I’m on an early morning car journey to the airport, as we’re off on holiday to Lanzarote, and I’m about nine. As we roll down the familiar country lanes absent of their regular cars and tractors, I’m struck by the realisation that I’ve forgotten something important. Scanning the blurry hedges out of the window, I weigh up whether or not to ask my mum and dad to turn around, and decide against it.
I’m a long-time diary keeper. Not a diary of doctor’s appointments, reminders and To Do lists, but a diary for putting your thoughts down on paper at the end of the day. For recording the day’s events, the weather, a funny conversation, a new acquaintance.
It all began with a five-year Winnie the Pooh diary bought one Saturday in W H Smiths – a pale blue hardback with a few lines to fill each day, that didn’t quite make its way to Lanzarote. It was here that, for at least three of the potential five years, I wrote about S Club concerts and traumatic times tables tests and going to friends’ houses for dinner after school. Later came slightly more elegant notepads with plain tan or black covers, and the pressure not to make a mistake while filling the first, untouched pages with stories of camp outs, French exchanges and adolescent heartache.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always gone in phases. Sometimes I won’t write for months and months, but generally, I really want to. Chronicling my life became a daily habit like any other, so nights I’m able to brush my teeth, I’ll write in my diary. Because once morning arrives, the previous day’s colours fade and it feels like something’s been lost.
Aside from simply reminding us of what we we’ve been up to when our mind goes blank when we’re asked what we did the other day (this happens to me all too frequently), keeping a diary gives us a moment to pause, digest and offload without judgement. It’s a kind of therapy, as an intimate, non-judgemental space to express ourselves. A place for ideas to spring up, where we can write as much or as little as we want.
For those of us living in thin-walled flat shares, sharing our day’s highlights on insta stories and neglecting our relationship with ourselves by unconsciously avoiding time spent alone, the private moment that keeping a diary offers is worth its weight in gold. We play YouTube videos while we’re getting ready for the day, we put the radio on as we do the washing up, we download a podcast in time for our commute. When we have a clear day, we instantly seek out the company of others, whether it’s a family member, a friend, or a stranger from Bumble. We’re generally not that used to spending time alone, or feeling aware of our mental state – until there’s a problem.
A closed diary is an invitation to check in with ourselves. Like my five-year diary purchased aged nine, it’s a commitment that rewards you with a way to look back on chapters of our lives that now feel far removed, a tool to encourage us to notice patterns of how we’re feeling. This can only be a positive for our mental wellbeing.
Keeping a diary also brings a certain freedom and relief, as it’s a space to write whatever you want – your embarrassments, observations and dreams. Things you wouldn’t share with anyone else. It’s somewhere to offload and organise your thoughts, which can be very cathartic during the more tumultuous patches of our lives. Some nights, I feel like I really need to write, when a lot has culminated in one day or I’ve become clearer about something.
It can also put things in perspective: work stress or that chat with your housemate about the fact their boyfriend should *definitely* be paying rent can seem much smaller when written down on paper. And writing down your thoughts and things to do the next day can muffle the mental disco that can kick off when your head hits the pillow.
Most importantly, looking back on diary entries really reveals how quickly the external stuff in our lives can change. Living arrangements, friendships, our job, certain weights on our shoulders, and it’s a helpful demonstration of how troubles that feel tremendous at the time don’t stick around forever. Flicking back through your diary shows that life’s constantly moving forward – and reminding ourselves of the temporary nature of things in the past is great at helping us handle the present.
[all images sourced from Pinterest]
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