I’ve been keeping a journal for the last eight years.
This is one of my best habits: The journal compensates for my awful memory and helps me feel like a complete person with a deep and meaningful history. It reminds me that I’ve spent the last 24 years actually existing, 24 hours at a time. It shows me all the friends I’ve ever had, and all the bad days I’ve put behind me. It’s also fun to read (once enough time has passed, and transient emotions like embarrassment are mostly gone).
Until recently, it was also a pain in the ass.
The Microsoft Word file that stores one-sixth of all the words I’ve ever written is called “Daily Journal”. But it’s been a long time since I’ve really kept a daily journal.
Why? It’s not that my life is boring. Well, it is — objectively speaking — but I find it exciting.
One problem is Microsoft Word, which doesn’t perform well with 750,000-word, 1000-page documents, at least on my old machine.
The bigger problem is motivation. Without some kind of external prompt, I found myself forgetting the journal, or skipping it in favor of something more fun — sometimes for weeks at a time.
Last year, I switched to an email system. This eliminates the loading times and makes it very easy to finish daily entries. I’ve also begun to ask myself questions, to mitigate the menace of the blank page.
If you’ve ever wanted to journal, or to resume journaling, you can set up this hyper-efficient, automatic system yourself. In ten minutes.
I just found another essay that echoes An Ode to Phones. The author, Glenn Gillen, owned many possessions (CDs, DVDs, etc.), but moved his life to the cloud as the necessary tools became available.
The most accessible section of the essay:
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, while talking to a friend about the risk of crime and property theft in San Francisco, that I appreciated the magnitude of what had happened.
10 years ago, someone breaking into my house didn’t just carry a huge emotional impact, but significant upfront and ongoing financial ones too. TVs, home theatre systems, computers. Thousands of dollars of equipment and potentially months of effort to acquire replacements and set everything up again. Not to mention the sentimental things like photos that could never be replaced. But today the financial impact is $999 to replace a Macbook Air and 30mins-60mins to set it up. All the “irreplaceable” music, photos, and software is back exactly as it was in the time it takes to eat lunch.
Taking something that seemed to have a high negative impact, and making it near negligible, has been liberating. And so I’m constantly looking at how to take it further.
Gillen’s article made me think about things that are harder to back up than data. Especially emotional states. Continue reading
Summary: We write a lot of words, and our words may serve as the truest expression of our personalities after we’re dead, if we keep them in a safe place. It might also be nice to have our present-day words around when we’re older.
After we are dead, information about ourselves will continue to exist.
Some of this information won’t last very long; our bodies disappear quickly, rotting or burning to ash. But we’ve gotten rather good at keeping the rest of it stored in various places and formats.
How we look and sound, for example. YouTube features footage of tens of millions of people moving/speaking/singing, and many families keep home videos of some kind. Then there’s an entire universe of still photographs—both photos taken of us and photos we’ve taken of other things. And we’ll have electronic medical records, possibly even entire sequenced genomes, to testify to the physical facts of our existence.