Hang on to what serves you. Burn the rest. (Or donate it.)

journal, morning pages

I found an old journal buried in a box of books. Boy am I glad I didn’t just toss the whole box in the donate pile. No poor donation center employee deserved to come across those words.

The journal spanned three years, from January 10, 2002 to January 26, 2005, but it was only half filled. Before I started doing morning pages, my journaling was sporadic at best and usually only when I had something to grumble about. And there was so. much. grumbling.

It’s easy for 41-year-old me to say that the mid-twenties me was dramatic and immature. But the mid-twenties me was also very, very unhappy.

I had a decent-paying, yet soul-sucking job that was also an incredibly toxic environment. I worried about money. I was restless, yet complacent. I was married, but lonely, having left the comforts of college and not having found my people yet. I felt the pressure to figure out what I wanted to do “for the rest of my life.” I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t figure it out.

I covered pages with my displeasure over my situation, yet I felt powerless to change it. There were lots of “I should” and “I need to.” But no action.

At one point, my husband was out of a job, increasing my stress and worry about our future. At another point I wondered if we should just have a baby. To anyone out there wondering where their life is going, “Maybe I should just have a baby” is most definitely not the answer.

But a few things stuck out to me that are still relevant today.

“I need to take more risks and stop worrying about whether or not I’m going to mess something up.”

“I’m starting to realize that it doesn’t really matter what I do, as long as I do something.”

My morning pages now are not nearly as angsty. The beauty of daily journaling is that it’s so incredibly mundane.

Maybe all I needed was a little maturity.* I was in such a hurry to “be a grown up.” But if you’d told me that, I’d have been even more discouraged at how long I’d have to wait and at how much I’d have to grow. That becoming an adult didn’t happen automatically. That it would take getting pregnant with twins for me to quit my soul-sucking job. That for years I’d think I was done with art. That motherhood would encourage me to dabble again in writing. That I’d finally find my people – several groups of them. That my blogging and writing would lead to a job I love. And that at age 40 I’d eventually learn that the path back to creativity isn’t magic. It’s hard work and a desire to make something.

For now I keep my journals that contain my mundane morning pages.

But this journal I burned on New Year’s Eve. I was not some ceremonious event to mark the new year. It just happened to be the next time we lit a fire in the backyard.

We don’t need to hang onto something that doesn’t serve us. The person in that journal was sad, depressed, angry and unhappy, and it made me sad to read her words. I don’t need her hanging around here anymore.

*And the most hilarious part, as I waited to hear about a job I’d applied for at the University of Texas, “Working for fundraising sounds so great!” My current day job is at a nonprofit, where I – thankfully – do NOT work directly in fundraising. Bless those of you who do.

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