Getting Back to Journaling as a College Student

Sometimes it helps to take a step back to take a step forward.

IMG_0981Sometimes reflecting and assessing a situation allows for a greater sense of purpose and a fresh set of eyes. For me, it helps to journal. It not only helps to process the present, but give hope for the future and an appreciation for the past. When my emotions are displayed purely in written form, I can understand what I am feeling either as I write or when I look back. I begin to know myself better.

I kept a journal for years, but then I stopped. I thought I just did not have the time, but every now and then I would pull out a piece of paper or open a Word document and write.  Even today, as I was drinking my morning coffee, I opened my computer and wrote. Actually, this post is a byproduct of this morning’s meditations.

Going into college, I wanted to keep a journal, but I more or less wanted it to be perfect. It sounds silly, really, but I wanted the pages to be pristine, unaccompanied by scratches and edits, and my words right. That was my first mistake. My life is not perfect and neither should my stories. I then turned to the computer, thankful for the delete button. (It is more permanent and effective than a simple line drawn through a paragraph.)  Sometimes I would stare back at the screen, brows furrowed, wondering why in the world would I ever write something like that, and then finding extreme relief in the power of one simple button – delete. I realized that I could write and edit more easily, as well as read my words in print verses my usual cursive. I knew it was going to happen – I did not move forward.

Over winter break, I took a step back. I realized that my problem may have been that I put so much emphasis on the stories and writing them right. I was caught up in telling the story or writing the right story. I was not simply writing. I remembered something one of my teachers had once told me – once you begin writing, don’t pick up your pen from the paper. Spill everything out. That is all a journal should be. When you are writing in the moment, you do not have a set destination. You cannot formulate the story’s premise when it is still in the works.

Yes, I will write this year and keep a record in a journal. I think I learned my lesson. All I need to do is to write, and the rest will come together.

My hope for this semester and the rest of my college years, not only in writing but as a simple life goal, is to not get caught up in the particulars, but look at the big picture. I hope to take a step back — assess and reflect — and step forward to make decisions and take action.

Sarah Dunlap

About Sarah Dunlap

I am a Pittsburgh native and an English major and Communications minor at Nyack College Rockland Campus. I am a devoted dancer, avid reader, and an aspiring writer. "Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences." - Sylvia Plath
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