10 years of journaling

On June 26, 2010, I decided to start a daily journal. My first entry was pretty mundane:

Took a swim. Got a surprising $26 credit from Verizon rather than a bill. Installed Pomodoro time manager, it helped. Bach wanted an apple.

Today is June 26, 2020. When I complete my entry tonight, it will mark 10 consecutive years of nearly daily journaling. It's usually hard to continue a daily task for that long unless you're getting something out of it, and I guess this is proof that I have. I definitely did not intend for this to become such a longstanding habit.

Around the time I started, I was experimenting with various forms of mental self-improvement. I began a morning meditation ritual (which continues), toyed with a time manager (which does not), and started roughly reflecting on my day before going to bed every night. Most of us understand that our bodies must get regular exercise to avoid deterioration, so why wouldn't the same be true for our minds? Especially in an era of continuous information bombardment, maintaining equanimity and focus becomes more difficult without a counter balance.

What have I gotten out of maintaining a journal for so long? At a very high level, I've learned that there are things about me that are remarkably consistent. I need to make an extra effort to pay attention to the positives. That articulating gratefulness of even small things in a day can change my perspective and open my mind. I can also observe that there are long stretches of time where things are more or less the same, followed by dramatic changes that can occur quite suddenly and shift the tone of life. These range from unexpected bright blissful moments to unexpected dark events that result in sustained sadness or even despair. Nothing too surprising, perhaps, but it's something to actually see the waves of life articulated with your actual story. At a much lower level, reading some entries from years past instantly conjures detailed memories, sometimes replete with detailed sensations, which would have surely been forgotten. I don't proclaim that's always a good thing, but it can be incredibly useful.

Maybe the most striking thing is to see—in my own words—how much can happen in a decade... and simultaneously, how time can pass so quickly.