Journaling and Remembrance 2020 in a notebook

My entire life, I have been gifted journals. The bottom drawer of my desk is filled with stacks upon stacks of notebooks, most of them empty. Despite my mountains of journals, or maybe because of them, I have never been an avid journaler. The dates on my notebook pages jump from 2016 to 2018 sporadically; I struggled to fill in three pages in three days.

Throughout 2020, my teachers and the adults close to me have urged me to journal. Writing down what I am thinking and feeling and doing will help, they told me. I was dubious. How could writing down the contents of a day help me live through a pandemic?

It could help quite a lot, actually. It took awhile to figure that out, though. I spent most of 2020 ignoring the bottom drawer of my desk and its contents; this was not a year I wanted to remember, even though everyone kept telling me that in the future, I would. It was not until recently that I picked up a journal and even then, it was not of my own accord. In early December, I had an assignment for history class: write a journal entry about 2020.

So I wrote a journal entry. I wrote about the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote about my fears and my losses and my sadness. But, surprisingly to me, I started realizing the good things that had occurred during 2020. I was living through milestones that I did not want to forget. 2020 was a year that I wanted to share with loved ones that I had not met yet. I felt motivated to journal in a way that I had never felt before.

And this time, I kept at it. I found myself journaling every other night, writing about my day, about school and its stress, about what I really wanted to remember about 2020. It was not easy; at times I slipped, leaving a week or so in between entries. As time went on, however, I got more consistent. The habit that I developed allowed me to focus during the day and clear my mind at night.

Journaling allowed me to choose how I want to remember 2020; the good and the bad and everything in between. Selective memory is powerful and 2020 has been a hard year, for so many of us. But that is not the only part of this year I want to remember, and journaling has provided me with an answer.

Blank pages are hard to bear

Many people have suggested that I buy new notebooks specifically for journaling, and I can see how that could be appealing. But in my experience, a whole new notebook with blank pages is daunting. You stare down at the white pages and you think, I have to fill these! How? I suggest starting to journal with an already started notebook. It could be a pad of paper your mom used for grocery lists or an old school notebook, whatever you have on hand. It saves time and money, and helps to make journaling less scary.

Good pens make for good flow

I cannot count the number of times I have stopped journaling because there were no pens within my reach. It is so frustrating when a pen runs out of ink mid sentence. I have found that journaling pens are really good for maintaining a writing rhythm, but any good pen will work. I suggest keeping a stockpile of pens close to where you journal — it will help you get through the moments where a dead pen makes you want to give up the practice completely.

Don’t try to carve space out of your day for journaling; fit it in with something else

Taking time out of your day for journaling is fairly impossible for teenagers; we have a full day of school, followed by extracurriculars and hours of homework. This is where I went wrong in my previous attempts at journaling. This time, I replaced the time I spent in the evening journaling, instead of watching Netflix. You could write during breakfast or lunch. You could even write for five minutes while you brush your teeth.

Journaling is whatever you want it to be

This practice is for you. It should make your life better and your mind clear. To accomplish this, journal how you want to journal. It can be purely factual, your report on a day in your life. You could write about your feelings, your ideas, your opinions — whatever you need to share. Journaling can consist of prose, poetry, images, collaged items. It is by you and for you, only.


Created with images by 6689062 - "background blank book" • toodlingstudio - "notebook pen table" • SamuelFrancisJohnson - "pen calligraphy fountain pen"