Trixie and Katya would say that this show has everything: drama, love, suspense, depression, sex, blood, and laughs… and Toto would love it too!
Seriously speaking, what I want to say is that writing down things helps me remember important events of my life, more than a bullet point list of episodes. I think the people in these episodes were living their own film, and there might be other diaries with a different plot. No single diary is better than another. Life is a rollercoaster of events for everyone.
I do suggest writing a journal. It helped me so much in the past 10 years: I would be an entirely different person without it. If you are in doubt, I hope that this convinced you: now it is your turn: what did you do today? and will you remember this day in 10 years? 😉