Everyone advises you to write a journal. From Tim Ferris to Bene Brown to Oprah, it’s agreed that sitting down and writing your thoughts on a daily basis is a wholly positive thing. But what to write? Well, you can write about gratitude, you can write to-do lists, angry letters to dead parents is ok, Mission-Statements are always good, but the thing is to write.

Nobody, however, ever advises you to read these things that you write. Having just read through my journals of 2020 I can see why. Listen, I’m a historical expeditionary, and I read lots of journals. I’ve read the journals of John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams. I’ve read Jefferson’s journals, Hamilton’s journals. And now I’ve read my journals. Here’s a surprise – theirs are better.

Still, it’s important to read your own journals. Yes, there is probably going to be a lot of repetition and, yes, probably some promises and goals that you failed at even approaching, (or, sometimes, remembering the day after you wrote them down.) Every now and then, though, you will bump into a surprising piece of wisdom. Hey, we all have it in there.

What did I find by pouring through my journals. My businesses did not reach their goals, that’s for sure. I was wildly delusional at the beginning of the pandemic, but caught on pretty quickly.

Here is the surprising thing, though. Throughout this year, there was still a lot of joy. Like the crazy trip we took to Florida to watch the rocket launch that didn’t launch. Or the day my daughter came back from India. There was the week I spent at Gethsemane, the retreat for monks where Thomas Merton lived. There was my Washington podcast and the opportunity to include great Washington scholars, such as Ed Lengell, William Kidder, Lindsay Chervinsky, Adrienne Harrison and Peter Stark. I fell for an old love this year – APBA, the dice-activated baseball game that filled my youth, and I met lots of similar lunatics on an APBA Facebook site, which is the only Facebook site I plan to visit this year. I got a lot more bike riding this done, and the best walks I have ever given my dogs. I have listened to lots and lots of books and learned that my daughter is right, Sense and Sensibility is a terrible book. I have been there for a loved-one facing cancer treatments. I enjoyed TREMENDOUSLY the documentary Ken Burns made about country music. How is it that I forgot about all of this?

So the journal, despite writing that does not compare with Jefferson’s or the others, ended up reminding me of so much. It made me feel…grateful. And what is a better feeling then gratitude when it comes upon you naturally?

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