Someone once told me you know you love someone if they’re the first person you call when something happens. When I think back to my biggest moments — the ones where I have experienced extreme gratitude or pain or excitement, it’s very clear who this “person” is for me: my journal. Though my journal has changed form over the years (most recently transitioning from a plain, black marble notebook to a bright, pink hardcover), the process has always remained the same. I sit down with my journal and a good ballpoint pen, and I am immediately taken to a place where I feel safe — a magical world where my healing and growth are centered and celebrated.
Now…. raise your hand if you need this safe space at work?
Over the past few years, journaling has become a critical, resistant practice in my professional life. I keep my journal with me at all times, and when I am at work, I make sure to take it out when I need to write down an interesting note, plan something, or process through an unsavory experience. When I write in my journal and affirm myself, I am using a tool of my own making to fight back against the many work environments that were not created with my Black, queer body in mind.
Journaling has been an inspiring practice for me and I know it can be for you too, but before I share some major ways you can use journaling to resist at work, I think it’s important to start off with two important beginner journaling tips.
1. Choose the journaling tools that make you feel sexy.
And by sexy, I mean enthusiastic, productive, and ready to play! Think about size, number of pages, color, hardback v paperback. What would make you feel most comfortable when you are writing and what would be most functional for you to bring to work? Check out local stores to come up with ideas; or, if you’re crafty, use Pinterest to make your own journal.
At its core, journaling is a reflective practice. As we choose our tools, we also need to consider which reflective mediums work best for us. That being said, if writing is either something you can’t or don’t want to do, then feel free to use a different medium (re: voice notes, video, doodle drawings, etc!).
2. Bring your journaling tool with you everywhere.
Sometimes my friends and family get mad at me because I often bring a book to social gatherings. I love to meet new people as much as the next person, but my philosophy is: you never know when you’re gonna need something stimulating to do (and books breed great conversations, soo…)! I want you to think the same way about your journal. Always keep it with you because you never know when inspiration will hit.
We’ve set the stage for what can be an empowering journaling practice at work! SO, now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty. What can we use our journals for, and how can we use them in the workplace to resist systems and empower ourselves?
Use Your Journal to:
Process the BS & Affirm Yourself
If you took the test and determined your employer is trash, you probably experience a lot of frustrating BS at work. This BS can come in the form of microaggressions, drama, gossip, and a whole host of other experiences that can be emotionally draining. When you begin to feel overwhelmed at work, here are a few things you can write in your journal to get back!
Let your journal give you the pep talk you need to keep going.
Example: I got this! I believe in myself even if no one else does. I am good at my job and even if I make a mistake, that does not mean I am a mistake!
Check in with yourself and stay grounded in difficult moments.
Example: What I just dealt with was really hard and it’s completely valid for me to feel hurt and confused after that experience. What do I need to do for myself to get through the rest of the day, and who do I trust I can lean on for support?
Vent and be a petty betty.
Example: I know I’m speaking out of pain at the microaggression Steve just said to me… but Steve is crap and I hate his shirt today. (Expletive) (expletive) (expletive).
Your journal is your new ride-or-die work best friend and the best part is that it will listen to your challenges without (A) centering its own or (B) offering solutions to your problems before you’re ready. Use your journaling practice to process through difficult experiences and remind yourself that you’re an amazing human.
Be Witchy Af and Create Your #CareerGoals Future
My journaling role model is the one and only Octavia Butler (if you don’t know who she is, then open a new tab and Google her and her books please…right now). A few years ago, Huntington Library released a few pages of Octavia Butler’s journal where she wrote long paragraphs affirming her dreams in the present tense. She wrote things like “My books will be read by a million people” and “I will find a way to do this! So be it!”
When I went through a recent job search, I spent hours writing about my future perfect job in my journal. I created lists of every single last characteristic of my perfect job including salary, department size, job responsibilities, and diversity expectations. I wrote about my daily commute on the train and envisioned how excited I would be to go to work everyday. I even created a false resume in my journal, listing out each skill I would develop in the job as if I already got an offer.
And guess what? When I finally found a job, I got everything I wanted (yay manifestation queen!). Every time you do this exercise, you may not get everything you ask for, but this practice can keep up motivation and morale while you’re looking for that dream opportunity.
Track Your Preferences
I will take a guess and say that MOST of us are still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. Some of us have a hazy view of what we think we’d enjoy and some of us are pretending that we got it all figured out while silently freaking out about our lack of direction. What many of us don’t realize is that our current and past jobs hold the biggest clues we need to figure out what career paths we should be pursuing, and our journals can be a perfect collaborator in this process.
When you are working a job, actively track which activities give you energy and which activities drain you. If you work at a restaurant, for instance, you may realize that you get a lot of energy from chatting with customers, but you get stressed and drained by having to memorize so many orders at once. This information can give you valuable insight into which future opportunities you should be pursuing. Over time, as you reflect on your past and present job experiences, you should begin to see patterns that speak to your talents and interests.
Celebrate The Come Up
The come up is you thriving at work and celebrating every single success you can add to your resume. There are times where we do things at work and there is little fanfare. This can be disheartening, especially if you put a lot of labor into a particular project. Of course, you can mention these successes to your boss and ask for recognition, but I often use my journal to celebrate my own success.
Keep a running list in the back of your journal of the times you “killed it” at work and every time you reach a landmark number of wins, #treatyourself!
[Also, this is a perfect way to track your successes to show your boss why you deserve a raise if your job offers raises!]
When we journal, we resist and we build. We take control of our experiences at work and we give ourselves the opportunity to affirm who we are and find joy in the midst of imperfect (and sometimes actively toxic) work environments.
Have you ever used journaling at work? What tools will you be using from this article to positively impact your career?