"The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible." -Vladimir Nobokov

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Fear, Plans, and Journaling

I am a maker of plans. A list maker, a dreamer, a person who functions best when she has something to look forward to. But what happens when that something (that project, that trip, that social event) evokes a mixture of fear as well as excitement? In a fight between the two, fear usually wins. No, I usually let fear win. And the stupid thing is, that of the two emotions, fear is always the smallest, physically. Fear is the tiny ball in the pit of my stomach, while excitement is the thing that makes me want to get up and actually do something. Excitement is in my blood and fear is a parasite.

When I look back through my old journals, which I've been keeping on and off since the 6th grade, I see a major shift take place between middle and high school. In middle school I wrote mostly about my life. I wrote about things that happened to me, or interesting conversations, or something my teacher said, but in high school a lot of that reflection got replaced by plan-making. I stopped writing about what my life was actzually like and started writing about what I wanted my life to be like. And that doesn't have to be a bad thing, but when I look back at those entries I realize that almost all of them say the same things: Write more. Procrastinate less. Get out of your comfort zone.

Figuring out what caused this shift inevitably lead me to wondering why I keep a journal in the first place. When I was younger, I wanted my older self to be able to look back at my entries and learn something about what it was like to be me at that age. As I got older, my priorities changed. Keeping a journal became less about recording my life and more about the the act of writing. Writing was how I figured stuff out. Writing made me feel empowered, and when I wrote out exactly who I wanted to be, and how I was supposedly going to get there, I felt more in control. The problem was, of course, that I never remembered.

One of the innate things about keeping a journal is that you write something down, get something off your chest, and then you forget about it. It's like putting your emotions or experiences into a jar that you only take down from the shelf once a year. So no matter how many times I wrote out my plans, I was putting them in a place that wasn't going to help me very much.

Realizing this has pushed me forward in a lot of ways. For one, I understand now that I don't want to look back at my journals every few years and read about everything I wanted to do, but never did. That, to me, is a far stronger motivator than a million lists and action plans and ideal life scenarios. That fear, the fear of always planning but never doing, is actually a good thing. It keeps me motivated and on track. And more importantly, I can choose it over the other kind. At the very least I'll end up with the kind of journals my older self will actually enjoy reading.