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Bullet journaling chased my stress away

There’s something therapeutic about watching other people plan their lives thru notebooks, colored pens, and stickers in a time-lapse. Those Youtube videos of people making bullet journals and writing in calligraphies are oddly satisfying to watch, and I thought maybe if I do it too I’d feel much better about myself. It took me a long time to decide whether I’d finally do bullet journaling or not, simply because I was scared that I won’t be able to keep it up. I know myself, one moment I’m so excited to do something and the next moment – poof – all the excitement would be gone.

I’m a planner person though – and with planner person I mean I’d buy a planner every year. It has to be cute and has to have a lot of room for brain dumps. Starbucks planners used to be my thing, but I don’t know when they started producing crappy stuff that I felt it would just be a waste to collect stickers for one. This year, I bought a ready-made planner and a dotted notebook. I started doodling on the dotted notebook and set the planner aside thinking I’d use it if I get tired of the bullet journal. Now we’re on to the 7th month of the year and the ready-made planner is still left untouched.

I love to collect restaurant receipts, movie tickets, cute sticky notes, little pictures of the moment, and other memorable things and paste them in my planner (circa the late 2000s). I’ve always found the activity therapeutic and at the same time nostalgic, because, after a few years, I could look at them and say, wow did we really do this or it’s been two years, it feels like it was just 6 months ago. Needless to say, keeping a journal meant I have my own time capsule, as they hold all the memories I made with the people I love and used to love – sad and happy and embarrassing and even the dismal ones.

But two months into bullet journaling the pandemic hit, and it meant no travels, lunch and/or dinner dates, coffee escapes, and visiting friends. Social media people created memes that mock those who bought planners and those who spent a fortune on coffee just to get hold of the mediocre Starbucks. What are you going to write in your planner, they say. You can’t have plans anymore, they say. I wanted to shout at all of them and say, “I have a lot of things to write in them, probably more than I could have written had the pandemic didn’t happen!”

It’s true though. There are still things to do, even in the confines of my home. There are recipes to write, books to read, pictures to print, old movies to watch, kdramas to finish, and to-do lists to work on. Collecting all of them in one place oddly gave me relief, something I never felt in a long time. It gave me a sense of fulfillment and usefulness as well and made me feel less anxious about not being able to do a lot of other things.

But as you can see, my spreads are super simple, not like the ones I see on Youtube. I don’t do calligraphies and I am not great at drawing either. All I have are colored pens, highlighters, stickers, washi tapes, pictures cut from magazines, and beautifully rhymed words (hey, I am a writer!). And this little journal right here kept me organized and sane for the past three months. And maybe for the months to come.

Writing has always been my therapy, along with good music and coffee. It could never be better if it’s raining outside. I hope you start journaling too. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the middle of the year, because all of us have to start something somewhere, right? And it doesn’t matter if it’s beautifully created because no matter what, you’re the one who made it and it’s gonna be beautiful in its own way.

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