The Journal You Didn’t Start Way Back Then

Recording your history can really be about recording your history. While we often tout the idea that a journal is essentially a tool to capture the immediate it is also an excellent tool for recording your history.

Many of our customers tell us they wish they would have begun their journal at a much younger age. With the magic of a journal you can indeed begin at a much younger age. Sorta. Here is how it works.

Capturing the past

We are presently planning a trip to southern California in order to introduce our granddaughter to the ocean. While we are still in the early stages of the planning I’m already thinking of my first time at the beach.

I grew up as a “construction brat” whose family traveled all about the American southwest. Yet I had not seen the Pacific ocean until my parents took what I think was their first real vacation when I was in my junior year of high school. We drove at night from Tucson, Arizona to San Diego, California in order to beat the middle of the summer heat. You see, we had no air conditioning in our car – because only rich people could afford such a luxury. :)

It seems we spent 3 days on this vacation which ended with a night time rush back across the Yuma desert. In those 3 days we went to the San Diego Zoo, Sea World and THE BEACH.

Some of the things I recall:

  • a bag of water hanging from the front of our car to help the radiator do its work
  • the guide at the Zoo pulling to the side of the trail to show us the California Road Hogs (a glimpse of a freeway from within Balboa Park)
  • people interacting with wild sea creatures to put on a show for the crowd
  • being pulled under the water by a wave which was rushing back to the sea
  • sand in all our clothes
  • a great desire to return
  • being elated to see such a wide expanse of water
  • being delighted to be with my younger brother (who was normally just a pest) and my parents on what I thought was a wild, exhilarating adventure
  • a baboon showing us his hind quarters – and the laugh he received
  • baby snakes in the infant room at the zoo

(My journal list is much longer than the one I’ve shared here.)

Because of what I’m planning now, because of what I’m writing in my journal now I’m reminded of specific things from my past. Even though I did not keep a journal during my high school years I’m still able to include events and funtastic adventures from that time in today’s journal.

Wanna know the secret?

If you look at the list I wrote above about what I remember from that trip you see I’ve included physical objects (water bag on car grill,) places (Balboa Park,) emotions (elation,) ideas (thoughts of returning,) beliefs (I believed my brother was a pest,) and other tangible evidence of what I experienced. While my delayed recording of this (what was at the time) momentous trip isn’t filled with the detail it would elicit from me now, at least it is not lost all together.

I didn’t set out to make the list include any specific set of memories. I simply allowed my mind to wander over the event as I recalled it. As I write one memory on the list I find it reminds me of another memory, then another and another.

The secret is two-fold. Tie your past to your present and begin writing. Allow something from what you are doing today or writing about today to trigger a memory. Write the first thing which comes to mind (in my case, Dad filling the grill bag) and just keep writing.

Why I do it

One of the reasons I often include recollections of my past in the pages of my present journal is I want those who come after me to have a better picture of the person I am.

Another reason I like including these past experiences in my journal is the shear fun involved in remembering the great stuff. I can still recall my brother’s wide-eyed stare as he gazed at the Pacific Ocean in awe. I think of my mother (whose body was hampered by a debilitating illness) as she sat on the sand of the beach and allowed her first time look at the same ocean to roll over her. I’m reminded of the sacrifices she and Dad made in order to give my brother and me the ocean experience.

Writing about a particular time and place from my past allows me to be wrapped again in the experience, in the love, in the excitement, and at times the giggles of those precious days.

The third reason I write about my past in my present is I often get ideas about my future while I’m doing it. I’ll have some activities planned for my grandkiddos that will help them be better acquainted with the beach than I was when I first went there. (Was that green, smelly, leafy stuff seaweed?) I’ll also give them plenty of room for exploration so they too will have a first time ocean experience to blow their socks off.

You can do it to

You can do it too. It only takes minutes and it is so worth it. If you are having trouble getting started you could try not thinking about something from your past.

Like, don’t think about your freshman year of high school. HA! Got you! You just remembered something about your freshman year of high school. Write about it.



As a lover of words, pens, paper and the dictionary I'm a natural for journal writing. But, I wasn't always faithful to the task and had to learn the hard way. Some trial and error as well as input from my journal writing friends helped move me along. I have a burning desire to help people who want to use and get the most out of their journals and diaries. I see journal writing as a self improvement tool and a way to avoid costly mistakes, bad relationships and my stinky-self. Finding my kindly self is part of the journey which keeps me writing. I Journalate and so can you.


  1. I have done something similar for years and often incorporate these memories into my short stories and essays. The 44 interconnected humor essays in Belly Button Blues–Reflections is the result of brainstorming memories–quite similar, in fact, to what you suggested in your wonderful essay.

  2. Hi Teresa,

    What a fun blog you have. I’ll be signing up.

    How cool that you too take this walk back to your past. I find that some of the not so good memories also find their way into my present journal. Sometimes I discover I’ve “gotten over it” and other times I realize the pain was for a very good reason.

    Do you have a similar experience?


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