What if you could speak to yourself 10 years ago with the knowledge you have now? What would you say? What would you reveal in order to encourage or warn yourself 10 years ago?
Journaling allows us to capture in words a version of our younger selves. They can help you understand your past which can color how you pursue your future. We usually walk around with a set of memories about the past. These memories define our identity and disposition toward the present. Yet, if we are able to access accurate and detailed records of our past (not just events but our thoughts and impressions of them) we can in one sense alter our identity in the present by adding, subtracting and or emphasizing different aspects of our past. This is getting horribly theoretical and putting most of you to sleep so let me allow you in a recent personal experience that brought this to light.
Prompted by my wonderful wife, I looked over some of my journals over the last years. My journaling has not been consistent. Some years I wrote every two weeks and others I had no more than 5 entries. Yet, as I read some of them, I was surprised by things I have forgotten. I eventually decided to hone in my 2004 journal, basically re-visiting the 25 year-old version of myself. Reading through those pages brought forth a mixture of emotions from joy and comfort to sadness and grieving. As I re-visited some of my struggles, I was relieved to see how distant they now seemed. Some of them have been resolved while others still haunt me till this day. All of this led me to the thought exercise of writing down what I would tell my younger self knowing what I know now. Here are some things I would say:
- God is faithful and will take care of you. You will not be shielded from disappointment, sadness or loss. Yet, you will NOT be abandoned. He will surprise you and bless you in unimaginable ways.
- The beautiful wife you married just two years ago is still by your side even ten years later. She is a great companion for this life. Keep up the good work but above all, do NOT take her for granted. She will still surprise you in ways you cannot anticipate.
- In 10 years you will have two beautiful little girls in your life. They will teach you what love and worry is in ways you didn’t even know they could be felt. They will capture your heart; enrich your life and give you joy beyond measure. They will also make you watch way more Disney movies you would ever care for. Do me a favor, go to a Blockbuster (which, by the way, will not exist in 10 years) and rent some Non-kid movies. Believe me; they will become rare in your future life….
- About that company you are working for…well, just keep doing the best you can. You will be there for a while. Try as much as you can to enjoy the ride. I cannot tell you it will be easier. In fact, things will get harder but it will pay off at the end.
- Do not get too caught up in your church struggles. God will move you around. His body is much bigger than the local church you are in.
- Try not to obsess so much about your dreams of leadership and changing the world. They will not happen as you imagine it. Most of them will not happen at all. Just try to figure out what makes you happy. Trust me, that will save you from a lot of disappointment and wasted energy.
- Oh…that car you just bought last year, you will be driving it in the streets of LA one day. Yes, you know exactly what will take you to Pasadena. Just know it will take a while.
Going through this memory exercise brought me a lot of joy today. It gave me a new perspective on what I am facing and also helped me see the past in a different light.
Looking at the past is not always a happy experience. Yet, only when we are able to soberly face who we were yesterday will we have the courage to accept who we are today.