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saleena dhakal
Experiences

How To Create Your Personal Archive Through Journaling

A little excerpt I wrote a few days before making the move to the United States (right) on my bright orange journal (left).

On my twelfth birthday, I was gifted a journal. It was bright orange with a dried flower on the front cover. How do I remember it? you may ask. Well, it is because it is still one of the few things from my childhood I hold onto very dearly. I immigrated to the United States soon after my twelfth birthday. I distinctly remember being asked to pack all my important items in one suitcase. I was quite perplexed by this request as at the age of I could not figure out how to distinguish between what’s important enough to take with me to the next part of my life. Should I pack my barbie doll set that my father had gifted me? Should I pack my favorite book, Charlotte’s Web? Maybe the photo album that had pictures of me as a baby? I wanted to pack everything I could physically see from my eyes because at least that way I would have a few pieces of home in a foreign land far away.

To cut a long story short, due to the weight restrictions, I was not able to bring too many things, but I do distinctly remember holding onto the little diary all the way from Nepal to the United States. That tiny diary of mine holds my secrets, thoughts, and most important journeys of life. In an odd way, it is like an archive of all the thoughts and memories that I have experienced in my life.

A few years ago when I was going through a rough time period in my life, I went through that diary of mine and realized that ever since I can remember, I have jotted down just about every little thought on a piece of paper. In it, I found that I had written down random stories, secret codes about my crushes, and my feelings about Justin Bieber vs. One Direction. Funnily enough, I had written down my feelings about moving to the United States as well. If I had not written about it, I do not think I would have any recollection of any of these things. It hit me that I had been basically journaling before I even knew what the word meant. That day, I began my journey of journaling and keeping a record of life events in the form of writing.

I overthink quite a lot which results in me feeling extremely anxious. Whether it’s school, work, or my personal life, I overanalyze everything. When I meet a new person or have a conversation out of my comfort zone, I immediately come back home and try to remember every word I said. I’m often left wondering whether I made a fool of myself. A lot of times I feel too much and it tends to overwhelm me a lot. I become my biggest critic. Without a proper way of channeling those thoughts, it takes a toll on my mental health. The only thing that helps me process my thoughts is jotting them down. 

Most of the time, when I journal, I pour out everything I am feeling without putting it through the filter that I usually do when talking to someone. Sometimes the thoughts inside my head are not very pleasant and happy, so it becomes difficult to try to explain it to someone or even to myself. At times like this, I find my solace inside that journal. Instead of stuffing my emotions, journaling allows me to release them out in the universe. It’s a safe place to be who I am. 

Although my extra large suitcase did not fit many items, my tiny journal carried the weight of all my memories and experiences that I was able to bring with me — thousands of miles away from home. When I look at it years later, it’s a written reminder of all the tiny, little moments in my life. It almost feels like an autobiography of the person who lives inside you.

Journaling helps you reflect and understand your growth as a person. If anyone reading this feels overwhelmed by their own thoughts, I highly recommend you give journaling a go. Here are some prompts to get you started.

  • What kinds of questions are you trying to find the answers to in your life right now?
  • Write a letter to your younger self. What are some qualities about yourself in this moment that your younger self would feel proud of?
  • Who are your comfort characters? Describe how they make you feel, and what qualities they hold.
  • What are five things that make you happy?
saleena dhakal

UC Irvine '24

“A stranger to his own home”. I remember quickly jotting this down in my journal in class as we were watching Hamlet during my senior year in high school. It’s a sentence that has resonated with me ever since. Hi, I am a first-generation college student who has been on this journey of finding her identity ever since I moved to the United States at the age of twelve. I would like to say I am nowhere close to reaching the destination but slowly and steadily I am definitely getting there. And, when I am not trying to find deep meanings out of simple things in life, you will find me either watching Friends or jamming out to One Direction, or doing both :).
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