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  • Writer's pictureJudy

April 14, 2024: Journaling

“Do you always keep a journal?”


         A simple question that came up in a conversation with a gentleman I had recently met.  We were at a mutual friend’s party and we had been having a conversation about a motorcycle trip my husband and I had taken several years ago in which we went from Florida to Canada and back over the course of 29 days.  I had mentioned that I had kept a detailed journal of the trip and each day’s events and adventures.


         “Do you always keep a journal?” seemed like a simple question. I answered yes. But the truth is much more complex.


         I keep many journals. All at once. Some I do write in daily. Some occasionally. Some rarely. I have a Goal Journal where I plan out my goals for each area of my life. While I might set these goals seasonally, I refer to the journal almost daily, as a quick check and reminder of my priorities.

I have Travel Journals that I take with me on trips and record events, activities, and observations. I have Motivation Journals where I jot down inspirational thoughts and ideas, or lists I come across of things I want to remember. This one I also frequently flip through and add more notes or thoughts.

I did keep a Covid Journal, where I made frequent entries as we all went through unprecedented events. I wanted to capture the moment in time.


In general, people keep journals for a variety of reasons or purposes. Like the diaries we kept as teens, some are for helping us process life and our thoughts and emotions. Some journals are kept for the express purpose of feeding a legacy with the ultimate purpose of public sharing. For example, George Washington was a journal keeper and knew that his thoughts and observations during that critical early time in our country’s history would be interesting to historians and scholars.

However, most journals are kept by us ordinary folks who have no illusions of grandeur about our thoughts and ideas. While the journals of those like Washington end up in museums, most of ours are discarded when the journal keeper is no longer around.  



         I am the “Keeper of the Journals” for our family.  I have my maternal grandmother’s journals, my paternal grandfather’s journals, and my mother’s journals. I could not bear them being thrown away. All are very different and were used very differently, but each one seems to be a source of connection.  My grandmother, for example, used bound books and every single night, recorded a sentence or two summarizing the day’s events, while my grandfather (an artist) used spiral bound notebooks of various sizes to jot down his random ideas and observations.

I have never read through every one of their journals from start to finish, but I have flipped through, skimmed, and read portions and sections.  


It was fun to flip through my grandmother’s journal to find the day I was born and read her notes. “Nancy had her baby today! A most perfect little thing she named Judy.”


My mother was a consummate hostess and loved having large family gatherings, and in one of her journals, I found notes she kept as reminders when planning parties. “Plan the menu so the majority of the work is done before the first guest arrives.  Never use paper plates or plastic silverware.  Always fix the first cocktail for your guests, even if the bar is self-serve for larger gatherings.”


 My grandfather’s sense of humor came through when he jotted down his observations and wonderings as he apparently sat on the beach one day with his notebook. “The seagulls dance with each other and the breeze. As always, there is a wallflower off to the side. Perhaps he needs an extra cocktail to loosen up.”


I imagine journals of some sort have been around as long as people have had written language.  Naturally, they change with the time and technology. While my grandparents never had a digital option for their journals, people today do. I still choose to keep hand-written journals that you can hold, although I think that perhaps things like social media accounts and even this blog, may also be categorized as a form of journaling.

 I do wonder what journals of the future will be like.  I also wonder what will happen to my collection of journals (mine as well as my relatives’) when I am no longer here to be the “keeper of the journals”.

Regardless of their ultimate resting place, journals, and the process of writing in them, are clearly worth the effort!

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