Robin Arzón is the Vice President of Fitness Programming at Peloton. The executive is also a journal writer. In a webinar with BetterUp (a corporate coaching business), Arzón talks about her family of origin. Her father is a law professor and her mother is a medical doctor; both moved from elsewhere to live in Philadelphia. She felt the need to become a lawyer without thinking through in detail about what she wanted.
After experiencing a traumatic event, Arzón began to question her goals in life. What did she want to do? She wanted to run. She began running marathons and ultramarathons, and made athleticism her career. The athlete now refers to herself as a recovering lawyer.
When asked how she switched careers and what motivates her, Arzón shared three questions that she regularly asks herself in a journal. She did not have time to go into detail, so I will give you the three questions with my commentary beside them.
What is my “why?” — What is the reason for me to do the thing that I claim to want? Use your “NO” to protect your “YES.” You might have to refer to this in the middle of achieving the goal when reassessing whether the trouble is worth it.
Why not me? – A rhetorical question that suggests that you should not doubt that you are worthy to achieve the goal.
What decisions would I make if I were twice as strong, and twice as confident? — This is where the beginning of planning comes in. This is your “pie in the sky,” “if there were no obstacles” moment where you think of the life you would want if there was nothing in your way. Then take the essence of those dreams and pursue them step by step.
Arzón says that she imagines the future self that she writes about in her journal as a person who is cheering her on in her goals. She is forever working towards consciously becoming the future Robin; the journal helps to create the environment to know herself and achieve that future.
Movie studio head, director, philanthropist, and compassionate billionaire Tyler Perry is known for his comedies and dramas. What might be less well known is that he uses journals.
According to Success Magazine (as well as numerous interviews of the director), at a young age, Perry watched the Oprah Winfrey Show wherein the talk show host encouraged everyone to use a journal for catharsis.
Finding self-therapy by being able to offload the problems onto the page helped to lighten his load at a young age and encouraged him to continue living.
However, there was another problem – the fear of others reading his private writings.
Some of characters he created when he couldn’t write about himself in the journal became the basis for characters he would later write into plays and films.
One take away from this story, in addition to the catharsis that sometimes comes with journaling, is that when you do not feel comfortable writing as yourself, you can write as a different character or write as if talking about someone else.
Wherever you are in your journaling journey, I wish you…
Tomes have been written about Anne Frank – a vibrant young woman taken from this earth by evil forces. Much has been written about her diary. There is a detail in her personal book that has come to symbolize unity, peace, and empathy.
While hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam, Anne Frank would look out of a window and gaze at a white horse chestnut tree.
The young woman would write of the tree in her diary,
The writer goes on to say how much happiness the tree gives her.
The hiding place would later become a museum where saplings were grown from the original tree. These saplings are distributed throughout the world to various important and educational organizations, including presidential libraries and the United Nations Headquarters.
The Anne Frank Center notes that as, “they grow, the saplings act not only as living reminders of those who have passed, but as tools to educate future generations about the history of Holocaust, a service that is increasingly critical.”
A diary or journal might seem insignificant. However, these little details of life give us a window into a person’s world, provide a sense of place, and encourage empathy and understanding. One’s descriptions might come to symbolize an idea even greater than yourself, beyond your time.
Do not despise the small things in your life. Cherish them. Honor them. Give them a place in your journal.
Director Gina Prince-Bythewood discussed on the podcast Today, Explained how her team pieced together the ancient Kingdom of Dahomey for the film The Woman King (2022) starring Academy Award winner Viola Davis. The episode is called “The true story of The Woman King. ” In it, the director says the following.
I draw your attention to this portion about journals for obvious reasons. When we write down our lives, even if it feels like a mundane life, there is value to it. That value increases over time as the world as we know it fades away and a new culture or set of people emerge.
When we pen our thoughts we pin down a moment in time that future generations can only marvel to consider.
Even if you do not plan to leave your journals to someone, nor to The Great Diary Project, your journal is still valuable to you. Just being able to see our progress written down from last year is personally useful.
The journal, “allows me to find out what my ideas are without boring another person with an observation I haven’t yet made clear to myself…” – Kyoko Mori
Are you reading my mind? Is what I thought when I first read what Mori has written. I, too, prefer to gather my thoughts in writing first before talking.
Mori is a writer who contributed to the journaling anthology titled Writers and Their Notebooks. The author mentions many uses of journals while weaving in her personal story.
Her grandfather would journal with a fountain pen about the state of his garden, or about spending time with his grandchildren. He would do so every day at a certain time. He would never express his disappointments or regrets in his personal book.
The author recalls sitting with him as a child and writing in a journal in which each page was divided in half- a blank space at the top for photos or illustrations and lines at the bottom for words.
The author would also describe her day of swimming, or eating produce from the garden, etc.
The writer describes their mother as one who would express her grief in a journal after the family moved far away from friends. Journaling was sporadic.
Mori describes journal habits as an adult as being a combination of these two adults from childhood – allowing for the description of emotion, if needed, like the mother, and some order like the grandfather (sans fountain pen).
Mori goes on to say that journaling is sometimes used for travel, but it is also used to remember the people who are long gone, putting memories down on paper.
Whatever your reason for journaling, I hope you find it fulfilling and useful.
Journals can help the next generation to understand the past.
A Youtuber is currently renovating a chateau which was previously owned by a millionaire but never lived in until children during World War II needed a safe space to live for the duration of the conflict.
It is during that time of waiting that more than one occupant would write in a diary or journal, describing the building.
The building has since partially burned down. A Youtuber has purchased the estate and uses the diaries to understand what each room looked like and where every room might have been.
Often one believes that a diary or journal is mundane or not worth bothering. Actually, your journal might be of great importance to a future person who wants to understand the past.
Filmmaker and raconteur Orson Welles (Citizen Kane) made a film version of Othello with a friend who kept a diary of the entire process and published the diary in 1952. The book is called Put Money in Thy Purse: The Diary of the Film of Othello by Micheál Mac Liammóir, for which Welles has written the Forward.
In the Forward, Welles, in his cheeky humor, eviscerates anyone who would keep a diary, calling such a habit one’s “darkest secret.” Welles notes that his friend is a wonderful person who lavishes the atmosphere with “pleasant oils and balms of good humor.” However, the “addiction to diaries” is a vice, he says, like any other, which leads to bad character, such as being “an incurable snoop,” a vice to which Welles himself confesses. Knowing the habits of your friends, and possibly writing them down, keeps one’s friends ever dependent on your kindness to jot them down in a pleasant light.
All the mock horror aside, I do enjoy that Welles describes a diarist as one who has “arranged a sort of rendezvous with posterity.” What a lovely thought! You and I who write in diaries, journals, logs, or whatever you want to call them, are meeting with those in the future, if we so choose to leave our diaries behind to be read, giving them a weight and importance that the banality of everyday life often shrouds. Just a thought.
The self-taught naturalist Richard Proenneke began his journey in journal writing after suffering an accident at work that left him without sight. He said that if he regained his sight he wanted to be in a place that is beautiful.
His sight returned and he moved near the Twin Lakes area in Alaska, building a log cabin in the woods and writing observations about nature.
His early journals would later be published during his lifetime. This served as a glimpse into Alaskan wildlife and also into the life of a person who discovered what was important to him and pursued it.