June 20th. Twelve weeks ago tomorrow. It’s strange to think about the time before June 20th, because it’s hard reconcile the person I am now with the person I was then. It’s hard to think about the choices I made for myself, because I can’t imagine making a lot of them now.
June 20th is the day I started journaling morning pages every single morning. I’d been doing it once in a while for a few weeks before, but I’d felt too self-conscious to actually take that time for myself. And I’d felt uncomfortable writing about myself every single day. I’ve always loved journaling, but it’s never been an all-the-time type of thing—more of a “you’re having an emotional crisis journal about it bc you desperately need to” type of situation. I also hadn’t bought myself a journal specifically for my morning pages yet, which was part of the problem. I was using random journals that I’d already written in, and different journals each morning. It felt like work to have to decide which journal to use and then to find a blank page. But on the 19th, I bought a journal that I decided would specifically be for my morning pages, and made the commitment to myself to do my pages every single day.
At this point, I’d only just started trying out going to bed early. My roommate was nannying during the week, so I was basically alone. I wasn’t drinking while she was gone, because like I’ve said, I’ve never enjoyed drinking alone. It sort of just happened on its own, that I started going to sleep earlier and earlier each night, and then naturally waking up earlier each morning. Without really trying to, I got into this routine of waking up around eight am, and then eating breakfast and journaling outside on the patio. And then, usually four or five times a week, I’d go for a run. Not far or anything, because I suck at running, but like four miles or so. And what was so interesting about it is that for the first time in as long as I can remember, my urge to exercise wasn’t coming from some desire to change my appearance. It was literally just because I felt like I needed to move. I was restless and eager to channel all of this energy that had built up over months of quarantine into something. And running made me feel good. Running was definitely one of the things that spurred major changes in my life, sort of like the foundation of my routine. Not because I still run, but because it sort of inadvertently caused a lot of the changes I had to make in my life that led to my routine now. In the beginning of July, I went for a run one day and about half a mile in, I knew something was not right with my back. I tried to stretch it out and then keep going, but soon the pain was so bad that I had to sit down. I quite literally hobbled my way home, one hand on my back because I felt like my spine was actually going to snap in half without the extra support. I ended up bedridden for three days, in totally insane pain, switching from ice packs to heating pads every hour. I was devastated because I felt like I’d just started doing all this exercise and I was actually sort of enjoying it, and now I was trapped in bed, barely able to walk downstairs to the kitchen without crying from the pain. But what happened is that after a few days, when the pain became slightly less excruciating, I woke up one morning and got out my yoga mat so I could do some stretching. I knew I needed to stretch and strengthen my back to help with the pain, and so I did. That was also the day that I did my very first meditation. I felt like I needed to ground myself a little, because I’d let myself get so negative over my back injury and I decided I didn’t ever want to get in that headspace ever again. I thought meditating would help me to settle myself, and maybe get more in touch with myself or maybe just help me figure out how to process my emotions in a calmer, less dramatic way. And so my back injury was the segue in my daily yoga and meditation. It started out as five or ten minutes of stretching to help my back, and three to five minute meditations. And now, it’s evolved to full yoga practices and fifteen to twenty minute meditations. Right now, I’m working through a course of guided meditations for creativity, and next I’m going to do a guided course for self-esteem, I think. I don’t think I’m particularly good at meditating yet. I still find myself struggling to stay focused sometimes, and I of course I sometimes get distracted. But I love meditating. It’s this really lovely time that I carve out for myself and absolutely nothing else. Hurting my back also led to me going for walks instead of runs, because it’s a lot gentler on my back. And my morning walks are maybe my favorite time of day. Getting to walk and listen to music or a podcast and be just with myself, looking at the water and just sort of centering myself. It’s such a game changer to start your day with all these activities that make you feel more in touch with yourself and your heart and the things that make you happy. Walking made me so much happier than running for so many reasons. I was able to relax, and go further, and take my time and really take in my surroundings and spend time with myself. I was not meant to be a runner, I truly believe that. I think the worsening of my back injury was just the universe’s way of saying, hi honey, that shit’s not for you.
This was one of the first times that I had a moment of realization where I was like, ohh, this is what people mean when they say everything happens for a reason. It’s kind of a silly example I guess, but it really was sort of a huge deal for me. It felt like the end of the world when I hurt my back. I was so upset and so frustrated and in so much pain, but it led to these practices that have totally shaped my life for the better. And it gave me this perspective where now, I try to look at everything that I might feel negatively about, and ask myself how this could possibly be part of a larger plan leading me to something better. Like for instance, when I couldn’t go back to work at the restaurant, I was devastated. I’ve spent years building my entire identity on the idea that I am the hardest worker, that I will work myself to the ends of the earth and the edge of insanity. And when that was taken away from me, it felt like a real, legitimate loss. But what it forced me to consider where I find my self-worth. For my whole life basically, I’d gotten all my self worth from external validation, and by creating this identity for myself as the hardest worker, no matter what. When I lost that, I had to rebuild completely, from the ground up. And it’s something that I should’ve done years ago, but I never knew that I had to. And it also forced me to confront myself about writing. It forced me to build enough self-esteem to actually be a writer. If I hadn’t been unable to return to that job, I wouldn’t have pursued writing seriously, maybe ever. I would’ve spent forever wishing for something but too afraid to go after it.
Journaling exposes all the things I need to do for myself, things I never even realized I needed or wanted. Before I started journaling, I did everything I could to be who I thought I was supposed to be. I had this idea of myself in my head, and it had nothing to do with who I really was. I’d been in the restaurant industry for so long that I just started adopting the personality that I thought someone in my position was supposed to have. I drank too much, I worked too much, I tossed my sleep schedule out the window (not that I really had one to begin with), I invested myself in the type of guy I thought I was supposed to be interested in, and I did all of these things that were so far from who I really was that I was legitimately just slowly dying. I was miserable and I didn’t even know it. But when I started journaling, I started seeing the cracks I hadn’t known were there. My misery showed up in little ways in my writing. Like, I’d wake up with a hangover and do my journaling, and I’d write about just a short sentence asking, why am I even drinking? And I wouldn’t really think about it at first, but then it would come up in multiple entries, and I finally had to stop and actually ask myself, huh, why tf am I drinking? That sort of happened with like, every single thing in my life. I started questioning everything, which led to a lot of dismantling and rebuilding, which is exactly what I needed.
Journaling is like my north star. It’s sounds dumb, but it’s true. Journaling is the thing I can always go back to to find my way, and to uncover patterns I didn’t know I had, or to find out what’s really going on inside of me that maybe I can’t articulate to myself in my head. Journaling is my safe haven, my saving grace, my guide post. It’s the thing that started all of this, this transformation, this becoming of my truest most beautiful self. And I’ve filled one whole journal. Nearly twelve weeks worth of entries. Over eight hundred gratitudes. I am so joyful to be the person that I am becoming, because it feels like who I’ve always been. Every day, every time I write, every time I meditate or cook or drink herbal tea or examine something that’s really fucking painful but I know that I have to do it, I feel joyful because I feel like me. I am so grateful to have begun uncovering myself. I am so grateful to be learning how much I deserve. I am so grateful for my life and myself. I’m just so goddamn grateful for all of it. And, of course, I am so endlessly grateful for journals.