The Happiness Project Case Files, pt. 1

“I’ve been journaling since I was 15.  It’s a wonder that I’ve managed to be a successful human being considering how pathetic I appeared in many of my daily musings.”  –Oprah, in Oprah Magazine April 2011

I caved.  I was standing in line at the grocery store waiting to check out and glancing over the magazines they strategically place right near the counter when I read the cover for Oprah’s newest issue.  In the magazine, she shows you pages of her journals from 1970-1985.  I had to read it.  And wouldn’t you know, most every page had to do with some boy.  She’s been keeping a journal since she was 15, and I’ve been journaling since I was 13.  I’m sure a fair amount of my “daily musings” were about boys, in fact I’m positive they were.  But, I also changed the purpose of my journaling just like Oprah did.  At some point in her life, she began to use her journal as a place for gratitude and blessings in her life rather than recounting all the bad stuff.  By allowing herself that positive space she allowed good things to enter her life.  I’m not going to tell you it’s easy.  It isn’t.  Despite all the advice I get from Oprah, or from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, which I read last year and which prompted the beginning of this wayward blog, I by no means have it all figured out.  But, I’m getting there.

I’ve also been reading the book Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine.  It’s a young adult novel about a 10 year old girl with Asperger’s Syndrome, a disorder that makes it difficult to understand and express emotion.  Despite her disorder, I find Caitlin extremely delightful as she practices naming emotions on the playground, making friends, and celebrating the things she’s good at like finesse.  Here’s an excerpt that made me laugh, because I know exactly how she feels.  The scene is Caitlin is in the school office talking to her counselor on the phone.

She says I have to be patient and keep trying.  Sometimes things don’t work the first time but then eventually they do.

Like finesse?


And making friends?


Even for me?

Absolutely.  I have confidence in you.  You just have to keep trying.

Josh is walking into the principal’s office when I get off the phone.

He turns his head to me and whispers, Loser.

I know, I tell him, but I’m going to keep trying.

To put it in Caitlin’s terms.  “I Get It.”  I know how she feels.  Because I feel that way too.  What does Oprah and a 10 year old with Asperger’s have to do with your blog, Jess, you ask?  I guess they represent where my head is at in this writing journey of mine.  I know I’ve come a long way, but I have to keep trying.

Case in point, an excerpt from my April 1, 2000 journal ( I was in 8th grade):

In the future I want…

  • to be a famous, or at least published authoress
  • to travel all over the world
  • to happily marry a wonderful, handsome, God-loving man
  • to some distant day have a baby girl and a baby boy
  • to maybe direct or write or act in a good movie
  • to meet my penpal, Andrea
  • to be rid of this dreadful retainer!

Lylas (love you like a sister),


What do you think?  What parts of your writing journey do you have to keep working at?  What about your happiness journey?  Do you have goals from childhood you’re still working on?  Ever pull out your old journals and try to name the emotions in them?  lol.

19 responses

  1. I wish I’d journaled when I was younger. I took a stab at it here and there but nothing stuck. I imagine if I had, it would be chock full of musings on girls, anyway. And the meaning of life.

    But mostly girls.

    So, did you ever meet Andrea?

    1. Nope, I’ve never met Andrea, but we stopped writing in college, too busy, and she studied abroad several times. We’re friends on facebook though, so that’s gotta count for something, right, right, right???

      1. Sure, it counts for something. But barely! 😉

      2. I’m working on #2 right now. Next stop Canada!

  2. OMG, I think you were probably born the year I graduated college. That’s scary. The possible places we could have been roommates are now significantly reduced. In fact, I can think of only one. Have you been to jail? LOL.

    I recently read my old journals and some of my entries are positively scary. I took pathetic to a new low. 😉

    These days I don’t keep the same kind of journal. Rather, I track my exercise, nutrition, and related moods in one notebook (that would be to keep in check the enemy that is perimenopause 😉 ). I also keep another journal where I write one thing that was memorable that day. I try to keep it positive, but sometimes I’ll allow myself a heartache or two in ink.

    Great post, Jess.

    1. Ok, first, I have never been to jail except on a tour, which is a lousy excuse of a field trip I must say. And I am pro-diversity, so despite the age difference I will continue to call you Madge, my roommate from a parallel world, so just deal with it.

      Second, had I been able to figure out how to make the scanner work, my intention was to show you all just how pathetic my old journal entries were. Alas, technology and I did not did not get along, nor compromise, we just parted ways.

      Lastly, I love that you “allow yourself a heartache or two in ink.” Sometimes those moments teach us and help us to grow, we can see how our relationships evolve. I think that’s beautiful.

      1. I went on that same field trip…in elementary school. They locked us in a dingy cell. Scared the heck out of me.

  3. Mrs Dim and I have a drawer full of old diaries. Hers rock, but mine are an embarrassment I wish I could destroy. I think I’ve achieved more in writing than I ever thought I would, but I just didn’t know I was going to be a playwright and not a novellist. I actually thought I was going to be a stuntman most of my childhood. Sadly, my school careers adviser couldn’t help me with that one. Or working in TV. She gave me the brilliant advice of “Going and looking in the library”. I hope she helped SOMEONE that day….

    1. Well, perhaps your adviser and my adviser studied together. Have you read this post of mine? I think you will empathize.

      P.S. Can I be like an understudy stuntwoman in your play when it’s produced? I am small, but so far unbreakable and naturally awkward. Professional references upon request. 😀

  4. I didn’t journal as a kid, and I still don’t, except on my blog. I do have some old pieces of writing from elementary and high school though, which are fun to read!

    Given your age, I am thoroughly impressed at your writing talent and your mature outlook on life…you are miles ahead of many of your peers!


    1. Oh my, thanks I needed that. I can overthink things and I have to remind myself I’m allowed to get messy! Hmm, sounds like a good blog post…

  5. Post of the day for using “Lylas” in context. A true time machine moment!

    1. Why thank you Queen of Fordeville! You are too magnanimous. Lylas, Jess.

  6. Interesting post. I think journals (which I’ve kept since I was 7) are a place to record, as Dickens says, “the best of times and the worst of times.” It’s a time when everything else stops and we can just reflect. Good luck with your own journal!

    1. Wouldn’t that be a fun day, looking at all your childhood journals! I bet you’d have some great ideas for stories in there!

  7. Jess, I’m more than twice your age and I certainly don’t have most of it figured out either. But I think that cover headline from Oprah’s magazine is a big part of it: “How to Inspire the Best in You.” We need to stop comparing ourselves to others, and just work on being the best person we can be.

    This post really made me think. Thank you.

    1. Oh, I agree with you. We can only focus on improving ourselves. I guess that’s why I like having a journal so much. It’s there in black and white (I have a thing about ink color in my journal) every day for me to know exactly what I need help with and what things make me happy. Lately, blogging has been making the top 5 things to be grateful for!! Or rather, the bloggers I’ve met along the way! 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  8. Started journaling when I was 11. Then, I stopped. I still do it from time to time but it’s been years since I’ve tried. Poems are a much more better way of expressing my emotion. It’s pathetic how I gush about some boy who caught my eye. Then, there’s the anger and the sadness, too.

    1. Oooh, I love that you write poetry. One year all I kept was a poetry journal, it’s filled with poems, but most of them are bad. I read too much Sylvia Plath. I like to look through that one through. It encompasses all my dreams of writing flowing through my veins and coming out on the page.

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