It's a Sunday night and I'm sitting at my desk in my pyjamas, sobbing. It sounds like the beginning of a sad story, but I promise you it's not. I'm in the middle of a journal writing session and it's not unusual for me to feel all my emotions most deeply when I'm writing - which quite often means there are lots of tears.
I first began journaling on my 10th birthday. In a small green spiral bound notebook with Oscar the Grouch printed on the front, I wrote:
Dear Diary, today I turned ten. It was a milestone. I'm so happy. When I got home I had to do my dumb homework, but I was lucky that Mum let me watch 'Blue Water High' and 'Behind the News Daily'.
The blotchy black gel pen and careful cursive writing is a reminder of just how much has changed since that day. But my excitement about news shows has remained (and I still have a soft spot for hunky surfers).
ln the 13 years since that first journal entry, I've continued writing. I've filled entire notebooks with pages of lists, letters, rants, song lyrics and bad poetry.
While I've never been particularly consistent with my diary writing, I've always come back to it to help me work through my emotions and worries. There is a vulnerability in my journal writing that I don't often allow myself in other areas of my life.
There is a vulnerability in my journal writing that I don't often allow myself in other areas of my life.
The blank pages of my journal give me the opportunity to recognise and accept the emotions that I bury when I'm otherwise too busy or stressed or tired for self-reflection.
But lately, I've discovered that there is a different kind of comfort to be found in going back through my old journals. I might be a young adult trying to figure out how the hell to do my taxes, maintain work-life balance and manage my healthcare but my old journals provide a tangible link to my childhood and adolescence.
While I might be tempted to view the past through rose-tinted glasses, the words captured in those pages remind me that it wasn't necessarily a simpler time. Written in the throes of pre-teen angst, petty high school drama, and the freedom of post-school life, they are records of the lessons I've learned throughout my life.
Those journals remind me that growth and change don't happen overnight. But they assure me that they always happen. In that very first journal, there is an entry that always makes me laugh when I read it back. It says:
Mum and Dad were on my TEMPER LIST. They say I might have to move schools. WHY? I don't even know.
Who knows what a 'temper list' is? But I obviously wasn't happy about the idea of moving schools. The very next entry, written five months later reads:
It's been a term since I moved school now and I still miss my friends, but I'm happy with what's happening.
In hindsight, the juxtaposition of emotion between entries is funny. I remember seriously contemplating running away because Mum and Dad wanted to move me to a new school. It felt like the biggest and worst thing to ever happen to me. But it happened, and it seems I just got on with life.
I take comfort in knowing that even as a child I struggled with the idea of change, but I was able to adapt. Right now, I'm not sure what the next step in my career will look like. That uncertainty scares me in the same way that moving schools did when I was 11. But my old journal entries help me to fight those fears, giving me confidence in my ability to embrace future possibilities.
As I got older, the childhood innocence of those early entries gave way to more serious attempts to understand who I was and what I stood for. There are entries where I dream of travelling the world. There are pages written about my determination to change the world and fight injustice. And there are confessions of the heart galore - turns out I've had more unrequited crushes than I care to remember.
When I was younger, I used to imagine that one day my future children and grandchildren might read my journals to understand who I was before I knew them. I hoped that my entries would help them to piece together the story of how they came to be. I imagined that the notebooks piling up in my wardrobe would link me to a future that I might never see.
When I take them out and rifle through those pages, I'm holding tangible proof of my growth.
I realise now that my childhood journals are valuable at this very moment. When I take them out and riffle through those pages, I'm holding tangible proof of my growth. Reading through entries that I wrote in the thick of grief or heartache or confusion, is a reminder that I've lived and learned.
Now when I'm sobbing at my desk as I write a new entry, I know that I'm not just working through my emotions at that moment. I'm writing to a future version of myself who will one day draw strength from the memories that I'm recording.