by Kalyn Saulsberry ’14 (ksaulsberry@college), published in the Harvard Independent
The calm and tepid waters of self-reflection.
I always seem to underestimate just how stressful the start of the semester will be until I am in the midst of it — rushing to three classes within the same hour, finding advisers to sign my study card, waiting on class lotteries — all while staying on top of the homework that has already begun piling up. However, this semester I made the decision to distance myself from such stress by dedicating myself to wellness. Being well means taking the time to check in with myself and make sure I have both mental and physical peace. In short, it means taking a moment to do something that is not dedicated to building up my résumé, but instead helps me build myself up as a person beyond my academic goals and extracurricular activities. To be well, I have decided to return to an old hobby that I completed every day of high school: journaling. And by journaling, I do not mean sitting in front of a computer screen and pouring my trials and tribulations into a blog. Instead I am referring to old-fashioned, handwritten journaling in cursive that inevitably results in ink-stained hands.
During the school year, I can easily find activities that keep my mind productive and challenged; however, it is much harder to find the time for activities that make my mind well. I developed my goal of wellness via daily journaling over J-term one night when I came across my tenth grade diary while cleaning my home bedroom. As I perused its pages, laughing at my former musings about everything from excitement over homecoming to worries about the distant college process, I realized that in the years between my sophomore year of high school and my sophomore year in college, I had forgotten many of the minor events I had written about in my daily journal. Nevertheless, I do not feel as if the few holes in my memory are a sign that my daily ritual of journaling was a waste of time. Upon revisiting my old journal, I discovered that journaling is not just about recording happenings that now seem mundane. Instead, it is about taking 20 minutes just for me to reflect on me. As a History concentrator, I spend a great deal of time writing about other people, but my journal entries are handwritten narratives that allow me to articulate my own values, worries, expectations, and goals in a way that is unique amongst all the papers I will write this semester.
Even though the idea of sitting down for 20 minutes to journal every night does not sound too outrageous, it has not been easy even in the beginning of the semester. Some days I have found myself writing only a sentence or two. Thus far, I feel my commitment to daily journaling has increased my sense of wellness; despite the numerous reasons to feel stressed during my sophomore spring, giving myself an outlet for this stress will be the healthiest way to manage it.