Thought Catalog
March 16, 2017

Looking Back On My Journal Entries And Learning From My Past Self

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Yesterday, I got curious about what I’d been doing on the same day a year ago. And two, and three…and basically, I ended up with a list of the most important or interesting things that had happened since the time I was thirteen. Before we get any further, this is that list:

2009 – Two boys in my class were crying.

2010 – I had quite the argument with my chemistry teacher.

2011 – This made me laugh: I’d started off with, ‘Blah…that was my day. Note to future self who’s reading this: don’;t waste your time here, go to another day and waste your time there.’ As to why the day was ‘blah’? I’d spent most of it writing but I didn’t like the outcome.

2012 – I didn’t write! :(

2013 – I completed Insanity! (the workout program)

2014 – Nothing interesting here.

2015 – A weary day in my first year of med school, ending with ‘we’ve got a test tomorrow but I can’t get myself to read any more so I’m calling it a day.’

2016 – Had a major doctor’s appointment, and reached a new workout high. Yay!

I was amused, yes, but a bigger part of me kept cussing myself out for having such stupid entries – while I could claim to know what I had been up to eight years ago, none of it was special so I didn’t really have anything to be proud of. I tried to think of what I could do better henceforth, and that analysis of hits and misses got me a list of things important to remember while writing life’s story out.

Gossip is easily one of the biggest wastes of time and energy. The personal affairs of others that we bother with are so easily forgotten and become meaningless so quickly, it’s safe to say that any time spent interfering where it’s not our place is wasted. It follows that if we’re being gossiped about today, we don’t need to sweat it – it’ll fade.

To think that for my whole 24 hours, the most interesting thing I had to say pertained to someone else made me feel quite foolish: a sobering reminder of what the outcome of centering one’s own life about someone else can be like.

Negative things do stand out and are remembered. I’m not proud of having harped on that inconsequential argument, but now I know to take a step back and look at the bigger picture whenever a dispute arises and think about whether it will really matter in a few days. And when I’m conscious it won’t (as is the case so often), it’s easy to take the route with least frowns involved for all parties.

That my opinion of my teacher is unchanged also offers the comfort that one small misstep isn’t going to change the overall impression someone has of you if the overall interaction has been good. Furthermore, since that argument hasn’t had an impact on any other aspect of my life today, it’s confirmed – energy spent on being angry is a total waste.

The irony with my ‘blah’ is unbelievably high. It felt like it was a waste of a day then because I’d just spent it writing and getting nowhere, but man, what I wouldn’t give to be able to honestly say that today!

Too often we’re reminded not to take people for granted but not enough that the same holds true for our own skills and abilities. We assume that the things we know and can do today will remain permanently, so we forget to put in the maintenance work and to be grateful, till the day it’s all gone.

The fact that today I don’t think it was a waste attests to the fact: when there’s an end-goal to be achieved, it’s better to just keep trucking on no matter what. Even if I trashed everything I wrote, I’m still proud of me today!

2015’s entry reminded me of just how much my first year of med school killed me. ‘This too shall pass’ felt so out of reach at the time…well, what do you know. I’m glad I wrote about it, though. It’s critical to remember hard times past and exactly how we felt, so that when things get that way again, the rose-colored glasses we tend put on when looking at the past won’t fool us into thinking that we had just been soft, that it wasn’t a big deal, and that we’d just gotten lucky before.

When we remember just how difficult it felt back then, it’s easier to trust that we’ll get through this time too.

When something is truly meaningful, it doesn’t fade. The thought of completing Insanity made me just as happy four years after the fact! That’s the kind of thing to pursue in life.

Along those lines, we easily forget that time is passing by and that it’s important to actively seek out meaningful endeavors. They don’t just ‘happen’ and expecting otherwise will just result in another eight years’ worth of boring journals and feelings of worthlessness

That said, however, it simply isn’t possible to scale a mountain every day, so I suppose it’s a good idea to be more open minded and find meaning in ‘small’ things that do happen, and to pick activities that have the potential to matter. The easiest way to get this done is to ask, ‘Would this/what about this would make me smile if I read it in my journal a year from today?’

All said and done, it is the smaller things that add up to the more significant chunk of what life was, and it’s really those things that are worth nothing down.

Work, while necessary to do, isn’t necessary to detail or engrave in memory; take it from someone who’s done too much of that that all it results in are questions about whether one has simply been existing or actually living.

That’s going to change, though. Henceforth, I’ll write about the stranger I said hello to at the fair and how silly I felt afterward, the great pun a friend made that tickled me to no end, how honored I felt when someone made me a priority in their busy day, the jokes we made and pranks we played while playing Monopoly. Everything that I am grateful for that made me smile, and I ask you to do the same, so that when we look back, that’s the life we want to remember having lived. TC mark