Genuine expression might seem foreign if you’ve just spent months applying to colleges. You tell these colleges about yourself, but your Best Self. You are resilient, resourceful, and respectful of your elders.
But these anecdotes you’re sharing are from your Best Self’s repertoire, plucked from the same mass memory bank that houses the time you tripped on your way to give your French presentation or wanted to scream at having to slough through another Shakespearean soliloquy.
We get it, Hamlet, you’re conflicted.
However, Hamlet did nail the art of the confession. Confessing gives you the space and privacy to confront your true self, the same self that will be writing those college essays, midterms, and applications that demand individuality.
Shakespeare’s longest play follows Hamlet’s pondering the multifaceted problem that is whether or not to kill his supposedly murderous uncle, weighing what he wants with what he was willing to do to get it, and in the process asked questions about his own capabilities—for madness, for revenge, for murder.
Follow Hamlet’s example and hash it out with yourself (with a journal, not a skull)!
Traditionally, a journal is a written log of your thoughts and activities, but you don’t have to sit down and handwrite pages of your innermost feelings to call yourself a journalist. There’s voice recording, point-form, drawing; anything you feel is authentically expressive counts as a “journal.”
Keeping an honest record of your experiences lets you examine the daunting question of confronting the challenges of higher education: what do you want?
You’ll be faced with endless decisions as universities give you more freedom, so having a good idea of what makes you happy is paramount. As your entries grow, you’ll be able to look back on your insistence that writing 5,000 words on Boudicca is literally impossible a week after you handed in that essay as written proof that these capabilities are greater than you sometimes assume.
Keeping a journal also relieves pressure. Ditch the five-paragraph essay and express what you want, how you want to. Write the same expletive five times in a row without any punctuation. Describe all the outlandish ways you could tank your SATs.
We all know what a panic spiral is, but sometimes it’s difficult to recognize without proof from previous instances. Next time you feel yourself panicking, look to your journal to recognize and stop the pattern.
Digging around in your head for a genuine opinion instead of crafting the “correct” answer might be counterintuitive, but give yourself permission to be brazen about your uniqueness. Not sensational, just honest.
Revel in being able to write whatever you want, to spill that mess of confusion and contradiction that is being sentient, and then close the notebook to assimilate back into polite society.