I starting keeping a sentence a day journal 3 years ago. I bought the Happiness Project journal on a whim. My best friend’s birthday was approaching, and I thought it’d be a cool thing to start together. June 7th marked the start of year 4!
I’ve journaled on and off since I was young but never committing enough time left me with a stack of mostly empty journals. The idea of only writing a sentence or two a day felt manageable. I never got around to reading the accompanying Happiness Project book, but for the rest of my life, I’ll always know that this little journal changed (and saved) my life. So I should tell you now, this is more of an honesty project than a happiness project.
The motto of this journal is simple: the days are long, but the years are short. How often do your days run together? It’s hard to stop and appreciate the small or even big things happening around us.
The first year felt like a standard journal. Each page providing space to capture 4 small lines of text for 5 years. I’d write a few thoughts every night before bed. My only rule was to keep it honest. I didn’t sugarcoat things; my goal was to capture the day as is.
The start of Year 2 brought the purpose of this journal to life. Every time I turned the page, I got to read about each day, one year before. It brought back funny little memories, really tough days, and otherwise inconsequential things I’d have no reason to remember. The memories became something I looked forward to.
January 6, 2014, about a year and a half after I started this journal, my life changed.
The day started out like any other day. I went to work, but it was slower than usual because of the holidays, and I was feeling stagnant. I’ve been working in research since I graduated from college, and I love the field. But my piece of the process keeps me behind the scenes, and I spend a majority of my day in front of a computer. Until recently, I liked that aspect of my job. But over the last couple of years, I’ve been wondering if it’s time for a change.
I lost track of how long I had been feeling this way. I went to write in my journal that night and my ‘memory’ of the day one year earlier was exactly what I planned to write. I wasn’t feeling challenged and didn’t know if I was happy…which probably meant I wasn’t happy.
It was a shock, to say the least! And I started crying. To think: an entire year had passed and I was still exactly where I was. A year is such a long time. But is it?
I decided I had to do something about my situation. If I didn’t, there was no reason to think I wouldn’t find myself in the same boat the following year. I asked a ton of people for advice. I asked questions about careers, contentment and the pursuit of happiness. I didn’t always like what I heard, but I started to wonder what it would be like to change careers. It felt overwhelming and daunting, but exciting enough that I kept it at the forefront of my mind.
They say things like this happen when you least expect it, and I totally agree.
It felt impulsive, but I started researching the field. I contacted people at work and the local university. It felt like the end of When Harry Met Sally, when Harry says, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” That’s how I felt about becoming a dietitian. It felt unfair to have to wait six months to start taking classes.
I’ve been taking pre-requisite classes for the last year and start my master’s program in the fall. As exciting as this is, making a huge life change comes with sacrifice. It’s been a really difficult year managing work, school, and life, and there is nothing glamorous about the hours I spend studying. The hardest part is not being in touch with friends as much as I’d like and not being able to do everything I used to do.
But the best advice I received was to always keep my eye on the prize. This path is almost guaranteed to not follow a straight line but as long as I can always come back to why I’m doing this, it’ll be worth it. And I know it will be.
When people ask me how I decided to change careers, this little journal will always be the first thing that pops in my head. If you are feeling stagnant or want to try something new, go for it. You’d be surprised by the support you’ll receive just by sharing your thoughts with someone else. And if you have a few extra minutes at the end of the day, go out and buy a journal. You never know what it may uncover…