Taking time to reflect and consciously practice gratitude is extremely important in our lives, especially after major milestones like finishing a semester and moving into the new year. This has become especially popular online with end-of-the-year photo compilations on TikTok and Instagram. Although these short clips set to music are fun and often remind us of our best memories, it’s important to ask ourselves: are we truly reflecting?
I’ve struggled to answer that question for countless New Year’s Eves in a row. How could I possibly reflect on an entire year? The task always seemed too overwhelming, and I avoided it. I’ve realized, though, that reflection is necessary for goals and growth. How could I expect myself to change the following year if I didn’t know who I wanted to become?
This past December, however, something changed. As a student who just finished my first semester of college, I knew I wanted to document my experience somehow. Although video compilations are easy and simple, I didn’t feel they were the best medium for me. I decided to dig out an old scrapbook I had bought a few years prior but never had the chance to use. As I flipped through the empty pages, I couldn’t help but imagine my memories filling them.
I spent some time selecting my favorite photos from the semester. Some were beautiful fall scenes on campus, others were of friends. Still, others were of smaller moments—pictures I had taken of things I experienced by myself, the kind you send to your parents or a close friend. The combination of all of these photos made my scrapbook complete.
Seeing my pictures printed and lying before me was truly gratifying. There’s something special about seeing them in person instead of in small squares on your phone’s camera roll. Next to each picture on the page, I wrote a few sentences regarding a funny or important detail I remembered.
It was this process of physically handwriting my memories that allowed me to truly, deeply reflect. I recalled all of the unique experiences I had, like getting rained on and taking the bus back soaking wet, my first time meeting some of my closest friends, and so on. I wrote about thoughts, worries, feelings, and whatever else was happening in my life.
My commentary on all eighty photos is something I will treasure forever. I plan to continue this tradition of printing, organizing, and reflecting on my photos each semester until I graduate.
It’s the closest I can get to freezing a moment in time.