For as long as I can remember, I have kept a journal. I think I was six when I first started journaling with a notebook that had a lock and key — after all, a six-year-old has pretty confidential information to hide from prying eyes. In fact, I was so paranoid that someone would read my journal that I would rip up each page of a journal after I had finished using up all the pages.
Skipping to the present, I am currently 19 and still continue to journal. However, a lot has changed since my early journaling days. For one, I no longer rip apart my journals. Instead, I keep them in an overflowing memory box at my parents’ home — the oldest one dating back to when I was in sixth grade. Being able to look back at my thoughts from such a long time ago feels a bit like entering a time machine, and I regret not having even older entries to reflect upon.
Despite having so many journals from the last eight years or so, I have to admit that I haven’t been as consistent with journaling as I hoped to be. I have gone through periods where I write multiple pages each day, but there have also been times where I won’t touch my journal for weeks or months. Why, you might ask? In all honesty, the answer to that question is one that I myself don’t have.
I initially fell into journaling due to my love for words. From poetry to books to writing essays for school, I have always felt a strong appreciation for the words I wrote and read and the power those words held. In elementary school, I first developed this love by writing short stories in English class. Eventually, this evolved into poetry writing which I still continue to do so today. Somewhere along the way, I found another way to expand this appreciation for words and that happened to be through journaling.
Over the years, I think it has grown to be more than just another way to explore the art of words. Through my journaling experience, I have grown to view my journal as a space where I could be unapologetically me. Contrary to the fear that my younger self had, the only person who has access to my journal is myself. It is a place where I can release grudges I have been harboring, emotions I’m not sure how to express, painful memories I needed to let go of and so much more. This ability to liberate myself is the reason I have continued to journal — it provides a space that is all mine.
When I think of journaling in this way, I find it astonishing that I can go so long without writing a journal entry for months. Something that feels so personal, so therapeutic should be something I want to do all the time but I wonder why it feels like a chore at times.
Despite not having a concrete answer for this presently, I have come to the belief that I think we — as individuals or even society as a whole — place too much pressure and stress on hobbies. These feelings of obligation and stress are most often what I feel when I go a long period of time without journaling, but it shouldn’t be that way.
Hobbies are supposed to be a way for us to balance our lives — whether it be from school, work or other stressful parts of our days. A hobby is an activity that one does in their spare time for personal enjoyment and relaxation. Hobbies are not supposed to be stressful or something that puts pressure on us, but why is it that our hobbies often stress us out and feel like a chore?
In speaking for my own journaling hobby, I put far too much pressure on creating the perfect entry. This is partly because when I grab my journal, I want to fill the pages with every possible detail of my life. I put too much pressure on myself to try to make journaling a daily habit. In reality, that just isn’t realistic nor is it a healthy mindset to have while journaling. I should not be putting an expectation on myself when it comes to writing a journal entry. There is no reason that every single entry I make should be pages long or encompass everything — it should simply be what I need it to be at the moment. If that means just writing one sentence, there is nothing wrong with that.
Now, this is so much easier said than done. On days I don’t feel like journaling, it’s always in the back of my mind as something I ‘should’ do. But the thing is, there are no real rules when it comes to journaling or any other hobbies that we may choose to undertake, and there shouldn’t be. Hobbies are supposed to be something we find pleasure in — not something we should feel pressured to do.
Even while writing this, I still feel a tiny obligation to be consistent with journaling. Since it has been a part of my life for so long, I am not sure if that sense of duty will ever go away completely. However, I know and recognize now that my journal will still be there day after day, waiting until I’m ready to write a new entry. Even if I skip out on writing for a few days, weeks or even months, my journal won’t be going anywhere. When I need a space to express my inner thoughts, I know that I can reach for my pen and notebook whenever. Although I still often feel the need to practice my journaling everyday, I know the last thing I want to do is think of such an enjoyable and fulfilling hobby as a looming chore. So I’m learning to be okay with inconsistency.
Zoya Zahid is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at email@example.com.