January 5, 2020.
21:11. I’m hoping this will be worth it. And fun. This is my first diary entry. I’m late to the party, I know, having been born over two decades ago. This feels weird already. Not sure why. Maybe because it’s like I’m giving an account of myself to myself. And I’m not even certain I’ll be here again to read this. Or someone else will ever get that chance. This, after all, is not recorded in some hard-cover 1000-page journal destined to be found one hundred years after I’m dead by my great grandson or some nosy reporter. I’m recording directly into Google Keep. Online. If I wait to get the perfect journal, I sure will never start. Till I’m retired or something. Anyway, diary entries are meant to be brief, yeah? I’ll end by saying I’m somewhat excited at the thought of resuming work tomorrow. The two-or-so-week break nearly broke my spirit. Also, I need an ironclad reason not to answer calls … Cheers to what I hope is an awesome year.
This was my first journal entry. As you might have guessed, it came about as part of a new year resolution. And like most new year resolutions, it suffered the fate of inconsistency. I only wrote anything in four months that year and then proceeded to write nothing at all the following year.
I’ve taken the pain to put this inconsistency into numbers and visualise it so you can understand perfectly the struggle I faced over the years.
I wrote over a thousand words in the first month, talking about work and girls. In the second month, I barely wrote 200. I had a drought in the third month, which was I believe when the COVID-19 lockdown started, and I was stuck at home by myself. In May of that year, I wrote three entries — two about love and one about the highs and lows of the lockdown period and how I found joy in music and a cup of Sprite. This was followed by a few lines in August and then another drought that lasted two years.
In the middle of all this, I also took to writing travel memoirs. I’ve written two about trips to Maiduguri, one about my reporting trip to the Northwest, and three others of varying lengths for trips to Dakar, London, and Mauritius.
Apparently, I seem to have hacked the daily journaling habit over the past few months. (As of October 15, I had written a total of 40,132 words.) It was in the same period the idea occurred to me that I could publish an article constituted mostly of journal entries about journaling and thoughts on the art of documenting thoughts. Perhaps someone out there might find it useful.
There are many things I want to tell you. (For example, that journals can serve a varied set of purposes. That they don’t have to look one way or another. That there should be as many ways to journal as there are people journaling.) But then again, many of the things I wish to tell you, I’ve already inscribed in my journal, so I’ll let it do the talking — in chronological order.
The one thing that isn’t there, though, is this: The more time passes, the more your journal entries become valuable. They may seem silly when you’re writing them and still seem silly when you’re reading them years later, but nostalgia makes it all worthwhile. Every line has limitless sentimental value. Just pray to live long enough to revisit them and reap the rewards.
April 30, 2023
My memory is so weak that I don’t remember specific conversations or events from my distant past. I can’t remember dialogues that involved me, correctly recall names of people I interacted often with, or even events. I see people talking about different levels of Jaw War, different rounds, how one person fumbled and this ferried another team to victory. I participated in those events, spoke even, but can’t remember those details. It’s all just a fucking fudge. I wouldn’t be able to write any remarkable autobiography or even a memoir, unless I journal my experiences as soon as they happen. I guess it’s why people keep diaries. But I can’t. This one I write, I’m not even sure I’m doing it right. I only come here to document interesting thoughts that cross my mind, whether based on real events or fictional. But a lot of people keep diaries the same way they keep notes during classes. This happened. And then this happened. This person told me this. And it made me feel this way. And then they go back to read all those things. Almost like they’re studying their own lives. And when they whip up memories in your presence, you think they are geniuses. But they’re average, like you. Only more disciplined in this art. Born bureaucrats who find the journey of life itself worthy of documentation. At least, with physical diaries, you have the post-mortem pleasure of unravelling yourself to the world or your loved ones. They see your core and read your darkest secrets and either smile or shudder. Maybe they even go through your things and see items that shock them. And then they start piecing memories together of when you were still around. It all makes sense. Of course, he was a pervert. Of course, he had a foot fetish. Of course, he thought Hitler was one of the 20th century’s greatest leaders. But with digital diaries? Poof. Once you’re dead, it’s unlikely anyone ever comes across them. Except intelligence officers who have placed you on their radar. And even though that’s good in its own way, it’s certainly less exciting than putting up a final show as your closest confidant divulges your tightest secrets when you’re gone and can no longer face the consequences.
June 8, 2023
Yesterday, I finally met one of the HR auditors my organisation has hired and it was a fun conversation. We talked about my work, my motivations, and my plans for the future. He asked what lesson I learned from my face-off with the University of Ibadan, and it got me talking about the butterfly effect. Almost immediately, I was reminded of the incident on the flight to Maiduguri that I documented in my digital diary weeks ago. I realised that journaling actually helps you to remember some of your most important and memorable experiences. I doubt I would have remembered the incident and been able to use it to elaborate a point if I had not written it down. Writing helps to grow your thoughts, helps them to branch out, and helps to root them in your mind for future reference. Cool.
June 11, 2023
Journaling is just an excuse (opportunity?) for us to bitch about the little details of our lives, isn’t it? Like how hitting a speedbump roughly yesterday now means I have to cough out at least N100,000 in repairs because, apparently, two wires kissed each other and ignited a fire that caused them to melt, damaging the brain box beyond redemption. Like how I was returning home today and stopped on the way to buy corn and an SUV pulled up after me (I was trekking) and the vendor took all the lovely corn to the occupants of this SUV, ignoring my order, which came first. (I just took the next available bike and left.)
August 14, 2023
Journaling adds poetry to the world. Makes life more (what is the word?) magical. It doesn’t even matter if you never return to old entries. It forces you to live. To live in the moment. To appreciate things, appreciate people. To recognise that certain things are beautiful enough to be dwelt upon, to be documented. To acknowledge how you feel about the events around you. Journaling is great, and I don’t know why I didn’t start sooner. Why I told myself it was pointless because I had no plans of writing an autobiography.
August 26, 2023
I should write a piece about the benefits of journaling. Why writing for an audience of one, yourself, is a good thing. The fears I had about it in the past and why I think I should’ve started sooner. I really thought journaling was a waste of time. If no one was going to read it and you were not going to refer to it again, what’s the point? I’m not the kind of person who usually goes back in time through chat histories, reading what conversations used to take place between me and someone else. Was surprised when I found out there were those who did. It is why I appreciate Google Photos and Facebook because they regularly share unsolicited memories with you. They force nostalgia upon you. Otherwise, I tend to leave the past in the past. Maybe this is related to why my memory is so poor, me not dwelling on past events. I am not a cartographer of memories or a voyager in the waters of mental timelines and lived histories. One time, in uni, I lost a hard drive that was precious to me. It had all of my pictures from my previous phones and SD cards, which I think must’ve dated back to secondary school and my early university days. I lost it and I felt great anguish, though I may have only checked those pictures once in five years or a decade or several decades or never, if it were up to me. But it was still good knowing I had them. Now, if anyone occasionally shares photos from those periods via WhatsApp, I make sure to back them up in my Google Drive. I wonder why we’ve assigned the quality of permanence to information and items stored by Google. What was I writing about again? Yes, the benefits of journaling. I listened to a podcast about dolls recently and someone said one of the selling points for a particular French doll was that kids could divulge their secrets to it and it wouldn’t tell anyone else. It allowed them to unload their minds and have a confidante. When I listened to the podcast, I wondered if that was a good thing, letting children be friends with this inanimate object and sharing their thoughts with it rather than real people. But I guess the journal is to adults what the doll is to children. It allows you to be at your most vulnerable without the fear of being judged. Not even therapists have this ability. X was saying the other day how she reached out to her former therapist because she needed someone to talk to and the person asked if she was willing to pay for her time and how this made her feel somehow. Of course, she’s a professional and should be compensated for her time, but it’s a rude reality. At the end of the day, the people you’re at your realest with may not really be your friends. It may just be their job to listen to you. Or maybe they’re strangers you meet on a bus who give encouraging signs when you start to talk about yourself. Everyone should talk about themselves, because that forces you to think about yourself, to learn about yourself. Isn’t know thyself the first rule, as inscribed on the Temple of Delphi (?) Self-reflection is hard, but without it, we’re just animals roaming the world and having a chaos of experiences. Without a clear sense of self, we’re just a ball bouncing through a cobweb of external stimuli, seeing how far it can go. But knowing what you want, what you need, what you are can help you convert those cobwebs into light waves. Even if you remain still and refuse to bounce around, you feel joy because you have a reason for this. You have a reason because you know yourself and have interrogated your consciousness. And even if you do not have a reason, it would not be because your actions are as random as those of a lab rat or zoo monkey; it would be because you have tried and made peace with the absence of reason, you have reasoned your way into accepting a state of unreasonableness. Am I still writing about journaling?
September 12, 2023
You might argue that there’s no point in journaling because it is like telling yourself things you already know. You can’t possibly surprise yourself. But then, we must also remember that the human memory is frail and human convictions are fickle. Even though that is possible, journaling’s best feature is not its potential to teach you something new today, but to educate you about yourself in the future. It documents your growth. It takes snapshots of your thoughts and fears and joys and shows them to you when you no longer have these thoughts and fears and joys, or when they’ve become even stronger. Journals are a time machine to previous versions of yourself, and isn’t that such a wondrous thing? To be able to peep into your mind’s evolution over time. Consciousness, the mind is God’s greatest creation. The only consciousness we can truly prove is our own. It is our most valuable possession. And if there’s anything that allows us to study it and appreciate it and take photos of it despite its invisibility, it seems to me that we should grab it with all our fingers and all our strength.
September 15, 2023
One reason I didn’t start journaling earlier was because of the misconception that there was only one way to journal. You write about who annoyed you that day, or what new crush you’re having, or whatever new place you’ve gone or are going, whatever development is bothering you, and whatever new thing is breaking or lifting your spirits. Yes, that’s all good. But it isn’t the only thing that can be documented. You can write poems and short stories. You can write freshly evolving radical opinions. You can write jokes. You can record your wildest dreams before you forget. You can document moments in your day that remind you of something or feel too important to move away from without additional reflection. There’s no one way to journal. It doesn’t all have to be about your darkest secrets or your happiest times. It doesn’t have to be about your shifting moods and attractions. It can just be a witty line or a nasty pun. And once you start, it makes it easier to develop all those personal article ideas you’ve abandoned because you realise they’re not too different from journal entries. All you gotta do is pick up your phone on a moment’s notice, as if possessed by a muse, and tap away on the tiny screen until the letters in front of you reflect well enough the chaos buzzing around in your mind.
September 16, 2023
Some of our finest writings are probably the things we write that never get published. Things we say to our friends in chatrooms. Emails we send to people dear to us on their birthdays. What we say on our WhatsApp stories when we grieve the loss of a loved one or a celebrity. Our justifications when asking for a break-up or our protests when heartbroken. The lines that get edited out of our articles because they’re too radical or opinionated. What we leave as drafts on Twitter. The stuff we write in our journals. Some of our most beautiful writings never get a by-line or even see the light of day. And it’s okay. Do not be afraid to hold back your creativity because there’s no audience or there’s only one or a few. We are more than our careers.
September 27, 2023
If you have an experience you love so much that you want to remember it later, then write it in your journal. Like yesterday when we had a video chat [redacted] and X asked for everybody’s names so she could know how to pronounce them and then Y said Hafeez even though he writes the name as Afeez, and then X replied that oh, it’s one of those names with a silent H, and Y had a confused look and couldn’t answer… And I was there thinking this woman isn’t familiar with the devilish scale of the Yoruba H factor.
September 29, 2023
If you’re going to journal, I recommend doing it on your phone with an app that’s connected to the cloud. There are several benefits to this. You can write whenever you want. You can access it from multiple devices. You can back it up. You can convert it easily into an article. You can browse through. There’s no word limit. And you don’t have to worry about someone finding your book and reading all your ugly secrets.
October 1, 2023
There are just parts of your life you can’t narrate to others. Not because of the embarrassing things you did, but because they just don’t make sense when said out loud. If you must tell someone, there’s always your journal.
October 7, 2023
One thought that kept me from journaling earlier is that if it is impossible to document every worthy moment of your life, why document any parts of it? But then, now I realise those pieces are enough. You don’t need to have minute-by-minute minutes recording of your experiences. Let your instincts push you. Some days, you’ll write hundreds of words. Some days, you’ll write nothing. It’s okay. It’s the same way you don’t need to take pictures or record videos of everything you see and like. A few pictures. A few seconds is enough. You’ll look back on them months or years down the line and be grateful to your past self for taking the initiative. [And, hopefully, you will be able to fill in the gap anyway.]
October 13, 2023
It would be interesting if people wrote theme-specific journals, like of all the interesting things you see daily on the internet, or all the food you try out, or all the places you visit, or all the people you meet, or cloud formations, or office drama. There’s a vast world to be explored through journaling if we were brave enough and had all the time in the world.
Thoughts are not meant to be continuously caged. They are meant to roam. To graze. To be set free to whisper through the skies. To be watered. To be fed into maturity. To be clothed and shown off. To be pet and caressed. Thoughts are not domestic animals that must live perpetually in the comfortable darkness. They excel in the light. Sometimes, only a little suffices. Sometimes, a million Suns are not enough. So, share your thoughts with others. Give them a stage. Give them a voice. Say them out loud to yourself. If you like, write them on a piece of paper and then burn that piece of paper. But, all the same, make sure you let them out. Because thoughts are not meant to be continuously caged.
October 15, 2023
Thinking, strong enough, forces you to write. Writing, strong enough, forces you to think.