Why We Should All Keep Diaries

Why We Should All Keep Diaries

Khadijah Olufayo, Editor

With the new year behind us, it seems that everyone wants you to be better. Buff trainers in flashy ads tell you to join a gym; your parents urge you to increase your studying time. What about you, the aspects of your personhood that can’t be quantified by calories burned or test scores earned? How can you become the best version of yourself possible?


Many of us struggle with connecting our minds with our words and actions. We make a list of resolutions every December 31 only to abandon them two weeks into the new year. It’s not our fault — our brains are wired to make breaking negative habits or forming new ones demonstrably difficult. Neuroscientific explanations, however, do not calm the wave of frustration that comes after failing to improve yourself year after year. This can be especially troubling for teenagers coming of age and growing into themselves who crave control in their lives.


The answer to new year’s disillusionment is a simple one: a pen and paper. Keeping a diary is the best way to connect your mind with your goals, and, more importantly, your thoughts with your feelings. Journaling has long maintained a strong hold on our culture, from Bridget Jones’s Diary to Gone Girl to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. And yet, the average teenager does not keep a diary. Much of that can be attributed to a new pattern of online behavior; no longer is social media solely a place for curated feeds with the rise of digital oversharing. Finstas, private Snapchat stories, and TikTok “textposts” have seemingly replaced the need for a physical journal.


But do they fill the same emotional void? Some thoughts are too personal or complicated to be flashed across even your closest friends’ phone screens whenever they open their favorite social media app. You need a space that is free from any and all judgments, a forum where censorship is completely unnecessary, to detail the difficult thoughts that are imperative to growth. Instead of turning your messy breakup into content that most of your audience will skim or skip through, consider using that unfortunate romance as a venture into your feelings on the relationship, the other person, maybe even yourself.


And what about digital diaries? For the more private person, the notes app on their phone has unlimited space for their everyday musings. The permanence of a pen on paper is therapeutic. You’re tempted to delete old rants on your phone because whenever you have “gotten over it,” they no longer feel revealing and instead feel cringeworthy or even desperate. No longer will you be assaulted by emotional outbursts while looking through last month’s grocery list. With a diary, the only time you’ll be reminded of your past is when you’re intentionally looking backward.


Solitary journaling does not mean you have to go through the hard parts of life alone. Reach out to friends for help dissecting your emotions — they likely have gone through something similar or can at least provide support. Even posting that private story or finsta caption rant will not negate your introspective progress — it’s just important to create a distinction between supplemental coping through humor or discussion and avoiding confronting emotions entirely.


Writing about yourself every day can be a daunting task, and it’s easy to get lost in the details. One of the easiest ways to get acquainted with honesty is to write letters explaining your feelings towards people. They can be hand-delivered notes of gratitude to friends, or love letters that will never see the light of day. Some people find writing letters to their past selves therapeutic; others keep motivational correspondence with their future selves. Whatever it looks like to you, letter writing helps you practice being honest with yourself and setting clear intentions with each word.


Eventually, each page in your diary will start to feel like a letter to yourself. The journal becomes a living, breathing documentation of your life and who you are as a person. This time next year, you’ll have a physical reminder of the growth and wisdom you’ve gained as you come of age.