Resolve to keep a journal for New Year
Chisolm Allenlundy | Staff ColumnistBy Chisolm Allenlundy | 01/06/2015 9:26pm
Had I slept my way through 2014 and then proceeded to consult my Facebook newsfeed to assess what the year must have been like for the average person, I’d probably come to the conclusion that happiness had died a slow, painful death and been supplanted by sadness and misery. Maybe that’s accurate, and maybe it’s not. But whatever happened, those around me did not seem to take it well.
My year? It was fine, thanks for asking. It had its ups and downs, but on the whole I’d say it was net positive. However, there was one specific aspect of it that kept me from going over the deep end more than a few times. My New Year’s resolution in 2014 was to keep a journal and write in it as much as possible, at least every day. That alone was one of the best, most constructive ideas I’ve ever had (which is good, because it’s the only New Year’s resolution that I’ve ever kept.)
This may come as a surprise, but people do not think very much. And I mean really think, as in contemplate something for an extended period of time,without interruption. We all go throughout our days bouncing from one half-baked thought to another, usually dropping each one to consider something completely unrelated. We rummage through song lyrics, replay a scene from earlier in the day a few times, talk to ourselves about some person we know and make decisions by shuffling among the options until we kind of arbitrarily land on one thing and stick with it. And then we go to bed and do it over again.
That’s not really thinking. There are a million reasons why we just don’t do it much, some that have to do with our environment and some that have to do with the way humans are wired. The point is, however, that we don’t grow without thinking. That’s why keeping a journal is so essential.
Passively gliding though our lives is normal; there is too much constantly vying for our attention to be mindful about our existence naturally. But sitting down for 15 minutes at the end of the day and reflecting on things you’ve seen, thoughts you’ve had and decisions you’ve made forces you to view your life in a way that you never will otherwise.
The late author David Foster Wallace once gave a commencement speech called “This is Water” in which he essentially compared people, especially young people, to fish who don’t understand that they are in water or what water is. When we fail to put a pause on living to think about what we’re really doing, this is what we become. My suspicion is that 2015 will be no kinder to most people than 2014 was, but if we are looking to make an improvement, the best place to start is by thinking about our lives and not just living them. Do that by keeping a journal.
Chisolm Allenlundy is a junior majoring in philosophy and economics.