In the Moment and in Retrospect

As Ei students, one thing we focus on is documentation - the process of capturing our experiences, the people we meet, and the lessons we learn. We do this in different ways: taking pictures, writing blog posts, sending newsletters or other updates to our communities, and so on. I, like many of my generation, am well-versed in capturing little snippets of life in quick, easy ways. The results of such documentation pervade the internet on various social media platforms in an endless influx of images and commentary. At times it is overwhelming, and makes me feel like I don’t want to imprison the moments of my life in that insignificant way. I’d rather really live the experiences and feel them so strongly that they become memories I can return to regardless of how and whether they are externally documented.

Of course, sharing publicly is only one form of documentation. A more personal way of recording my life is through journaling. I’m proud to have continued this since I was seven. Somehow, without really trying or doing it everyday, writing in my journal became a habit. I have volumes of my messy, ever-changing scrawl detailing everything from memorable meals and family trips, to schoolgirl crushes, trivial conversations, and other moments of my day-to-day existence throughout the years.

Yesterday evening, I found my journal from the first half of 2012. That was an important time for me; I was living in Copenhagen, where I really fell in love with the culture, the city, and all the energy it brought me. Rereading my entries, I was instantly transported back to that time in my life. It is crazy how powerful memories can be - I felt the pain and heartache of nostalgia and longing.

Though this year has been about exploring new ideas and possibilities, I find that I keep wanting to return - to the past, to myself, and to people and places I once called home. That’s why I’ve been spending time in cities that already hold some history for me and where I have existing communities. It’s like I am a detective of my own life - retracing my steps, coming back to the scene of some crime, and trying to find important clues that I left behind.

Like returning home to Los Angeles for this current term, unearthing an old journal and reading its brimming pages is a way to reconnect with my past and form a new relationship to it. Though I value being present, sometimes looking back is just as important, and documentation is the bridge and time machine that helps me do so. The past is past, and things can’t be undone or changed, but revisiting the moments of yesteryear can really bring so much needed perspective and reassurance.

Anaïs Nin says that we write to taste life twice: in the moment and in retrospect. I write to taste life again and again, and with greater depth and richer flavors, because I can remember where I’ve been, how far I’ve come, and all the ways I’ve evolved.