How Starting A Journal Made Me Realize What I Want From Life

A little over a year ago, I was technically, ‘living the dream.’ I had a job doing what I had planned to do since high school — what I had gotten a degree for in college. But I was unhappy; it wasn’t enough money, the hours weren’t great, and freelancing is a total pain. For several months, I thought the answer was grad school. I applied, and interviewed, and at the time was waiting to hear from several schools. But I still felt directionless.

One night after work, on a cold Friday evening in New York City, I went for a walk to clear my head. I didn’t notice where I was — I let my feet do the navigating, and I ended up outside of the Fifth Ave. Barnes & Noble. There’s nothing I love more than books, so of course I went inside.

I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew I needed to make a change in my life, so I wandered downstairs to the Self Help section to browse. I found some book that looked half-way interesting (I can’t for the life of me remember what it was) and decided I should buy a notebook to journal my way through the book.

To be clear, the longest I’d ever kept a journal before this was a four day stint in middle school. I knew this was a waste of money, but I bought it anyway.

I started the journal — which I titled “Reconnaissance Expedition” because I am nothing if not a renaissance woman. At first I wrote about each section in the book, and very quickly started writing about a lot more than just those topics. And I realized that I felt better and more clear-headed since having started writing. So I continued. Once or twice a week — more if something interesting was happening. It was like free therapy.

I got a call about grad school. I got in. But I realized, having mulled it over in writing for a few months, that I didn’t want to spend the time or money getting a degree in something I wasn’t happy doing. So I said, “no thank you.”

After months of the same “I need a change, but to what?” entries in my journal, I decided to just do it. Change my mind about my life and my career path halfway through my twenties, to pursue something that makes me feel happier and more fulfilled. That decision was scary, and I’m still figuring out how to make it work, but I don’t regret it. Not for a minute.

Except for my Crock-Pot, my journal is the best invest ever made.