When I finish a journal, it signifies the end of a life chapter; whatever happened within those pages is now in the past. A fresh journal is a fresh start.
Because of this, I often visualize specific periods of my life with what journal I used at the time. My year in Scotland? Ahhh, the red hardcover. My tiny apartment Portland, Maine; teaching, getting married, and preparing for Germany? That’s the era of the turquoise lined soft cover. My life fizzles down into a stack of Moleskines.
Fittingly, as I’m wrapping up my time here on a military base in Germany, I’ve reached the final pages of my black hardcover Moleskine, unlined. A Vilseck sticker on the front, an Asheville sticker on the back.
For me, the hardest parts of journal writing are the first pages and the final pages. Knowing that these blank sheets will bookend this period of my life is daunting. How do I summarize the past few months meaningfully?
Here, with my stack of journals, I’ve found a recipe for how to fill the final pages of a journal. Pick and choose from the following recommendations as you wish.
Playlist of your life
Write a list of songs that you listened to on repeat during the time you filled your journal. If you have a specific memory to a particular song, write it down. If there were a couple songs that were the soundtrack of a trip, write them down! Finding this playlist in the future and rediscovering these songs will take you right back to the feeling of where you are now.
People, people, people
If you’re like me, you move a lot. The best aspect of this is that you meet so many memorable people! The worst is that you often have to say goodbye to them, at least physically.
Commemorate these important characters in your life, and write a quick blurb about people you spend most of your time with. Include their contact information. And maybe even a quick doodle of them if you have time.
Write out each place you visited throughout the period reflected in your journal. What particular memory or experience popped up when you recalled that trip? Do you have any leftover mementos you can stick on the page?
A handful of memories rise to the surface when I think back on my life in the era of this journal. Little, seemingly insignificant moments at the time I now find the most human and profound.
- Dancing in the kitchen to David Bowie before Josh leaves for work.
- Pebbles realizing his freedom during an outdoor training session and escaping to our friend’s house, me sprinting behind him.
- My core group of friends sprawled across the bedroom of our Edinburgh AirBnB, chatting and laughing about nothing.
These little details weave the fabric of your life. Write them down.
As I finish a journal, I always read through the entire thing.
Every. Single. Word.
This mostly results in me rolling my eyes at myself, but it gives me a good perspective of my life through a different lens.
Once read, I write a reflection page documenting the biggest moments that stood out to me. I pay attention to how I’ve grown since the beginning, and if I haven’t had much growth, how would I like to grow during my next journal?
Most importantly, what would you most like to remember from this journal?
This is where you can let go of all the rules and doodle to your heart’s content. Use every inch of the page.
Write or draw what you achieved or did over the course of this journal; moments big or small.
Then, write or draw what you’d like to achieve or do in the course of the next journal. Big goals, little goals, whatever makes you happy.
Think about yourself right now. What little thing makes you happy?
- Reading every night before falling asleep.
- Coffee and cartoons on weekend mornings.
- Going on hikes with the dog.
Record these things, and have the intention of continuing them in your next phase.
Letter to self
This one feels cheesy to do, but it’s a surefire way I can give myself advice without second guessing.
On the final page of my journal, I write a letter to future me, looking back at the past, enjoying the present, and looking forward to the future.
Without a doubt, this is the best way for me to transition to the next phase, the next variation of the Moleskine journal that sits with empty pages, waiting on my desk.
Because, to truly start fresh, you must take time to say goodbye.