Molly White
Tech lead, software engineer, Wikipedian

A return to journalling

by Molly White on

I am a perennial journaller. Once or twice a year I find myself thinking about how nice it would be to let out some of the thoughts that swirl around my brain, and start picturing myself curled up in a blanket on the couch with a cup of tea, scratching away in my journal in some show of mindfulness and self-reflection. This urge burns out as I realize that I handwrite too slowly to keep up with my own brain, or that it is unfulfilling to type into a text document in a folder so unlikely to be opened again that it might as well be /dev/null. But inevitably, when I find myself taking another stab at finding a form of journaling that works for me, I spend an entry writing about how I want to write again, instead of just… starting to write.

This is one of those entries. Humor me.

For the past few months I have been in a patch of excellent mental health. Thinking about that sentence more closely, it’s perhaps more accurate to say that I have recently come out of a long period (several years) of quite poor mental health. Saying I’m “in a patch” of good mental health makes it sound like this is the temporary state and the poor mental health is the norm to which I will soon return, but for various reasons I neither need nor want to detail here I don’t believe that to be true.

As is often the case, I had not realized how poor my mental health had been until I finally had a stretch of normalcy. When my mental health is poor, the “essential” things I do in my day-to-day life—go to work, take basic care of myself and my pets, etc.—often feel like they take more energy than I have available. “Non-essential” things like cooking myself nice meals, going to social events, and doing hobbies that require more than the effort it takes to scroll mindlessly through a Reddit or Twitter feed become infrequent, since the “essential” tasks have already sapped my energy reserves. I use quotes here because “essential” is quite relative—going to work or brushing my teeth is not “essential” in a life or death kind of way, and cooking a meal is not “non-essential” in a frivolous way, but it’s the best descriptor I can think of at the moment.

In this return to health, I have been able to gradually build back the routine of regularly doing things that are “non-essential”. I have thoroughly cleaned my apartment every weekend for several months. I have filled the bird feeder every morning.1 I have packed my lunch for every in-office day since at least the beginning of May. I have bullet journaled almost every day. I am a creature of habit, and the more I build up these healthy, rewarding habits the better I feel, and the more bandwidth I generate for the things that previously were too exhausting to manage. I’ve been baking again, I went on a trip, I read a book. I am very proud of these things I’ve managed to build into my life, however small they may be, and the result that my life feels more put-together and fulfilling that it had for a long while.

The point of this somewhat meandering post is that one of the things I’ve been wanting to add to my newly-cultivated set of routines is writing. I’ve had a blog for a while, but only rarely used it—either to document a personal project I was working on (more commonplace before I began working fulltime), or if I had something I wanted to rant about in a longer form than Twitter allows. But I have seen some blogs and blog posts lately that I find really compelling—a sort of “personal newsletter” style of post. Some are even set up to arrive in subscribers’ inboxes in true newsletter form, although I personally am not a big fan of that.

The newsletter-style post that planted the seed for me was one of Emily Gorcenski’s personal recaps where she shares books and articles she’s read or is reading, her plans for the upcoming week, and a selfie. I like the idea of a regular post in which I can share the interesting things I come across in my travels on the internet (and my thoughts on those things), as well as other things I’ve been doing.

As is often the case, I decided I wanted to start my latest foray into journaling/blogging by yakshaving. Usually this takes the form of agonizing over and buying a fresh new notebook (when I have plenty of lightly-used notebooks already). In this case I’ve managed to convince myself that I need to write Yet Another Blogging Application (YABA?) before I can possibly begin blogging, even though only a month or two ago I spent a weekend moving my blog from Ghost to jekyll. I decided that I would at least write this introductory post before allowing myself to poke around in software-land, but stay tuned—if my interest remains, there may be some changes coming.

  1. For the wild birds, I do not have pet birds I’ve been starving to death. ↩︎