I started two new habits on 01 January 2021, and I’ve managed to maintain both habits for more than three years.

First, I began logging every movie I watch on Letterboxd. I usually write a short review and/or assign a star rating, but even if I don’t have the time or inclination to do that, I make sure to note every film I see. This has made my movie watching much more enjoyable (because I am a nerd and I like to track stuff).

Second, I bought a Hobinichi five-year journal (A6 size) so that I could keep a daily diary. Every day, I jot short notes about what I did, record what time I wake and fall asleep, note my weight (if I weighed myself), track the weather conditions, log my alcohol and marijuana use 100% honestly, and more.

[photo of page from my 5-year journal]

I like this five-year diary much more than I expected I would. It gets better the longer I keep it. It’s fascinating to look back at what I was doing last year. And the year before. And the year before that.

This journal has another handy feature. Facing each daily page is a blank page where you can write anything you want. I use it to jot insights or extended thoughts about the day’s events. For instance, on 28 January 2021 I wrote down the following epiphany:

I have come to the realization that all — or nearly all — of my stress, anxiety, and depression stems from living such a public life. I share everything online. Everything I share is open to public scrutiny and judgment. It’s killing me. So too is the ongoing pressure to produce. It never ends.

What if I were to withdraw, to end all creative/productive web use? Give up the websites. Give up social media. Return to a mostly analog life, circa 1997. Make the center of everything Kim, our beasts, and whatever project I’m working on (the house, a novel, classes, whatever).

This is a huge decision, one of the biggest of my life. I need to think about it.

I wrote a l-o-n-g blog post about this epiphany when it happened. In that piece, I sketched out a few possible futures that might make me happier. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can look back and see how things turned out.

Of the four options I suggested — zero online creativity, minimal creativity, moderate creativity, and maximum creativity — I’ve found a happy groove with minimal creative production.

  • I sold Get Rich Slowly to my business partner. I was afraid that I’d regret this. I have zero regrets. It was the correct move.
  • I’m severely curtailed my presence in the world of social media. I’m even moving away from frequent posts on Facebook. (I used to use Facebook as a substitute for this blog. I’d post a few times a week. Now I think I’m posting maybe once a month.)
  • I’m trying hard to avoid spaces like Reddit and similar online forums. Even after carefully curating my subreddits, I find that if I spend too much time there, I get a negative, pessimistic view of the world. I don’t know what it is about being online, but most people are the worst versions of themselves. I don’t like it. So, even though I do read /r/TaylorSwift and /r/AskHistorians often, I try not to get sucked into endlessly scrolling Reddit.
  • Although I haven’t published much here at Folded Space recently, I’m committed to it. This will be my space for online creativity. And a place for other like-minded folks to hang out and have conversations about goofy, nerdy stuff.

It took me nearly three years to curtail my online lifestyle to what it is today, but what it is today feels balanced. It feels sustainable. It feels healthy. My mental health is the best that it’s been in a decade (yay!), I’m having fun in Real Life (although I’ve let my fitness get away from me again like a fool), and I’m spending more time with friends.

Anyhow, the entire point of this post is to highlight how much I’ve come to enjoy logging my life in my five-year journal. Every day, I get to look back and see what has changed (and what hasn’t). And some days, like today, I get to re-live some important moment and see if/how I’ve grown from it.

6 Replies to “My five-year journal.”

  1. Brittany says:

    I’ve never seen these 5 year journals before and really like it! Might have to start one myself…

    • Brittany says:

      Have you ever considered creating a spreadsheet with the raw number data (weight, mood rating, etc) to see if there are any trends? Or correlations? (mood data compared to THC or alcohol use). Sorry, also nerdy.

  2. Eric says:

    Time to get back into CrossFit (or some type of functional movement workouts). I can credit you with my decision to join a CrossFit gym in early 2011 and I STILL go religiously 2-3 days a week!! Thank you JD!! If you’re ever in the greater Sacramento area, hit me up!

    • J.D. Roth says:

      Time to get back into CrossFit (or some type of functional movement workouts).

      Yes. Yes, indeed. I’ve entered the “excuse making” phase of things and I know it. But I think I have a plan that could work for me, and I want to test it. Right now my biggest issue is cardio fitness and flexibility. I want to prioritize those for a couple of months, then hit strength training like I did last year. I’ve always said that I work out better in the mornings, and it’s true, but I’m just not getting my ass to the gym. So, it’s time to start looking at the other end of the day. Kim heads to bed early (before eight), so that’s a great time for me to go to the gym, do some stretching, then bust out some cardio (and maybe a bit of unstructured lifting). I have a plan. Now I have to implement it.

  3. Financial Samurai says:

    You’re alive! Glad to hear it. And glad taking things down has helped your mental health too.

    I recently blew up my passive income due to the purchase of a larger home. It was an agonizing decision given it made me lose my financial independence.

    But I’ve still got 3-5 teases of energy left in me to grind and then that’s it.

    Check out the post and great to hear you’re doing well.

    Sam

  4. Connie H says:

    Love this! I’m going to give it a try. Thanks for sharing!

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