Five years ago, someone gifted me a “five year” journal, which I am just about to finish. Each day poses a short question, and gives you a very small space to respond, no more than a sentence. Every year you answer this same question on the same day, and then you can look back to see your personal growth, I guess, or in my case, you can see that you basically give the same answers over and over every year.
That’s not entirely true. There are a few exceptions. And the overall lack of change in my responses could be due to various factors:
- My age. I’m already set in my ways.
- I have already achieved maximum growth and achievement. No further growth is possible or desired.
- These prompts are pretty limited in terms of how soul-searching they are.
- The depths of my personal growth cannot be expressed in human language. Cliches are all I’ve got.
Here’s an example of a prompt that yielded the same answer, more or less, for all five years:
“What’s your biggest expense right now?
2018. The mortgage on the house.
2019. Monthly mortgage.
2020. About to be the double bathroom remodel. No wait, it’s the mortgage.
2021. The mortgage.
2022. The mortgage.
Here was another one, in which my answers changed, but are still kind of similar in quality. I’m not sure any of these reveal personal growth. The prompt was “What is your most recent act of charity?”
2018. Running to Fry’s for my daughter who was too tired, hungry, stressed and belligerent to go herself.
2019. Pokemon Go raids for things I didn’t want. Trying to cry in pain quietly so I didn’t wake up my husband (while recovering from brain surgery).
2020. Not firing any of our employees for incompetence. Not laying them off even though we were really overstaffed.
2021. Giving two bags of charity clothes to some stranger in the ward who literally never said one word to me after. Helping my daughter sort through her closet for college.
2022. Going up to visit my sister who is recovering from surgery. Helping clean her place.
In short, my charity acts (or at least the daily ones) are mostly within my own family, which is not exactly curing cancer or ending world hunger. Here’s a prompt where my answers changed over time, but were kind of a progression. The prompt was “What do you like to talk about?”
2018. Spooky and weird stories and historical facts.
2019. The state of health care, feminism, travel.
2020. Politics. Jane Austen. The latest norm-breaking scandal.
2021. Podcasts. Sociology. Travel. Jane Austen.
2022. Social media trends.
There was recently a church survey people were talking about in which respondents were asked if they thought they would leave the Church in the next five years, which is maybe a hard prediction to make. I know quite a few people who left during the pandemic, and they were more in than I was five years earlier. The one thing they had in common is that they were the people I most admired at Church, the ones who weren’t acting like the ward police, the ones who were welcoming and funny and supportive of LGBTQ people, and open-minded in general. The ones who might have politically to the left, but never talked about politics at Church (that’s probably mostly the same people). They were in leadership roles and teaching roles. But if they had completed these question prompts, their answers might, like mine, look pretty much the same from year to year.
Let’s end by asking each of you what your answer to some of these prompts might be, and whether you think your answer has changed over the last five years or not:
- If you had to move to a new city, where would you move?
- Write the first sentence of your autobiography. 
- What’s your favorite question to ask people?
- What was the last TV show you watched?
- How are you? Write your answer in the form of a rhyming couplet? 
 2018. From the very beginning, I knew I didn’t see things the same way everyone else did. 2019. If there was one thing I couldn’t stand, it was listing things I found intolerable. 2020. Not much happened. 2021. Her first mistake was everything. 2022. From a young age, she knew was destined for greatness; she was wrong.
 2018. Rhyming couplets are dumb/I wish the weekend would come. 2019. I’m living in the present not the past/Living like every day could be my last. 2020. Wishing I could travel to places far and wide/But mostly wearing a mask and not going inside. 2021. Feeling nostalgic in my empty nest./Thanks to menopause, I’m not at my best. 2022. Cooking, biking, puzzles and TV/Business waning due to the economy.