The five-year book is seriously one of the best purchases I've ever made.

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5-year-journal
Credit: Amazon

Even though I'm a writer, I've never really gotten into journaling. Over the years, I've started and stopped writing in diaries more times than I can count, but the idea of chronicling my thoughts every day always felt more exhausting than cathartic, so each bout never lasted that long. However, I've always wanted to have some evidence of what my past self thought/cared about/hated/etc., which is why, a few years back, I decided to buy the Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal from Amazon. The book contains 365 questions, one for each day—and five slots on each page, so you can compare your answers from one year to the next. Honestly, it's one of the best purchases I've ever made.

The questions in the journal vary from the serious ("Who are the most important people in your life?") to the silly ("What are you a geek about?") to the mundane ("What time did you go to bed last night?"). Some require real thought to answer; others can be jotted down in two seconds. But no matter the question, it's always incredibly fascinating to see how my current self's answers compare to the answers from the Rachel of 2020, 2019, 2018, and so on. Reading through each day, I get a clear, concise view of all the changes that have occurred in my life over the past several years, from the problems that bothered me (unemployment one year, a pandemic the next) to the activities I adored (bar-hopping in my youth, brunch and a movie after my mid-20s). I can see all the ways I've matured as I've gotten older, and it's satisfying to see that growth laid out on paper.

Q&A a Day: 5-Year Journal Diary
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The journal is also just a perfect time capsule of the world at large. Some of the questions are less focused on the self, and more on society—what celebrities, trends, and political movements were popular at a certain moment. It's a ton of fun to revisit songs I've forgotten about now but was obsessed with four years ago, or get a good cringe out of a description of an outfit that my 2017 self that I thought was the height of fashion. Even when the questions are sad ("what news story made you mad today?"), it's still so interesting to get a glimpse at how the world has changed over time, for better and for worse.

I'm nearing the end of the journal, with only a few months left to go (I started it in July 2017), but I'm definitely going to buy another one when I reach the final page. Writing down my answers each night takes barely any time, but the payoff is huge. It's already so exciting to have nearly five years of my life captured in a book—I can't wait to one day be able to flip through each journal and see how my 23-year-old self's answer to a question compares to my 33- or 43-year-old self's.