Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Kim: Dear diary…

I have never been very consistent at keeping a journal — the small, navy blue one I write in from time to time has been with me since seventh grade. 

The first page of the journal dictates that in case of loss, the reward is, “I’m not paying you, you probably read it.” (As I leafed through the rest of the diary, I discovered I was not the most pleasant pre-teen, but I stand by my stated fear of people reading it). 

It contains pretty typical diary stuff: my daily routines, favorite songs, deepest confessions and biggest fears. Not material I would particularly love sharing with a stranger. But for me, reading through my various landmark events and random thoughts in the diary is a reflective and nostalgic experience, despite being painfully awkward at the same time. 

My friend and I bought diaries the same day in seventh grade, filling out our first entries together in her basement. Mine contained introductions to my family and friends, my classes and the dance program I was in. 

The various entries throughout middle school mainly featured various crushes (like the boy who said he liked me in a game of truth or dare), friend drama (the same boy) and academic achievements (like the 100% I got on my last trigonometry quiz, huge). I talked about pool parties, roller coasters and rock climbing summer camps. I wrote about the major transformation I had when I got my braces off and got my eyebrows done in the same week. 

I started my journal wanting to never forget anything that happened to me. I kept lists of my favorite songs, shows and current trends and sayings. I wrote diligently about dreams and memories I had, as well as daily accounts of my experiences. 

As I moved throughout high school, many of the entries shifted toward my internal thoughts. I talked about how well I was doing mentally once I started rowing. I wrote about my travels to new places and friends I had made. 

2020 was entirely undocumented. 2021, however, was full of reflections on  the school I had gone to all my life before college, and the new relationships I had formed as I branched out that year. I talked about my newfound confidence and excitement for a new stage of my life.

In college, I’ve used my journal less but have become more thoughtful with each entry. Now, my journal is more focused on key events and growth in my life, like big races or mental paradigm shifts or life lessons like “relearning how (doing) simple things that make other people happy is the best.” Whereas in my diary in middle school was a place to note things I was doing, and in high school to record thoughts I was having, I began using my journal when I really had something to say. 

I have written impassioned letters to people who wronged my friends, resolutions and insights into my personal growth and even (terrible) spur-of-the-moment poems. I’ve focused on the small moments, I have written entries reflecting on thoughts that have gathered in my mind over time. Smaller lists, thoughts and quotes have made their way onto my notes app, which is more accessible when I want to write something immediately (but which I plan on printing and putting in the diary itself).

My journal is an anthology, tracing out the patterns of my life. The detailed anecdotes I have chosen to commit to writing (though questionable at times) have shown what I have valued most over the years. The overall trajectory and patterns not only illustrate my development as a person but also the ways I’ve stayed the same. 

I’ve always valued family and friends above all else, cherished learning and used writing to reflect. But I’ve become more empathetic and kind, less quick to judge and more invested in my well-being and creating positive change instead of seeking validation from others.

I read through my journal about once a year since and leave annotations to document my personal growth and my frustrations or connection with my past self. I have worked through my grievances with certain people and even mediated conversations with myself when I was too harsh in my own journal entries.

I am a very nostalgic person, and I often reflect on how my past selves have built my current personality. However embarrassing my past entries seem to me now, in the end, I wrote all of them at some point in time, expressing my feelings. In this practice of self-documentation, I have made my journal into a narrative of my life, even if it’s just for me to look at. 

Each page of my journal marks a different layer of myself. And I am about 12 pages from starting anew. 

From Dec. 20, 2021: “I just read parts of this journal and it’s crazy how much you can change and grow in a short amount of time. I’m so lucky to have such good people surrounding me, and I hope I can always continue to grow.”

Chiara Kim is a Medill junior. She can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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