October 4, 2012 by bdetienne
Have you ever had a moment hanging out with friends or at a family function and you have trouble remembering the story they are talking about? Or you are trying to recall a story from growing up but the details of it are fuzzy? I have. Plenty of them, in fact. And it is annoying. It is often said that as you age memory is one of the first things to go and unless you have eidetic memory, this blurriness will affect you at some point in your life. How do you counteract that? How can you preserve those memories for you and others to enjoy decades and generations into the future? By chronicling your life events in a journal.
“A journal? Isn’t that something that teenage girls use to write down the intimate details of the latest boy at school (and/or celebrity) they have a crush on that week?” Maybe, but they are also so much more. They store memories. They display a timeline of one’s life. They help explain what someone was thinking that led them to make a decision. They are a stress relief. They can provide instruction on what to do or what not to do. They can even offer inspiration to future generations. And if you are man like I am and still a little skeptical about the concept, consider this: some of the greatest figures in history kept journals (ie Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, and Dwight Eisenhower are just a few. For a list of more, click here.) These are some of the most revered masculine heroes and if they can do it, so can we.
A journal can take on so many forms. Traditionally one thinks of a leather-bound book or hard plastic book with a clasp lock that records information only when words are written on its pages, but there are other ways to journal. A blog (public or private) can serve as an online notepad. A word document will work too. There are even people that “journal” by creating audio or video recordings of themselves. It does not matter. And what’s more, there is only one rule to journaling- customize it for you. Make it fun, not a chore. Bullet points can suffice for an entry, or perhaps a short story is the only way to detail what took place/what one is feeling. Artifacts (ie postcards, pictures, ticket stubs, etc.) can be included. The possibilities are endless!
I have outlined the great aspects of keeping a journal but I won’t pretend that it is easy. There is only so much time in the day and the only way to journal is to make a spot in your daily itinerary for it. You have to dedicate yourself to staying on top of it, even if it means changing your habitual patterns to do so. It is easy to get off track because of a busy week, vacation, or laziness. If you are continually falling behind, the task of telling an anecdote becomes increasingly difficult. In addition, it can sometimes prove arduous to translate the story you are telling into words. How do I describe the feeling inside when I fell in love with my significant other, or the intricacies of an architectural schematic, or the scene surrounding me when my team won a big game? The task can seem monumental, but do the best to paint the picture and let the reader’s imagination do the rest.
I have attempted to maintain a journal three times in my life. The first was when I was 7 or 8 and on vacation in Washington, DC. That lasted about five or six days (although it provided one of my favorite pictures of me when my dad captured a candid photograph of me writing away). The second was about three years ago, a New Year’s resolution to journal my daily events. I can’t remember exactly how long it lasted but like most New Year’s resolutions, it quickly faded into oblivion. The third time is present day. I got married about a month ago and decided that I wanted to journal my life as a married man. Share events, thoughts, ups, downs, and other random musings my brain comes up with to entertain my children and grandchildren one day. I have done a pretty good job of it so far, finding times throughout the day (morning, lunch, and evening) to write down thoughts from the current or previous day. It may not be John Grisham quality, it may not always paint me in the smartest or kindest light. But it is a repository for my memories and showcases who I really am for myself and others to see.