Almost everyone who lived (and who’s still living) through the COVID-19 pandemic will tell you how no one was left unscathed, one way or another. For me, the advent of the scourge in 2020 appears to have been the worst phase -dwindling finances and anxiety. The news was scary, sending entire nation-states scampering, and even the too-cool-for-school who are averse to watching the news weren’t spared the anguish. The virus and its concomitant effects came for one and came for all. People lost jobs, others lost loved ones. I was graduating into what seemed like a dystopia of an economy where employers were furloughed and other companies shut down their businesses. To douse the effect of the chaos, I kept a journal.
At the height of it all in July 2020 – the numbers in Kenya were going off the roof – I chose to cut off my dreadlocks. I was aiming for Man City manager Pep Guardiola’s mien, the no-strand-of-hair-bald look, coming complete with the bespokely-fit pants and jackets which make Pep seem more like a fashion model than a soccer coach. Around the same time, I was also sleeping on the floor. Not because I lacked a bed and couldn’t afford one, but because I thought it was cool to step out of the norm. We were all spinning out of control after all, and a little personal unorthodoxy would go a long way. Lockdowns, dawn to dusk curfews, closed borders.
Now that I’ve gotten a grip and can revisit my journal as if it’s text from a previous existence, I realized how my journal was the silver lining amid all the global chaos and personal worries. And yet this wasn’t the first time I kept a journal. I journaled in high school – it was more a poetry book than anything else, but it still served the purpose. It was, however, not as intentional as my 2020 journaling.
A Ball, A Stickynote, A Notebook
Before my stint as an intern for a local newspaper was brought to a halt because of the pandemic, I was assigned to cover a sports story on a partnership that Bundesliga, Germany’s Premier League, had with football academies in Kenya. While on the assignment, I was given a gift hamper. In the package were a miniature football, a sticky notes book and a notebook. Now, I do not put so much value in such memorabilia, but I kept them close to my heart because these items had the Bundesliga logo. And as a football fan, God knows how hard it is to get any football merchandise in the country that is not a replica. As such, I planned to put everything in the package to good use. I was not going to use the notebook for any mundane note-taking.
Thus during the onset of the pandemic, when the need to pen down my feelings became too profound, I already knew what notebook to use. In a dimly lit bedroom with my beddings spread on the floor, I not only smudged the notebook with ink but tears. I wrote about my fears of not getting a job (there was no guarantee of employment post-internship) and my finances (which were as good as non-existent – I was being paid peanuts as an intern). And after every journal entry, I drew an emoji to depict how I felt at the time of writing.
So every night for almost four months before I dozed off on the floor, I penned down at least a page of my thoughts. Even on days when I had nothing to write about, I wrote about the nothingness. I wrote about how uneventful my day was and how bland my thoughts were.
Presently, whenever I re-read the entries, I realize how journaling put a lot into perspective. I had written about my short term goals, long term goals and the chances I rued. I, however, cannot read the past entries without bawling my eyes out. The tears, nevertheless, are not of sadness but of pride. Thanks to documenting how I felt and what I hoped for, I can use my journal entries to rationalize past fears and aspirations.
Science Says You Should
According to research published by the University of Hawaii, keeping a journal has tremendous personal and professional growth benefits. The study posits that a journal can help overcome imposter syndrome, saying, “Everyone struggles with that but a journal can be a way to write yourself into greater clarity about such anxieties.”
Indeed, as I reminisce on my entries about the fears of not being good enough, I realize that I was either truly inadequate or too brutal on myself at the time of writing. This assertion would not have been possible to make had I not journaled.
What’s more, the aforementioned research findings show that journaling helps people capture ideas that could be important for future reference, be it in business or life in general. It can also be used as a checklist, where one can refer back to check the tasks they hoped to accomplish.
Sam Gichuru, the founder of Kidato, an online school, tweeted about the observations he has made from journaling for five years. One of the lessons he learnt was that he must/needs to recharge every nine months, something supported by the Hawaii University research findings which propose that journaling “can help you both to understand and to nourish your unique self.”
Options, and More Options
Certainly, different people have different ways of journaling. Understandably, some people may bemoan the task of writing down how they feel or what they want to achieve. But in the new media age, journaling does not have to be tied down to scribing alone. Instead, you can keep a journal by voicing your thoughts on a voice recorder or your phone. Others, brave enough to look into their own eyes while speaking their thoughts, keep journals through videos.
When journaling, it is important to be true to yourself. The fact that I knew my journal was private made me script everything in raw and stark honesty. Hence, it is vital to keep a journal with no social gratification in mind. In essence, journaling is like the self-made man sculpture by Bobby Carlyle, where a man is seen carving out himself into what he deems is an ideal body.
It also should not be a daunting task. According to the research by Hawaii University, most people do not keep journals because they do not have time. However, if you look at it, aren’t most of us keeping journals through our social media pages? Indeed, if we can spare time to consume other people’s thoughts as we scroll through our feeds, we can then afford a minute to document our sentiments.