When I was nine years old, I decided to start writing in a journal. Just to clarify, this was a journal, NOT a “diary.” As a budding pre-teen, I was very determined to keep my “journal” emotion-free, just in case someone were to happen upon it and gain access to my secret thoughts. Over the years, however, I realized that there were major benefits to writing down my emotions in a safe space. For one, I could be as brutally honest as I liked with little to no consequences, assuming that nobody snooped through my personal belongings. More importantly, as I continued to write, my original thoughts inspired new thoughts, and my emotions unraveled and solidified before my eyes.
When I entered high school, my journal became my form of therapy. I relayed the pain of my first break-up, my anxiety about applying to colleges, and my constant fear that I would choose the wrong friends and find myself alone. I seeked comfort in the pages of my thoughts, and sought meaning from my own life through the words on the pages. However, as the years progressed, my journal entries grew further apart. I found myself writing page after page at a time to try to catch up from where I had left off before. My journal still sat on the table at my bedside, but I picked it up less and less often due to nights of falling asleep while texting and playing games on my phone.
When I first came to Tulane, I decided to reconnect with my journal. At first, it was a forced relationship; I reluctantly picked up my journal at the end of a long day of new classes and new faces, and tried to recount the events of my day as best as I could. Eventually, I realized that my structured journal entries could not truly reflect the excitement and changes that I was experiencing as I slowly integrated myself into Tulane life. Suddenly, I had a realization: my journal did not have to be an organized list of events, but rather a reflection of myself and my experiences. I started to bring my journal, now dubbed my “inspiration book,” to classes with me: periodically taking it out to document a new thought, interesting lecture, or idea for a new comic. By abandoning my Type A journal entry structure, I was able to turn my journal into a true form of release and expression—because, in reality, our thoughts are not always organized, and days in college can be both overwhelming and indescribable.
Journaling may not be for everyone, but finding an expressive outlet has helped me immensely over the past semester to organize my thoughts and inspire myself on a daily basis. By documenting my ideas and releasing myself from the rigid structure of classes and schedules, I found a new sense of freedom and a new form of expressive therapy that was not only free, but also travel size! So, next time you’re feeling overwhelmed and need a coping mechanism, try exploring your mind in the pages of a journal. You never know what you might learn about yourself and the world around you.
COVER PHOTO: Carolyn Ellis