What I Learned from Throwing Away Old Journals

It was April 1st, 1999. I’d just received my first paper journal for my 5th birthday – a small notebook bound in a pale, pink, fur-like cover and fastened with a small metal lock. This book had become my second brain as I filled it with childish drawings and juvenile thoughts, positive and negative. It wasn’t until high school that I’d started using it on a more sophisticated level; detailing complex emotions, processing friendship drama, and coping with teenage angst.

To this day, I continue to use journaling:

  • To clear my head via a brain dump;
  • To explore my aspirations and passions;
  • To reflect on my state of mind in pursuance of personal growth;
  • To process traumatic emotions, events and relationships; and
  • To simply recall recent events.

A few months ago, I was contemplating a return to physical journaling, (Evernote is my current medium of choice), but the minimalist in me was resistant to the idea of accumulating more notebooks. So I decided to read through and “declutter” my old journal entries, both physical and digital.

The problem with therapeutic writing is that, when re-reading your accounts of past trauma, you are essentially reliving the experience. And in poring over my entries, I was confronted with a vivid window into the mind of a completely different person. This task wasn’t going to be easy.

I learned that a huge chunk of my journaling was dedicated to coping with abusive ex-partners and less than ideal work situations. My mental health was broken. My obsessive thoughts were laced with guilt. I’d actively turned the other cheek on undeniably manipulative relationships. Throw that into the mix with enduring a daily 3 hour minimum commute to work, and there you have it; a hot mess.

Alright, here’s the good part: This person isn’t me anymore. Until I dusted off the books, I didn’t realise how far I’d come in terms of emotional maturity, academic achievements, and professional development.

Progress is incredibly important. Sometimes you can’t see how many miles you’ve put behind you without looking over your shoulder. As I was reading, memories resurfaced of the endless days spent fantasising about the exact thing I have been doing since July of last year: working a job from home that I enjoy. But I still burden myself with the “grass is greener” mentality on occasion, so a good metaphorical punch in the face is always a plus.

Despite the chaos, I saved and stored the best memories on my computer as a scan or a Word document so those snippets of my past self can be returned to for years to come. I learned a valuable lesson in letting go of the past and choosing closure in a positive way. Journaling is such a powerful and cathartic tool to help relieve anxiety, clarify goal planning, reflect deeply on the daily lessons of life, unburden your mind, meditate actively, or kick yourself into gear.

I challenge you to try journaling for yourself, to potentially uncover a side of you that was previously unknown. You can try gratitude journaling (recording something you are grateful for every day), stream-of-consciousness journaling (unfiltered, unedited thoughts), recording events of the day, or bullet journaling to organise your life.

Whatever you decide to write, let it be raw and remarkably yours.



  1. Kevin Jenkin says:

    An enjoyable read. Inspirational to those of us that are aware of the benefits of a journal although have not yet began to write. You are emotionally intelligent! Maybe you found it writing a journal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crystal Lea says:

      Thank you! I really do believe that self reflection is the best way to improve as an individual.


  2. anubis3333 says:

    Important lessons learnt as a rite of passage served you well at the time. Embracing whom you have become is your way to a richer and fulfilling life.
    There is always change with new ways of being who you choose to be.
    Get Outlook for iOS

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Crystal Lea says:

      I totally agree! Personal growth is a never-ending journey 😊


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