I have been an avid journaler since I was in high school. Nearly every day I write about what is going on in my life. My stack of old journals is a priceless chronicle of my personal experiences. Thumbing through any of them at random allows myself easy access to memories long-forgotten. However, there is a more benefit that these journals provide: access to past mindsets.
I recently read through my journal from the most difficult period of my life, when my life completely fell apart. In the span of two years, I found out that I was going to be a parent, I got married, I quit my dream career, things went south in my personal life, I drained all of my savings, I got divorced and I ended up living in my parents’ house because I had nowhere else to go. This period of time was fraught with turmoil in every direction externally, but also within my own mind.
As I read through my journal from this time, I see now that “past Brandon” always thought he was doing the wrong thing. I blamed myself for everything that went wrong. Every day, I beat myself up for not doing enough, for not being able to fix every problem, for not being good enough. I look back at those experiences now and see them for what they are: someone trying to do his best. Everyone in my life was trying to do their best. We all just had insufficient tools to handle what we were experiencing.
At this stage of my life, when I read my former thoughts, I feel a lot of empathy for the young man going through all of that strife. I just want to help him by rewriting his story. In my mind, I have undergone the process of rewriting my story of what happened, injecting empathy for myself and everyone involved in these experiences. No longer was I the put upon martyr or the failure who could not work hard enough to fix everything, but now I see myself for someone who genuinely tried, showed a great deal of strength and fortitude in difficult times, and came out of it all a wiser person.
When we look at our stories with some distance in time or personal detachment, we have the ability to glean new insight in the positive elements that exist in our stories. I am grateful for my journals because I feel a greater degree of self-empathy and I have a better sense of how far I’ve come.