Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is a Russian playwright and short story writer, whose short fictions are considered to be among the greatest in the world. In his play,
By the sea stands a green oak tree
A golden chain strung round it
The three sisters, including Masha, dream of their utopia, the sea with a green oak tree that has a golden chain strung round it. However, most people in Russia are not likely to see the blue sea since it is on a vast continent. Similarly, it is almost impossible to see a green oak tree with a golden chain in the real world. Although they are likely to fail to live in a utopia, in fact, there exist a few things that resemble their ideal world. In their village, there is a river instead of the sea. Furthermore, there is a maple tree instead of an oak in the garden. Though they do not perfectly correspond to their ideal, the river and the maple tree are something that can be considered somewhat fine. The reason why the value of the river and the maple tree is depreciated by three sisters is that they have a high standard of an ideal world. The three sisters identify their utopia with Moscow and become eager to go there. Vershinin, an artillery officer who falls in love with Masha, says that the three sisters won’t be happy even if they go to Moscow. He already knew that the problem was their attitude towards their reality.
Chekhov wanted readers to face their reality. Reality doesn’t always look romantic or dramatic. Rather, it seems to be filled with trivial matters at first blush. Chekhov insisted that reality is no different from our everyday life. According to him, it is our everyday life that life is truly based on. In this context, he avoided dealing with dramatic events, such as a murder in the play. Instead, he tried to fill the play with dialogues that often happen in our everyday lives, so that he could describe our lives as they are. Moreover, he implied that the characters in the story get a feeling of happiness because of small things. These small things include flowers in bloom, soft beams of sunshine, and a relaxing evening with family that are unconnected to dramatic events. To put it briefly, he believed that “life” is a daily life in itself, rather than a drama. He always put emphasis on this aesthetic quality of daily things when he wrote.
When I was first introduced to his short stories, I realized that his view of daily life looked very similar to mine. It seemed to me that he tried to appreciate the value of his everyday life to bring happiness to his mind, which is the method I use to be happy as well. That is why I decided to talk about Chekhov before I get to the point. This article is about my daily writing. Writing has always helped me to discover messages that are poorly hidden by my daily life. As writing always reveals the hidden messages of my life, this article about my habit of writing might seem somewhat private. Although I feel a bit awkward about it, now I’m going to tell you my story, just in case there is someone who may get a little help from this article.
Dear diary, I had a magical day!
Even though I never stick to anything for long, there is one thing that I haven’t quit for several years. I’ve been keeping a diary without skipping a day since 2010. I decided to begin my diary right after one thought suddenly occurred to me. The thought was about how fast time flies. Once I realized the flow of time, which is so fast, I became concerned that someday I might lose track of various memories, whether good or bad. Frankly, bad memories did not really matter to me. It was the beautiful, precious memories that I wanted to keep by my side. What terrified me was that the whole memories of happiness might just be gone before I knew it. I was eager to hold those memories as long as possible and recall them whenever I wanted to. For this reason, I bought a new notebook and grabbed a pen.
There are a few moments when I feel especially grateful for my diary. When I think about one particular day and write about it, I see the writing give shape to the feelings and thoughts that I had on that day. That is, as I try to express the day in written words, only then can I understand why I behaved in a particular way or had specific feelings and thoughts. Sometimes it feels like she kindly explains who I am because I can figure out what kind of person I am from reading the diary. Another moment that I want to show appreciation for her is much more important. The diary works like a gatekeeper, protecting memories of happy moments from running away. A few weeks ago, I went on a trip to Mokpo with my cousin and we met a middle-aged man who lives there. After listening to me and my cousin talking about our plan for rest of the trip, he said, “Try to make as many good memories as possible. It is said that people feed on memories of better days when they get old.” I leave such memories to the diary so that I can feed on them when I become an old lady. How can I not feel grateful to her who always protects my memories of happiness safely?
There are always good days and bad days. I believe that such days that are piled up one by one neatly in the diary comprise my identity. Sometimes, I feel unsure and unfamiliar with myself. Whenever I become depressed due to such feelings and lose confidence to go forward, I simply open the diary. As I read the writings about the past, it strikes me that ‘this too shall pass’, as usual. I have always given various meanings to almost every day by keeping a diary. This habit has helped me to have a broader view of the world around me. Furthermore, it has given me courage so that I could head for the future again. Thinking that this moment would go down in my diary and become the past, I feel impatient and busy in a pleasant way.
Tell me what to do, Mr. Planner.
I began to use a planner when I was a sophomore in high school. The classroom teacher I met at that time, Mrs. Jeon, is the teacher whom I respect and love the most among those that Ihave met until now. She always placed an emphasis on reviewing and planning when she guided her students in their studies. Thanks to her advice, I have been able to build a habit to review what I learned on a daily basis and make good use of the planner since then. Using the planner, I used to plan the day in the morning and wrap it up at night.
The effectiveness of using the planner was surprising in two respects. In terms of learning, I could see at a glance what to study on that day. For example, specific plans, such as “read pages25-30” or “solve math problems on pages 50-52” were made. These plans kept me from wasting time because I didn’t need time to decide what to do after completing one task. By checking out the planner, I could get right on the next plan without any delay.
Also, I received a big help from the planner in terms of emotions. It is because marking plans that were already completed has made me feel a sense of accomplishment. I could feel confident and successful, which was helpful for me to form positive feelings toward learning something. Also, removing completed plans with a red pen felt like completing some kind of important missionfor winning the game. Because of such imagination, I could enjoy studying more than ever and minimize the possibility of becoming tired or fed up.
Sometimes, I suddenly become curious about what I was doing exactly a year ago. What answers my curiosity is the planner. It tells me whether I was a hardworking student at that time. When there are lots of X marks on the planner, I become motivated to fill it with more O marks. When there are enough O marks, again, I become motivated to keep up the good work. Luckily enough, keeping a planner fit well with my character and even after I became a university student, I still get a considerable help from it.
The Most Special Ever, Happiness Diary
Last but never least, I’d like to introduce a record called a ‘happiness diary.’ In the summer before last, I suffered from a feeling of isolation and depression for personal reasons. One day, one of my closest friends told me that she felt an aura of depression around me every time she met me. She also said that if she had to describe it with colors, she would choose a black color. Her remarks were a complete shock to me. Although I was aware of my condition to some degree, having this confirmed by others was entirely different from simply being conscious of it. As the eye of the typhoon is the calmest part, I was thinking vaguely that I was quite alright. Of course, what I knew about myself was way off base. I wasn’t okay at all. Looking back, I was totally ignorant of my mental condition, which was getting worse. When I heard my friend’s remarks, I thought that I needed to do something to solve the problem. However, having no idea what to do, I had to spend lots of time in total confusion. One of my acquaintances advised me to seek psychiatric help, but I did not feel comfortable with telling someone I barely knew a personal story about my problem. I just wanted to solve the problem by myself.
After lots of thought, I chose to start a special diary called a ‘happiness diary.’ The idea of ahappiness diary came up when I remembered that I’ve always loved to write something down with my hands. When I visited Paris with my cousin in the last summer vacation, I bought a small notebook which has a picture of a rainbow and piano keys on it. I took out the notebook and made my own rule: No matter how trivial a thing it was, if something made me feel happy, I would write it down. Another rule was that I needed to recognize three happy moments a day. On the first day, I barely wrote three. As the days went by, the number of events that I could write down kept increasing. When I looked at them closely, I found one common thing in them. Most of them were trivial events, such as “Mom made radish shreds and fried eggs for me and they were so good”, “I listened to my favorite music and realized yet again how good the lyrics are”, “I finally succeeded in making a rolled omelet”, or “I found a good movie that became one of my favorites.” Such small events filled the notebook day by day. I’ve heard about a saying, which is “True happiness comes from a little,” but never understood what it really meant. Writing a happiness diary helped me get a sense of the meaning of the saying.
My happiness diary that began on July 17th, 2016, ended on October 3rd in the same year. It turned out that I had 308 moments of feeling happiness during that period. In the evening of October 3rd, after writing down the number 309, which was left blank in the end, I read again what was in the diary. It was quite amazing that some 300 moments of happiness came to my life for about 80 days. What is more amazing is that there must have been more than 300 moments that I failed to notice. When I thought that far, it came to me that maybe I no longer needed the diary. It was because I realized that I had already achieved the purpose I had in mind. The purpose I hadwhen I began the diary was to stop being unhappy and start being happy right away.
I may one day need the happiness diary again. However, the reason why I’m not afraid of that day at all is that now I know what to do when the day comes. On the day when the colors around me slowly become black just like they did before, I will definitely start writing the happiness diary once again. On that day, I guess that I may be able to barely come up with three happy moments. However, as time goes by, I am pretty sure that I will be able to have more than 308 memories of happiness by the time I finish. Once a habit to notice small happiness in everyday life is formed, it becomes much easier to fill the diary. In this way, I will be able to find the right direction and way that perfectly fits me. I have no doubt that I will become happy again whatever may happen.
As some may have noticed, the main reason why I have written this article is to talk about the happiness diary. Everyone goes through hard times in their lives. There are innumerable reasons,such as problems related to family, friends, lovers, money, being overweight, getting low grades, and so on. Some problems are even so hard to name. No one lives without scars. We all know that we are trying to hide the scars from each other and pretend to be fine. We just pretend not to notice each other’s scars. Obviously, it is every man or woman for himself or herself when it comes to mending broken hearts. Although some of us receive help from others to do that, unfortunately, it is not the case for most people, including me. It is because having any kind of scarin mind is usually considered to be a secret. It makes people choose to be alone when they deal with the memory of hardships. Nevertheless, luckily for all of us, we are much stronger than we think we are. It means that we are capable enough to overcome all kinds of difficulties we face in our own ways. There exists as many ways to get over bad memories as there are people living on this planet. My happiness diary is just one way that I found among numerous other ways. It was absolutely effective for me to be happy as it was the one that I discovered on my own after days of hard thinking. This is why I hope that we all keep trying hard to find our own way to be mentally healthy and happy. Moreover, I hope that those efforts result in positive changes in levels of our happiness at last. I sincerely do believe that everyone has enough ability to make themselves infinitely happy.
Yun Daeun firstname.lastname@example.org
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