The other day I spoke to a friend halfway across the world intimately discussing how torn I was feeling about living here in the San Francisco Bay Area versus living in London, my second home (my first home was Nairobi, Kenya). I loved living in London and pretty much thought I would spend the rest of my life there.
Until my husband landed an amazing, hard-to-say-no international assignment here in the Bay Area. We were super excited when leaving London and super sad too to say goodbye to the place we loved, where friends and family where just round the corner and which had become my home for the last 18 years, the longest I had lived anywhere. Yet there was anticipation and excitement — we were heading to Silicon Valley, the innovation hub of the world, where world-changing things happened, where entrepreneurial dreams came true, where the sun shone pretty much every day of the year. I was leaving my Investment Banking job (at least for a while) and with my husband and two-year-old daughter, moving to explore new horizons filled with expectations of life-changing experiences, where I could pursue my Book Therapy business full-time.
Fast forward 12 months, and we are coming to the end of my husband’s assignment here and we find ourselves at cross-roads — do we stay or do we head back to London? The pull of Silicon Valley opportunities against home comforts, such as intimate friends and family, free health care and great food, leaves both me and my husband filled with indecision. Did I also mention that the San Francisco Bay Area is the world’s most expensive childcare hub with an hourly nanny rate of $25 — $30?
Decisions, decisions, decisions leave me feeling overwhelmed and often frustrated — this was magnified when I was talking to my friend in a different time zone with three kids of her own. We’d finally had a moment to chat — a moment that worked for both of us in the face of our crazy kid schedules — and the Whatsapp Video chat refused to connect after 5 minutes of the call. We could barely hear each other’s words. We could message each other fine, just not speak over the video or voice call functionality.
Then my friend suggested something that was life-changing. Leaving voice notes and communicating this way. It meant that we could still connect, talk, discuss, despite poor wireless connections, challenging time zones and tricky children’s schedules.
I was skeptical at first — if I was going to talk to someone about something serious I wanted an acknowledgment immediately and I wanted feedback on the other end, instantly. I was so desperate though that I decided to give it a go. Five minutes — I recorded a full five minutes. The first sentence was difficult. It got better and easier and the thoughts flooded — even if there was no structure. I felt lighter all of a sudden. At the end of it I felt energised.
What had just happened? Why did I feel this way — it’s not like I had made my decision — the indecision was still there. Yet, I instantly felt better. Leaving voice messages was like journaling my life, but better. I was able to replay the voice messages back — unlike handwritten journaling where I could maybe read my words again, the playback of my voice, my feelings, my thoughts was a hundredfold more powerful. It was like someone had heard my feelings and fully acknowledged it. It was instantly cathartic. I’m not sure if I even needed my friend to respond anymore. Although, I was happy to hear back from her when she left me a voice note and I decided to reply and do it again. I’m hoping that by the end of the process, I’ll have more clarity over my final decision.
Had I just stumbled on a thing? Surely voice journaling was nothing new. I googled it. And I found many other bloggers and writers who talked about its benefits. I wasn’t alone. People everywhere are using it as self-care. What makes it so powerful?
- When you play the audio back, you feel like you are heard. Your feelings are mirrored and you feel understood, acknowledged and validated.
- You feel lighter — weighty worries fade — you’ve released your frustration, fear and anger and channeled them into something more productive. Physiologically, tense muscle loosens up. There’s a mental and physical sensation of releasing pent-up emotion.
- You start to make sense of what you journaled and your feelings — and suddenly the really important things stand out. There’s more clarity than there was before.
In the age of audio technology (e.g. voice search, airpods, podcasts, voice messages) where its overtaking visual technology (google search, writing, reading) why not consider the power of voice journaling? It’s transformative and after all who better to acknowledge how you’re feeling than you? There’s nothing better than self-care and listening to your inner voice is caring for yourself.