Journals, diaries, resumes, letters, emails, birthday cards, job applications, car titles and photographs combine to form a record of our lives. We learn what we've done, where we've been and what we were thinking.
I spent a recent Sunday afternoon engaged in the never-ending attempt to declutter my home office/studio/guest room. I spotted a stack of file folders I was sure I could feed to the shredder. Copies of car titles from three cars I owned in the 1980s topped the stack. The rest, however, were all the items I mentioned in the previous paragraph and that part of the stack provided a detailed narrative of my early 30s.
The most revealing treasure was a 9-page 'autobiography' written in response to an exercise in the legendary job-search book "What Color Is Your Parachute?" I was unemployed at that time. These nine pages outlined my whole life up to that point, with the idea of revealing aspects of my life that I am most passionate about and reminding me of childhood dreams. From that point, a pattern could develop leading the way to what jobs to pursue and how to go about it.
What did I learn about myself by reading what was on my mind thirty years ago? Some random answers to that question:
I truly have lived my dream for much of my career and adult life.
The periods of my life during which I had specific dreams, goals and ambitions were the most productive.
My confidence was like a roller coaster but even in my darkest moments I knew I'd figure out how to succeed.
Sometimes I am energetic and focused and sometimes I am lazy and unfocused. My motivation follows those patterns.
I have accomplished a lot during my 40 years in radio. I was innovative at times but my most consistent career trait was and is this: I know a good idea or trend when I see it and I usually can find a way to adapt it to my current needs.
I've been told many times that I don't give myself enough credit for my accomplishments. I also know that sometimes my ego gives me more credit than I deserve. These parallel observations must have been the beginning of my search for balance in life.
My confidence in romantic relationships is as much a roller coaster as my career confidence. Attempting to overcome insecurities has driven my behavior more than I like to admit.
I also found notes from the Anthony Robbins self-help program, which I purchased on cassette at the time. One takeaway from Robbins: a life worth living is a life worth recording. That idea has led me to begin journals many times.
How does all of that relate to me today and how does any of this relate to you?
Keep a journal or diary. Try to make it so private that you record your deepest feelings uncensored, as if nobody else will ever read what you write.
Try to write every day, even if it's just a sentence about how you feel.
Write what you're thinking about, how your day went at work, how did sunshine or clouds make you feel that day, who do you love. Mention a song you heard on the radio. Note a memory from your past. If your journal can be kept truly private, write down how you really feel about your job or coworkers, who or what turns you on or off emotionally or sexually, what you would do if you won Powerball. Make a bucket list.
Every year or two, or decade or two, reread earlier entries. Ask yourself if you've learned or grown over that time. Do you have patterns you'd like to repeat or patterns you'd like to ditch?
I had very mixed feelings after reading my forgotten files but my overall takeaway is that I've had a great life, so far, and I should celebrate that and learn from it. A life worth living is truly a life worth recording, mine and yours.