Because of reasons, I started a Bullet Journal. Yes, one of those things that people wander around with, clutching close to their hearts. Yes. One of them. I’m one of those people now. It wasn’t an easy choice, but my goodness has it changed my life.
As I’ve been harping on about for a while now, in March this year, I decided to change
a few things a lot about my life.
Happiness, in general, is strange. Poorly understood but widely yearned for, happiness is a transient state. Content is what most of us truly aspire to be. This year, I made the change not to be happy, but to be content. Happiness is not an ongoing on-off relationship with my Bavarian export, nor is it a job where I wonder whether anyone truly loves what they do there. Contentedness is knowing that things are going moderately well with the Bavarian and acknowledging that whilst I do not love where I am right now in the NSW Government Graduate Program, it will open doors to bigger and better things.
The shift of this need to be happy resulted in my desire to reflect more actively upon myself in a way that only I would understand.
After years of trying to engage with pre-printed diaries and planners that I finally dismissed all pre-established diarisation of life for a bullet journal – it would help me to become a more perfect version of me. And now whilst I don’t know what a more perfect version of me is, I like to think it’s one that has my shit slightly more together than what it currently is.
But most of all, it’s for my mental health. Having to care about something a little less every day helps me to keep it all together.
Enter the bullet journal.
I have, for a while now, been a creature of minimalism and monochrome. My all-black get-up to work seems to be surprisingly well-accepted whilst my general predisposition appears to be black and gold, with perhaps a slight deviation to… rose gold. As a person who’s mind has the terrible tendency to over-exacerbate anything, keeping things simple is a kind of therapy. That is why it is no surprise that eventually I chose a Leuchtturm1917 in black for my bullet journal.
Then I decided upon my two trusty pals: the Lamy Safari (Extras Fine tip) in transparent with washable Parker Quink Blue, and a Copic Ciao in C-2 (also known as ‘the grey highlighter’). As I said, I live a monochrome life. It occasionally confuses people (specifically, my brother):
Above is the first iteration of my journal – a Leuchtturm1917 in red. That one didn’t last too long. Perfectionism got to me and as much as I adore my Muji 0.38 pen, I couldn’t deal with the incapability to get rid of it. I make a lot of mistakes and whilst white-out helps to get rid of mistakes, I a) do not always have it handy, b) would rather the error not appear at all and c) Leuchtturm pages aren’t actually white (they’re off-white). Thus washable ink. Also because fountain pens, but anyway.
Here is my humble set up.
I’m not as exciting as I think I am. That is why my key is pretty simple. Things need to be done. Things need to be moved. Things need to be cancelled. That’s pretty much it.
I’m also not as outgoing as people think, nor do I have any close personal friends (to the point where I diarise their birthdays anyway) and so rarely do I need to use my cute little symbols like ‘Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner’ or ‘Birthday’. The most frequent one I use is probably the ‘Gym’ and ‘To Email’ anyway.
My weeks are very simple. I use my journal as a planner and a journal, which means I put in future events, and I record whether or not I’ve done things.
As you can tell, not everything is in time-order. I work in 24 hour time (which is apparently odd for Australia, but it’s a habit I kept from living in Paris and Vienna), and so long as it’s there, that’s all I care about.
It isn’t drawn, but the diary is split into three columns: 1) events 2) to-do and 3) to follow up. It helps me to keep everything in the same place, and forces me to write down the important things, rather than everything.
My months are fairly bland. Since life has been worth living again, I’ve been setting myself goals. Right now, they’re fairly fitness-based, because that’s pretty much the only thing really keeping me positive about myself right now (sorry for the kicker!). Otherwise it’s really just payments to be made, and how much and when. Also when I get paid.
I also have significant events that happen – things that I want to remember. I don’t really like to prioritise memories in order of preference so I try to stay away from making any inference of it in my journal. I don’t anticipate anything too exhilarating will happen to me, so I may make this section a little smaller.
My life is a bit like clockwork right now. Whilst I can’t say I’m happy most days, there are things I do to keep myself afloat in the meantime. Also I’m doing a lot of new things this year, and in doing so, they say it takes 21 days to develop a habit… and you don’t know unless you’ve kept track of it. Soooo the list is pretty simple:
- Flex Day (I got rid of this after June, it’s a work thing)
- German Study
- Bed by 11pm.
All of this is built on some pretty basic principles of positive mental health:
- Get enough sleep
- Get enough exercise
- Do things that are meaningful to you
- Reflect often.
As a person with a mental illness, I like to keep track of my mood fluctuations so keeping tabs on what mood I am in that day is super important. I’ve broken the moods down into the most common:
I also stuffed up and wrote on the wrong line and because it’s in non-washable ink, I really feel like ripping this page out, but I can’t. Also June was a trial-by-error page, so here’s a prettier page.
I like lists. Small things help me to remember big things. I often immerse myself in literature to remove myself from my brain so a reading list is vital. I am the kind of person to read multiple books at the same time, and to have books at every location – home, car, work, gym, toilet, wherever.
This list needs to be updated, but here’s some things I’d like to get on reading. Spoil any of them and I will hurt you.
Also, as you can tell, I am not a chick-flicky kind of person.
This section also includes Films to Watch and TV Shows to Watch. I didn’t think they were worth showing because they’re both pretty empty right now.
Otherwise I also order things and forget that I ordered them. Thus a Waiting On list to make sure I check up on whether I get stuff.
People start bullet journals for all different reasons. Mine is because I want to be a better version of me. It makes me organised. It makes me calm. It removes me from my world and allows me to arrange everything where and when I want it. It allows me to control my uncontrollable world just that little bit more.
I often feel lost and directionless. It’s an unfortunate byproduct of living with a mental illness, but we do what we can to keep afloat. I am waiting for the future to come, and whilst I don’t know what that is, I hope I keep my bullet journals for a lifetime, and I hope that it’ll make some sense to the people who want to figure out who I am and how I think. It doesn’t give them much, but in amongst all of this, I keep jottings of my life. Notes from work. Things to remember. Scribbles for my stories. Dreams I have. Dreads I fear. It’s not much but it’s something. But most of all, it makes me feel whole again.