time travel writing

One of the things that you can – quite selfishly – enjoy about writing a blog is that it serves as an online diary for your own thoughts, hopes, opinions and ideas over time. When I started writing this blog two years ago (June 29, 2007, to be exact) I had no idea that the market was going to go belly-up for a while, that we would manage to sell our house for a (small) profit in the worst real estate environment in decades, and that I was going to be living in Florida with not one but two children.

Some of my articles about life in Jersey are strange to go back and look at:

I have kept a journal, on and off, for about 13 years now. I can learn a lot about myself today by going back and looking at what was important to me years ago.  The blog serves the same purpose.  Emails do, too.  Writing freezes a minute in time, and by helping us understand where we came from it can often tell us where we are going.  Even pictures and videos capture your thoughts – what you took pictures of can tell a lot about what you were thinking.

I find one aspect of writing reassuring above all else. If I look back on my writing and journals and all of these records, several themes emerged (and again, I’m going back maybe 13 years in total).  A few of them were:

  • I didn’t like – and don’t – working the 9 to 5 corporate employee lifestyle.
  • I used to love, but grew sick of, business travel and travel in general.  Some joy disappeared after September 11th.
  • I was tired of cold weather, long commutes and high costs of living – life in the Northeast.  I dreamed almost constantly of warmer weather – for health, for the sun, for the lifestyle.
  • Success and increasing salary (in my corporate life) and rising consulting fees (in my contracting life) didn’t make me feel happier or that life was getting easier.
  • I like reading, a lot, and have not done enough of it.  As the internet grew, my real reading dropped off.
  • Getting married was a big change for someone like me who had clung to bachelorhood, but it was a minor change compared to having children.  People without children get sick of hearing this – I know I did – but everything about how I perceived the world changed when I had kids.  Not always positively, either – dangers that you hadn’t considered before you had children creep into your thoughts.

I made changes in all of these areas. I can see how I led myself there.  That’s a neat thing to see. If you don’t write, get started.  Even if you just keep a day planner, try to put some thoughts down every day (or three).  Nobody will ever understand you as well as you understand yourself, and keeping a record of how your thoughts evolve over time will become more and more fascinating the longer you write them down.

10 comments

  • >> I was tired of cold weather, long commutes and high costs of living – life in the Northeast.

    I'm sorry, Steve, that may be your personal experience, but it does not define life in the northeastern United States. You will never again experience four seasons, the joy of making snow angels, the colorful autumn, or the rebirth of spring. That's okay, to each his own, but there were many wonderful things that you missed.

    • @Curmudgeon: Maybe I should revise to say “life in the URBAN northeast.” I doubt that I'll miss snow at all, but since we still have family in New York I'm sure we'll have the occasional wintertime visit.

      It is a case of to each his own. I grew up in the South and winter therefore never became a core part of my experience. My first “real” winter was spent in Moscow, and the next three winters as well. Certainly my thoughts have always been that I'd rather live in warm weather climates and visit cold weather rather than the opposite.

      But true, some of my complaints might have gone away if we had lived in Burlington instead of NYC.

    • Four winters in Moscow! You are a better man than I.

  • You could not be more correct, Steve, about the value of writing. I'm a teacher, and yesterday the mother of a very smart young girl came to have a conference. Her daughter does well in math, she scores at the highest level on both ability and achievement tests, but she doesn't write at all well. Her mother asked me what to do. What programs, what books, what lessons would help her daughter write? My only answer was….she needs to write. Write in a journal, write letters, get a pen pal, write a play for her neighborhood playmates, write a story about her summer adventures, keep a diary. The only way to learn to write is to write–continually, daily, exhaustively. I write long emails morning and evening to my aged mother (and, believe it or not, she writes back!), I write a page a day in my journal/diary, I keep up a fairly voluminous correspondence with distant friends. I don't do this for any particular reason, but if I ever stopped, I don't think I would ever start again, so yes, write, write, write. Make yourself do it, and before you know it, you will feel incomplete if you don't do it!

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  • The Internet has destroyed my reading habits, too. I used to read one or two books a week. Now I'm lucky to read one a month. We just fritter time away online, and it never feels quite as valuable.

    When I blog on Monevator I try to write long, deep posts that recreate some of the satisfaction of immersing yourself in a book, but I don't know if I succeed – partly because I don't go so personal as bloggers like yourself. It must be fascinating to read back like this, but I wonder if I'd also feel rather exposed?

    • @Monevator: I do feel exposed, but at the same time I usually keep names and companies I'm talking about obscured. Only twice have I gone back and changed a post to make it more anonymous, and only once have I published and then deleted a post (I wrote about a client in far too specific terms and realized that on the off chance he found it he would know exactly who I was).

      I'm not sure why personal finance blogging evolved as anonymous, really. Read productivity or SEO blogs and people have their names up all over the place. I think it's that so many PF people work in corporate environments, but it may just be the general nervousness people have about money matters…

    • Could it be because the discussion of personal money matters is still considered somewhat taboo unlike SEO, productivity, etc. Personally, I wonder that if I go public and ever want to work a regular job again, will people take me serious after everything I have said about 9-5 employment?

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  • Could it be because the discussion of personal money matters is still considered somewhat taboo unlike SEO, productivity, etc. Personally, I wonder that if I go public and ever want to work a regular job again, will people take me serious after everything I have said about 9-5 employment?