Video Journal a Chance for Reflection

CJ Blair, Columnist

When I left to go to college, my mom made a simple request. She told me to record a one second video on my phone every day and send it to her. She said these videos could be of absolutely anything, from the most exciting events to the most mundane. What mattered was that I sent them consistently so my family could get a glimpse of my life while I was away. I’d be lying if I said I’ve held up my end of the deal, but in failing to follow through with the videos, I came to understand the importance of making them. My choice to record or not record on a given day told me which parts of my life I wished to remember and which I wanted to forget.

At first, I didn’t miss a single day. Whether it was starting my first class or playing Cards Against Humanity with my hallmates, I was sure to record all the little moments of my first semester. Every so often, I would look back through the videos I’d taken and marvel at what had changed. A guy who appeared in the first video was now my best friend. That chair in the back of the library was now my favorite study spot. Even before I had many to watch, I was gaining a sense of my own personal progress.

After my first semester, became less consistent. The videos became a weekly occurrence, then monthly and then seldom. Some days, I forgot to record. Other times, when I encountered something I didn’t care to remember, like a failed relationship or a depressive episode, my finger was less likely to press record. At first, I didn’t see an issue with choosing to omit these moments for the journal, but before long, I realized that skipping one day was a slippery slope. Two weeks ago, when I was running the last mile of the Boston Marathon, I smiled to myself and thought this would be a rousing addition to the video journal. Then I realized: What video journal?

When you make something habitual, you run the risk of forgetting why you do it. For this reason, I started to grow tired of the videos, especially when I didn’t like what I was seeing. I came to view them as a chore that constantly reminded me of what was going wrong in my life. What I realized during the race, though, was that they were giving me a chance to both experience something and codify it as memory. Where other daily routines provide no indication of what comes before or after them, a video journal cements each moment as part of a whole, and that’s why it’s so critical to document each day.

When I started skipping videos when I had a bad day, I was left with little reason to believe the next would be worth recording either. In selectively omitting the bad from the journal, I inadvertently omitted the good. I was afraid the things I didn’t want to remember would define me. But in choosing to hide them, the journal felt less like a record of my life than a string of pleasant events that didn’t reflect reality. The journal was most effective when it captured the natural highs and lows I experienced, and this helped me realize I needed to start it again — this time, without missing a day.

From completing three marathons to learning to dance blues and write code, I accomplished a lot this year, and I failed to document any of it. That was a mistake. Whatever happens in my future, whether it’s bumbling first dates, failed chemistry tests or the worst of bad hair days, I want to be a part of it and remember it as something I lived. If I don’t, I’m sure to miss all the good that happens at the same time. That’s why I’ve resolved to start again — taking a candid look at the world, one second at a time.