A Man & His Journal: Agenda, Emotional Crutch, Childhood Dream

Something that has been playing around in my mind in the last couple of days in particular: emotional coping mechanisms. I’m not entirely sure why. Sure, everyone has their own proverbial emotional rollercoaster that takes them through the highs and lows of their lives and, for the most part, it’s not a bad thing. Hell, if nothing else it keeps life interesting.

What made me start thinking ’emotional coping mechanisms’ specifically I cannot say. Perhaps, weirdly, I’ve been feeling somewhat contemplative over the last couple of days. Reasons for this train of thought aside, I thought I could discuss one particular coping mechanism that I use to get through the more ‘entertaining’ parts of my rollercoaster. I know that this trick works for me and I also know that it is one of the relatively common ones. That said, not all of these will ‘gel’ with everyone.

Anyway, down to business…

Journaling

This is perhaps one of the earliest and longest lasting of my ‘tools.’ I started my first journal on my thirteenth birthday. While I haven’t been straining to write in my journal every single day, I find myself gravitating towards it on a semi-regular basis.

Now going into the eighth year of a relationship with journaling, I found the reasoning behind my journaling has taken several forms and I seem to regularly change its raison d’étre. For instance, I still remember the reason I first decided to start journaling in the first place: I wanted to join history.

As corny as that statement sounds, considering I’ve always been totally fascinated by History (it’s currently one of my majors at university and I plan on doing my Masters with a distinct focus on the various parallels between Literature and History) The idea of keeping my own journal – a practice that has been more or less unchanged for centuries – would, to my naïve, 13-year-old mind, connect me to ‘the before times’ and bring me that little bit closer to the historical periods I enjoyed sticking my nose into.

It was only as I got older that the journal became less of a post-factum agenda of tasks and events and more of an emotional crutch. Although I’ve gone through some trying times since I started journaling, I always seemed to bounce back and return to the ‘event x happened on day y and I did z there’ type of entries. Still, there was the odd emotional out-pouring.

For the last six or seven months, I found that journaling has taken on two distinct yet deeply-related roles for me. I could call this ‘my third wave’ but, in truth, it seems to be a more mature amalgamation of the first two waves. I think that this third wave is definitely influenced by the fact that I am very interested in not only history but also genealogy and my own family history. Considering that life is finite and there will come a time when everyone alive today will find their way into a grave, for the amount of effort that I put into the genealogical research, I don’t want it to get lost. Journaling helps not only to record the findings I made about my family’s past but also records my present.

As much as journaling is a way for me to record my research findings, journaling helps to centre me emotionally and often helps me think through a lot of problems I’m having. Journaling, essentially, provides me a space to exorcise my personal demons. By deliberately metamorphosing these abstract, emotional weapons into tangible, hand-written scribbles the act of journaling itself helps to quite literally create distance between myself and my problems.

While the two main reasons behind ‘the third wave’ are seemingly unrelated, I find the fact that my journal not only contains stories of my emotional trials but also a more historical account of my life and the lives of my peers in addition to the lives of those before me adds a certain gravitas to the practice that further settles me emotionally.

The quite literal merging of my personal history with the history of my ancestors, for me, blurs the lines between the ‘then’ and the ‘now.’ By taking events that span several decades and condensing them into an A5, handwritten notebook that can be read in less than a week, that naïve, childhood dream of becoming part of history is achieved to some extent.

I guess, one could argue that journaling is one of the closest things to time travel that exists today.

Well, that… or I’m just weird. Either way, I’m still me so I’m going to say “Bah Humbug” to my haters and carry on doing what I’m doing.

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