What I Learned From 2 Years of Bullet Journalling

I started my first bullet journal in the leap year of 2016 on February 29. I can’t remember why I started, but I had seen a few spreads online. In the beginning of 2016, I was still in university. The bullet journal looked like a great way for me to help organise my schooling and personal life. So over the last 2 years (and a bit!), I’ve learned a lot. I’d like to share this wisdom to anyone interested in starting a bullet journal!

Bullet journal changed constantly.

My bullet journal evolved from week to week and month to month. Not every layout I used for the week was useful for the next week. Though I’ve gotten into a bit of a pattern with my monthly spreads, there are still lots of differences each week and each month.

Notebook was key.

I started out my bullet journalling in a spiral-bound ruled notebook. The brand was one I loved using for taking notes in classes, as well as notes for my writing, so I had lots of them available to me! But I quickly found that the notebook limited the way I wanted to plan. The dotted notebooks were more appealing to me, both because of how much space was available and the range of designing I could do on the page.

Planning “style” relied on lifestyle.

The beginning of 2016 was one period of my life. I was in school and had a very busy schedule due to my semester. Fast forward to the fall of 2016, and my life changed again. 2017 was another entirely different year! The summers also had different planning styles compared to when I was in school, and the past year when I left school. I couldn’t use the same planning and layouts that I did for every point in my life.

Separate bullet journals.

For 2018, I moved my daily and time-sensitive planning into a Leuchtturm and kept my collections in my 2017 bullet journal. Unlike the original system by Ryder, I much prefer having an agenda separate from my project planner.


Tips for people starting a bullet journal

I’ve been planning using a bullet journal system for over 2 years now, without much break. I think the longest time I took away from my planner was maybe a month? A few weeks? My planner is vital to my lifestyle, especially my mental health. So I have some tips for beginners, whether they’ve been planning for a few months, or who are just starting a bullet journal!

Be picky about the notebook you use.

This will be a bit of trial and error, but also check out reviews for notebooks! I’ve tried 3 types of dotted notebooks: two from Productive Luddite’s Everyday Carry line (first impressions review and a follow-up review on the quality), a Scribbles That Matter notebook, and a Leuchtturm1917. My favourite so far is Scribbles That Matter, though I’m currently in a Leuchtturm. There are a few things I would advise you look into when picking a notebook:

  • ghosting (ink showing through the page)—consider the weight of the paper in “lb” or “gsm”;
  • bleeding (how easily ink smudges)—look at reviews online;
  • page style (dot grid, lined grid, blank, ruled); and
  • binding (perfect, spiral, whether it lies flat or not).
Be picky about what you design.

The layouts, spreads, collections, and designs you make are up to you. Rather than adding or copying everything suggested online, think about what you need. This will also be a bit of trial and error, since it’s hard to know what you use regularly until you start using it. But starting a bullet journal should be simple, rather than overflowing. Your bullet journal doesn’t need all the suggestions in order to be a bujo! So be picky about where you invest your time and ink.

Don’t force a layout that you aren’t using or enjoying.

Once you start trying designs, you’ll find ones that flow well and ones that don’t. Rather than forcing the layouts that don’t flow, review what isn’t working. For example… Is there not enough space to include all your tasks? Do you find yourself overloading your modules and putting too much on your plate? The layout size may not be right. losing sight of your goals and habits? A dutch door design may help by keeping a visual from day to day.

Try new things!

I know I said to not be picky and to also not force things, but the only way you’ll grow is to try different things. You can look up inspiration online, or doodle some plans for yourself. I like to do both. I have a Pinterest board for bullet journal inspiration! But I also doodle my own layout ideas. Additionally, you should try different supplies. I’ve used a variety of pens through my bujo time, as well as loads of washi tape and markers. You don’t need fancy or expensive pens, and you only need a few embellishments. They go a long way.


For the next year, I will use the bullet journal system. It’s served me incredibly well. And since there’s a 90% chance I’ll be returning to school this fall, it’ll be great to stay on top of my studies. If you’ve hesitated starting a bullet journal, I highly encourage you try!

Life After University

In June 2017, I officially graduated from the University of Windsor and received my Bachelor of Arts! The degree is still sitting in the envelope, unframed, and resting under my bed because I have yet to go and get it framed. Just before I got my degree, I left Windsor (in May 2017) and moved back in with my dad. Life after university has been new and different.

But it’s been one hell of a year. Let’s review.

In the summer of 2017, I ended a longterm relationship. I also started medication after self-assessing that I have bipolar—which I do! The fall of 2017 saw me take driving lessons as well as attend a mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy program. Winter was rough. But then, in February of 2018, I got my G2 licence, which meant I could drive without a co-driver. Freedom!

This has been the first full year—12 months—that I haven’t been invested on school. Summer break, a few months, didn’t count. I always looked ahead to the next semester. I don’t just mean university, either. Since I started attending educational institutions, I haven’t been out of them for more than three months. Until now.

Life after university: what’s next?

First and foremost, I’ll continue offering editing and design services. I love working with writers so much that I can’t see myself quitting the freelancer gig for a while. But I still don’t know what I’m doing with my life.

I thought I would figure out a path for myself in university. I thought that, if I took lots of different classes in what interested me, I’d find something that would connect. My degree had a lot of variety in it. Since I studied Spanish language, linguistics and second language learning, English literature, and creative writing, there were many careers I could go into. But none of them seemed to pull me in.

All through university, I kept telling myself and my friends, “I should have gone to art school.” So I’ve applied to an 8-month art program at a college. I hope I get in, but that means even more life changes. Moving again, not having a house to fall back on since my dad is moving too, and embarking on a separate industry.

Who would have thought that life after university meant considering more post-secondary school? School that wasn’t a graduate degree. I want to go to college! It’s what I should have done from the start! I kind of regret my bachelor’s degree, but I know it was still very valuable. Both the experiences and the credential are beneficial to me. But it isn’t what I thought I would do after high school.

It’s weird to not be in school, considering I’ve grown up in school all through my developmental years. Isn’t that ridiculous to think about? From around the age of 4 until 18, and further, I’ve been structured into a school system of some form. I’m scared as hell. It’s common for people my age to not know what their purpose is. It’s also common to take a while to figure out my “place” in life. I’m worried I’ll never figure it out, and that I’ll always be looking for the next thing. So I don’t know what’s next, aside from the possibility—and desire—to return to school once more.

Making Reading Private and Personal

A bookshelf that is not my "to be read" shelf.

At the start of this year, I was in a bit of a reading slump. I didn’t have much interest in any of the books I was looking forward to reading, so I switched to different books and solved my slump. But since then, I haven’t been posting what I’ve been reading (aside from tweeting about two new releases!). I do have a Goodreads account, and I have taken the time to post ratings and reviews after I finished reading a book. I also updated my status while reading, as a means of trying to make myself accountable and read a certain number of books per month.

But I’m not doing that anymore.

A few months ago, I made the decision to keep my “to be read” shelf private. I didn’t want to update on Goodreads anymore, or tweet every time I started and finished a book. This came while I was reading a collection of short stories, which I didn’t love or hate. I didn’t want to review and rate the book. Then I realised I didn’t want to do that with the next book I planned to read.

Having a TBR shelf so public, with the intention of rating and reviewing, put too much pressure on me. I felt like I needed to read the books for the purpose of reviewing them, rather than just reading! Reading was no longer a leisure activity. I started getting overly critical and nit-picky with books. It was exhausting and felt like I was studying my English degree again.

It also felt needlessly competitive, sort of? Like I needed to read faster, read more books, rate books as soon as possible, and review books with a critical essay. Reading wasn’t fun anymore when I felt like people were watching my opinion of the book. Sometimes I read books for the fun of it, and I don’t have a lot to say about them. Some books are just books. I don’t need to critique them all, and I know that, but that was the attitude I had for displaying books I was reading or planning to read. I just wanted to read!

Books can become a personal thing, whether you’re writing or reading them. So keeping the books private and to myself was a step toward that again. I don’t want to read books in order to discuss how good or bad they are. Maybe that’s why I’m not a book blogger or YouTuber—those folks do a lot of work with reviewing books! I’ve thought about adding book reviews to my blog (I posted a few way back in the day), but I’ve decided I don’t want to.

Now, with my TBR just the shelf by my bed or the downloads in my Kindle app or the private shelf in my local library account, I feel better. Reading is personal again. I can read as slowly as I naturally do. My opinions are kept to myself and I can read what I want, rather than what I think I should be reading. (*cough* like new releases that I can’t afford and my library doesn’t get for months after the pub date.)

I’ve returned to the bliss of reading quietly by myself, like I did as a kid. 🙂

via GIPHY

Why Body Positivity Makes Me Uncomfortable

4 Reasons Why Body Positivity Makes Me Uncomfortable

Body positivity started as a reaction to fatphobic diet and weight loss industry. These days, on Instagram and online magazines, “body positive” is a celebration of self-love and fatness. That’s a good thing! I’m all for representation, respect, and self-love for people! But body positivity makes me uncomfortable. There are aspects to the movement, as it currently swings, that make me feel the same way I do from diet culture, fat shaming, and bigoted society: unworthy.

For a time on Instagram, I followed one of the largest body positivity accounts in an aim to expose myself to the movement. This was intended to challenge how I’ve been socialised to value thinness, whiteness, and privilege. But as time went on, and the more I saw the posts, the more uncomfortable I became. The pictures of these (cis) women didn’t bother me. Their bodies didn’t bother me. (Except for the #glitterstripes, which legitimately triggered self-harm urges because of how the lines reminded me of abstract or fresh scars.) But the captions did. The way they talked about their bodies, and other bodies, made me feel like shit about me and my body.

No matter how much the movement intends to be all-inclusive, its origins did not start as a revolution for total body acceptance for everybody. The current language and focuses are not all-inclusive. Fat acceptance is important, but it’s also important to notice where that acceptance is limited. There are four patterns to the current body positive movement that cause discomfort for me.

1. The focus on cis women.

As inclusive as body positivity tries to be, it’s still focused on cis women. The movement came out of fat acceptance for cis women, so of course the focus is still on that demographic. There are body positive cis men out there. Articles and websites exist for other genders. But the movement still focuses on fat cis women feeling positive about their bodies.

As a woman who is not cis, I feel very much excluded. The movement did not arise for my benefit or for my identity. (See also: feminism for white women, and womanism for black women.) The fat acceptance and origins for body positivity did not come from intersectional understanding and support for fat experiences for everyone. My fatness and fat experience are very, very different from those of a cis woman.

2. The equalisation of “fat” with “feminine.”

Goddess. Tiger stripes earned from carrying babies. Glitter on stretch marks. The strength of a body to breastfeed. Mother Nature. The symbols and language used to discuss fat cis women in the body positive movement all relate back to femininity. Body positivity is gendered, as it is a reaction to a gendered market of dieting culture. It feels difficult to separate #bodyposi from femininity. And as someone who oscillates between feminine, masculine, and neutrois, I can’t feel comfortable in a movement that genders its empowerment. I know it wasn’t intended to be a feminine-only revolution. But that’s how it is, for the most part. Diet culture and fat shaming are largely misogynistic structures, after all, and that’s what body positivity reacts to.

3. The misconception that eating disorders are only caused by diet industry.

Eating disorders are multifaceted mental illnesses that affect millions of people. Eating disorders are not caused by one singular aspect of society. Diet culture and misogyny play a huge role in eating disorders—especially for cis women. But eating disorders for cis men? Consider toxic masculinity. Eating disorders for transgender people? Consider their gender dysphoria. Because eating disorders are mental illnesses, more is at play than just food culture. Blanket statements about how dieting causes eating disorders, or diet culture causes eating disorders, are a disservice to people who have eating disorders.

My eating disorder doesn’t come from the market and industry telling me I need to be a thin woman. My eating disorder comes from cissexist society telling me that I need to be a woman. It also comes from my bipolar disorder. I can treat my eating disorder by acknowledging and treating my comorbid mental illness (bipolar) and my gender dysphoria. I can’t treat my eating disorder by embracing fat acceptance and body positivity for myself. Doing so would gloss over the incredibly huge struggles I have with my identity. My self-hatred, after all, doesn’t hinge on my fatness. It hinges on so many other factors.

4. The policing, judgement, and values imposed on my body.

The pursuits of happiness, joy, or positivity currently invade society. If we’re unhappy, that’s seen as a problem. If we’re feeling kinda neutral or whatever, that’s seen as an opportunity to bring in positivity. Feelings are fleeting. They should be honoured as temporary experiences that deserve space and time to process. Feelings and emotions are not a state of mind—including positivity. It’s just another way of uplifting optimism and valuing that perspective more highly than everything else.

The title of the movement is “body positive”—it wants me to be positive about my body. But I can feel however I want about my body. I can hate it. I can want to change it. When I can look at myself in the mirror and think, “Eh, I don’t think I’m sexy,” I’m allowed to have that thought. I can also look at myself and feel completely apathetic about what I see.

Body positivity wants you to feel a certain way about your body, but only under the movement’s conditions. It cares more about where your positivity comes from. “Good” positivity comes from self-love and rejecting societal norms. “Bad” positivity comes from fitting in with society and being seen a certain way by others. But for trans folks who want to be seen as the gender they present? They’re trying to fit into a societal norm. (That societal norm is the whole concept of “gender”, by the way.) I want to lose weight. I want to look a certain way, too. Body positivity doesn’t allow me to want those things, let alone do them, unless they’re for the movement’s reasons.

Body positivity values people with a specific attitude on their corporeal self. But only when that attitude originates from the movement’s perspective of what is “good” or positive. That’s a little fucked up to me.

Do I fit in body positivity’s standards?

The fact that I don’t like my body, sometimes and in some places and on some days, does not mean that I’m a lesser human. If I’m negative about my body, am I a bad person to #bodyposi?

If I want to lose weight in order to have a certain lifestyle, does that mean I’m being fatphobic? I currently cannot exercise in a way that makes me happy, and it is directly because of my fatness. Simply put, my fatness hinders how positive I feel about my body. I will be hurting myself if I try to go jogging. My knees can’t carry the weight and impact. So am I bad for wanting to lose weight? Am I contributing to negative body and food culture by doing things to help me lose weight? Those things are also making me happy on their own, regardless of weight loss. If I wanted to place in competitions for marathons or sporting events, I’d have to change my body for that lifestyle goal. The consensus is that weight loss and lifestyle changes go hand in hand, with lifestyle changes coming first. But people will get into a hullaballoo if I say that I need to lose weight to take up a certain lifestyle.

They will also get concerned when I speak negatively about my body, like when I express thoughts that come from my gender dysphoria. Some days I don’t like my eyebrows and eyelashes. That has nothing to do with my fatness—but it has everything to do with gender dysphoria, gender expression, and one aspect of my body. I’ve recently started to watch and read trans activists as they go through transition and surgeries. They reach body peace by means of changing their body. The root of their self-hatred or discomfort does not come from fatness—it comes from dysphoria.

When it comes to being body positive, I don’t think I’ll ever get there. And I think that’s okay. It feels like a box I won’t be able to fit into. Body positivity feels like another standard I have to meet perfectly in order to be valuable. I don’t think I’ll ever love my body. I don’t think I’ll ever be happy with my existence. Instead, I choose to value certain aspects of and attitudes toward my body. I choose how to exercise, what to eat, and where I place worth. There’s no point forcing myself to ascribe to something that makes me so uncomfortable just by its name.

I am more than my body. But my body is mine, and nobody can decide what is best for it—including the body positive movement.

What is body positivity?

The links below, mostly opinion pieces, discuss the movement, its origins, how it is practiced, and the sham trend of policing bodies through body positivity.

The Body Positive – This website and organisation was founded in 1996 in the realm of eating disorder recovery. See their FAQ for more information on what “body positive” means to them and how they define it.

3 Reasons Why You Can’t Have Body Positivity Without Feminism (Melissa A. Fabello on Everyday Feminism, 2017) – This article discusses how body positivity is linked to feminism, women’s issues, patriarchy, socioeconomics, race, and politics.

Here’s Why the Definition of Body Positivity Isn’t Up for Debate (Kaila Prins on Everyday Feminism, 2017) – This article discusses the incorrect usage of the term for non-bodyposi aims.

Weighting to Be Seen: Being Fat, Black, and Invisible in Body Positivity (Sonya Renee on Everyday Feminism, 2015) – This article discusses blackness and body positivity in media attention of the movement.

15 Definitions of Body Positivity Straight From Influencers & Activists (Bustle, 2016) – The title says it all! Quotes from notable activists and influential people in the movement, and how they define the movement.

Is the Body-Positivity Movement Going Too Far? (Amber Petty on Greatist, 2018) – This article discusses some of the extremes, a few of which I mentioned, that exist in the body positive space.

Body Positivity Is a Scam (Amanda Mull on Racked, 2018) – This article overviews how capitalism hijacks “body positivity” for their means, such as Dove’s advertising campaigns, and ignores core issues of widespread body negativity for women, fat people, black people, and trans people.

Website Housekeeping: Privacy Policy

This is just a quick post to inform my readers that I’ve updated my website to include a plain English privacy policy, striving to keep in line with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDRP).

Considering I’m a small, personal blog and professional website, there isn’t much data I collect from visitors. However, there is some data collected from all visitors, and additional information collected from users who comment on my blog posts.

The privacy policy aims to make it explicitly clear what data is collected, where it is shared, and who is collecting it. I run this site using WordPress on a self-hosted domain, so I am very much in control of what data collection services are implemented on the site via plug-ins, third party programs, and back-end user access. I’m confident that my methods, along with those of the services I use, keep your personal data confidential and secure. (That is, what minimal personal data is collected!)

You are able to read the privacy policy here at any time, as it is linked on every page at the bottom of my website.

At the bottom of the website is also a notification, on every page, to my visitors regarding the implicit and explicit consent given by visiting and interacting with this website. Implicit consent is the consent you give to my website when you visit it, as data is instantly shared upon loading my website. Explicit consent requires your confirmation that the data is being voluntarily given to the website, such as comments and contact forms. Comments have an additional notification in the form regarding data collection.

I’m a tiny website and I don’t need much visitor data in order to run. But I do take your confidentiality, personal data, and safety seriously.

May Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

May Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

I know what you’re thinking. “Coryl, another bullet journal blog post?” Yes. This time I’m sharing my monthly bullet journal spreads for May. I shared the weekly spreads in my post about ugly layouts, so this will be a short post! Also, look! Pretty pictures!

My planner is one of the core elements of my life. It helps me manage my work, writing, mental health, and physical wellbeing. I love sharing it and talking about how it affects each area of my life. My monthly bullet journal spreads for May ended up being prettier than my weekly ones. I found myself using the month layouts more than my failed weekly layouts.

May Monthly Bullet Journal Spreads

I tried to bring in more artistic and drawn elements, like what I did in April. But something was off. I didn’t doodle and colour as much as I thought I would. Even the splash page gemstone border stayed bland and uncoloured. I was trying so hard with the weekly layouts that I didn’t have the energy to put in effort for the monthly spreads.

My two-page mental health tracker is still the focal point of all my monthly planning. Since I have a chronic illness (hey bipolar!), seeing patterns in my health is more important than tracking habits. My overall wellbeing is more important than whether I washed my hair that day, or did my whole routine. Some aspects of my routine are affected by my mental illness and its symptoms. But I’d rather record my symptoms than the symptoms of the symptoms. Neglecting my hygiene is a symptom of my mental illness, for example, but it’s a sign of low energy and motivation. I’d rather track the broad symptoms that affect my life than the way my life is affected.

I tried to bring in mini-trackers for good habits and self-care, though! My calendar spreads are always a great place for me to experiment. So these monthly bullet journal spreads are a whole new thing for me. I tracked the weather, since I was aiming to be outside more. I didn’t have as large a section for my calendar and agenda as I did in April. That ended up being a bad decision. I was losing track of time-and-date-sensitive plans each week from the poorly planned weekly spreads! I’m glad I was able to review and be mindful of what wasn’t working, so I can plan better for June.

I didn’t showcase my goal spread for this month. That’s something I wanted to keep completely private. I’ll blur out information I don’t want to share, if it’s a few lines; but my goals for May aren’t something I want to share at all. I would have ended up posting a blurry notebook page!

These monthly bullet journal spreads aren’t the best. But that’s okay. June will be better, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be posting about my June spreads at the end of the month, so stay tuned for those pictures and reflection! I think they’ll be an improvement.


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