Wednesday, September 16, 2020

What inspires you to read, reflect, and journal (or blog)?

Reflection - Mt. Fuji, Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi, Japan - Circa May 2016

The following is an MS Teams conversation with a colleague after learning that we each enjoy reading, reflection and writing: 

T: What inspires you to read, reflect, and journal (or blog)? 

J: I think I was inspired to read by just my curiosity of everything in the world. In my past, I never read that much. I only started reading heavily in the last maybe 3-4 years. Instead of reading, I traveled a lot. I learned a lot that way, from talking to people, observing, feeling, and experiencing. But as I grow older, my responsibilities grow and so travel (although I still do it often) is now not as often as I would want it to be. Reading (specifically non-fiction) has kind of opened up those other avenues to learning and education about things foreign to me while I cannot travel as much.

Reflection is something pretty new to me too. I only really started reflecting on my life when I took a sabbatical from work. That really allowed me to take time to think of my past and my future in great detail. I started to understand better what I was doing, why I was doing things, and what I could do to change or improve my future. The reflection is so important now. I feel like if I didn't have that time (sabbatical) to reflect, then I wouldn't have grown in all the ways I feel like I've grown in the past 5 years. I was out of work for nearly 2 years.

The journaling and blogging has always been a part of my life. My dad used to journal when I was a kid. I grew up on notebook journals and writing events down. I had a calendar that I would just fill in all the boxes with tidbits. So I always did these little things, albeit not as consistently as now. But now I find that my blogging has allowed me to just put my thoughts out there. To not just contain them in my head but to make it "real" by making it public. It helps kind of relieve my brain from just constant thought. And if anyone reads it, then great. If not, then at least I can look back on my thoughts to see how I've grown. And because they're "tangible" I'll never have to wonder what I've possibly forgotten. 

And more recently in my life, writing / blogging is a way for me to pass on my life to whatever children I may have in the future. I looked back on the lives of my parents and thought, I don't really know what their day to day life was like. You get to hear stories and tidbits of whatever they can remember. But those memories are few and far between and obviously not nearly enough for you to understand who your parents are and what they really went through. If they had written it down, you could read it like a book and imagine and fully feel what they experienced and lived. I think that more than anything now is my motivation to write. 

And then kind of as an aside, I feel like the more I put out there for people to read, the better the chance that others get to know me and understand me. And maybe my thoughts will help others in their lives somehow. But that's existential. 

But let me turn it back to you... what is your inspiration to read, reflect, and/or write (if you do all of the above)?

T: That's powerful. You're so right--often times we don't know our parents. We know what they did for us throughout rearing, but we don't know simple things about them like their favorite color or greater things like what they experienced in their lifetimes. I hope your future kids find comfort being able to read about their dad throughout their life. You inspire me to do the same. 

In college (the fist semester of my junior year, to be precise) a profoundly impactful professor told us to never stop reading if we wanted to grow. He said, "You are the sum of two things: the books you read and the people you meet." As someone who craved growth (and still do), it was enough convincing for me to stick my nose in books from that point forward. Similar to your sabbatical, I took a few months off after I graduated and before I started work at [XXXX] and solo backpacked SE Asia. During this time, I required myself to journal each day; so quickly can we forget life-changing experiences--whether we realize it in the moment or in hindsight--if we don't pause from our busy lives to make sense of the what we experienced that day. I reflect on my journals from that trip and can track back to key catalysts and see how they've shaped the man I am today. So, I now live by a slightly amended version of my professors quote: "you are the product of three things: the books you read, the people you meet, and the journal you carry, for your journal is the free-space where you can make sense of your books and experiences." The reason I read, reflect, and write is to make the most of my precious, limited days on this beautiful planet and to wake up with the goal to be a better version of myself from the day before. 

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