The Happiness Project

Five years ago, on my birthday, Tara gave me a little blue journal called The Happiness Project. It’s based on a self-help book by Gretchen Rubin, in which the author dedicated a year of her life to focusing on things that truly matter…and as a result, finding happiness. The book was wildly popular and spawned a global movement.

The goal of the journal is to write one sentence a day, every day, for five years. Gretchen writes, Several years ago, I became alarmed by how little I remembered from my own past, so I looked for a realistic way to keep a colorful record of my life. Because keeping a proper journal seemed far too daunting, I decided instead to keep a one-sentence journal.

I appreciated the gift and figured it would be an easy and fun way to keep track of my life. So, on April 27, 2016, I wrote my first entry.

Celebrated my birthday with a hike to Falls Creek Falls and dinner at my parents’ house — teriyaki chicken, potato salad, and carrot cake.

Today — April 26, 2021 — was the final entry.

Took 4 hrs. of personal leave in the aftn. to get an oil change and tire rotation before we leave on our road trip. Finished moving the dirt.

I can’t believe I actually kept this going for five years. Now I’ve got a permanent record of small moments from 1,826 days. The journal gives you four lines of space in which to write, so I often ended up with more than just one sentence.

This turned out to be a great gift and I am very thankful Tara thought of it. But, not gonna lie…I’m also glad it’s over! Some days were easy to write about, but others, not so much. I won’t miss staring at that blank page before going to bed, trying to think of something interesting or noteworthy to say.

Worse still, if I skipped a day or two and had to catch up later, which happened all the time, it was next to impossible to try to recall what happened days before. Do you know how many random Tuesdays there are in a five-year span?! Sometimes it was hard to remember what happened THAT day! I always had food as a fallback and resorted to that often. I wonder how many times in my journal I mentioned Italian wedding soup?! I just randomly flipped to August 16, and two of those five entries talk about dinner. 40% is about right, ha.

Corny as it sounds, the most interesting thing about this project really was finding happiness in the mundane. Each day is a tiny slice of life, no more than a sliver really, and while March 8 or June 20 or September 3 may have been unremarkable by themselves, they add up to a pretty interesting story. Look at how different my life was the day I started the journal: I was living in the Pacific Northwest for what I assumed would be the rest of my life. I never could have fathomed I’d be moving to Rapid City, South Dakota, two years into the project. Now, I can flip through the pages, and see how a farfetched idea morphed into reality.

  • June 15, 2017: Tara found us a house, got us pre-qualified for a loan, then decided we couldn’t afford it. Cool and rainy day — I made Italian wedding soup. (Ha!!)
  • June 16, 2017: Started to think about the possibility of moving to Rapid City. Housing is super cheap there! And I’ve always liked it…
  • June 19, 2017: Researched cost of living indexes in Rapid City; learned it’s ranked #16 on Top 100 places to live.
  • June 22, 2018: Met Audrey at Linda’s for breakfast; finished loading up, had our final walk-through, said goodbye to mom & dad, and drove to Spokane. (This was the day of our move.)

And of course, hundreds of little moments in between all the big stuff. Our house-buying adventure is in there…lots of COVID-19 stuff…various trips we took. But so is talk about the weather and grocery shopping and TV shows.

In her book, Gretchen writes, Aim to live so that you don’t look back, at the end of your life or after some great catastrophe, and think, “How happy I was then, if only I’d realized it!”

The Happiness Project did help me to realize that, each and every day. It kind of forced me to live in the moment, but you know what? That’s not such a bad thing.

I mentioned dirt earlier. Yeah…that was a project…

Saturday, we had eight cubic yards of topsoil delivered in preparation for Tara’s raised garden beds. Which didn’t even exist yet, but partially do now.

Getting that topsoil from the driveway, up the sidewalk, through the gate, into the backyard, and then piled up in two places: the west corner (pictured above) and along the south-facing back fence…which, I might add, is atop a small hill…involved multiple wheelbarrow loads over the span of about eight hours spread across three days.

(Ha…I just typed “three years” and had to correct myself. It only FELT that long!)

I lost track of how many trips back and forth this took. 75 is a conservative guess. You can imagine the aches and pains we both felt after. We decided we’d earned a treat, so we headed downtown on Saturday afternoon for a few hours at our favorite bar and grill, Paddy O’Neill’s. And then Tara saw that Wobbly Bobby, a British pub a couple of blocks away, was hosting Bingo. That sounded like all kinds of fun, so we went there next and killed a couple more hours.

And yeah, it was a blast. Tara and I both won a game, too! The prizes were cheap bar swag, but hey, it felt good just to get out and have some drinks, eat some food, play some games. We knew we’d be right back to hauling dirt on Sunday.

Which we were, and we didn’t even quite finish. So, on a whim, I decided to use some personal leave this afternoon to take care of business. As I wrote in my final journal entry, I took my Kona in for an oil change and tire rotation. Then I came home and spent another couple of hours hauling dirt. I got that giant pile down to almost nothing…

…and finished up right before it started raining. That little pile left over is extra, and Christmas Light Kelly will be taking it off our hands for her garden.

We really do live in Mayberry, you know.

So, I was happy that I’d finally landed a job where nobody knew my birthday. Until last Friday, when my supervisor said, “Hey, I hear you have a birthday coming up!”

Well, she didn’t hear it from me! No doubt that “little bird” that told her works in HR, ha. I’m just the type who prefers to keep things low-key and doesn’t need people to make a big fuss over my birthday, but she said CenturyCo always celebrates with cake or pie. So I was like, well, if you INSIST…this local bakery does have a lemon cheesecake that sounds pretty good

Tomorrow we are having lemon cheesecake at work.

And Tara is taking me out to dinner at Sabatino’s. Italian food, if the name wasn’t a dead giveaway.

Then, on Friday, we’re hitting the road after work for our trip to Ohio. I have a habit of blogging during road trips, so I’m sure I’ll be doing the same this time around.

Next stop: Sioux Falls. See you on the road!

45 thoughts on “The Happiness Project

  1. I did the oil change and the tire rotation this morning too. But when finished they “suggested” a 4 wheel alignment and replacing the battery. $317.00. Not too bad. First real work and parts other than oil changes since 2017. I love my KIA. Top soil. In my case I don’t need a delivery. I’m getting as they say “old as dirt”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jiffy Lube LOVES “suggesting” things like that! Thankfully, we don’t have them out here. I would have laughed in their face if they had, seeing that my car has all of 5,650 miles. In car years she’s still a baby!


  2. I started my blog on kind of the same thing. I had heard the book title, but I knew nothing about it. I started writing one positive thing that happened every day and it did make me happier. It only took about a year of constant negativity of Covid 19 to wear me down to the point that I have blogged much less.
    Have a great road trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I started following a blogger years ago whose concept was based on the book, too. I guess this is proof that the whole thing really has turned into a global movement.

      I hope you can get your mojo/happiness back soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy Birthday! I love the idea of the Happiness journal, but I can see where it would become tedious. I had trouble coming up with new things to do in 2019 for my little project. Sometimes, fun turns into a chore!

    Have a safe and awesome time. LMK if you have any questions!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, my bejeweled friend! Looking forward to visiting your neck of the woods next week! I’ll message you here or on IG if I need your wisdom. Which, honestly, I very well might…

      “Fun turns into a chore” sums this up perfectly.


  4. That’s pretty impressive that you kept up with that 5-year journal! I have one (not that exact one) and sometimes go months before I remember to write in it. So, when I finally finish it, January 15th, for instance might have entries in 2019, 2021, 2025, 2030, and 2032. But that’s ok.

    I hope you have (or had?) a great birthday!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the five year diary. I’ve written in the past about the value of just putting one foot in front of the other, and keeping doing it. In a strange sort of way, having the backlog of blog posts stretching back over years is what keeps me writing – purely because it would be a shame to stop now.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Totally agree. As cool as it was to write in a paper journal every day for five years, I have 12 years’ worth of blog posts I can look back on (and link to). I don’t see myself ever stopping. Besides, it’s great fun to go back and revisit those old posts from time to time.


  6. Good job on your journal. I used to keep letters, then emails, as a reminder of what was going on in life. Now FB conveniently shows me old posts. Usually I enjoy them, but every so often I get, “Autumn, Facebook cares about you, so we want to show you your most popular post from 2018!”

    And it’s one where a beloved pet died.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. About that dirt in your driveway, I say piffle. We are people who had a backyard created by buying 100 tons of dirt. Yep, it took all day for the landscapers to move the dirt from the front of the house to the back, but we have a backyard now. I am grateful for the yard, but it was an experience… that I documented somewhere in my blog… back when I used it more like a journal.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Not that big. It was a swale before, so the land dipped down a bit and that needed to be filled in before a top layer of dirt could be put down. We live on a wooded ravine lot so nothing is ever simple when it comes to the landscape. Part of the fun, actually.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the idea of documenting bits and pieces over the years. I had a little journal like yours; one line a day. I sucked at keeping it up, so I applaud your efforts. Congrats!

    Oh, the dirt. What a JOB. On the upside, you got a lot of physical work in and you’ll have a lovely garden this summer.

    Happiest of birthdays; enjoy your trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      My wife kept reminding me that we’ll only have to do the big dump-truck-full-of-dirt thing once. The garden may need topping off next year, but that’ll involve just a few bags. I’m pretty sure she knew exactly what to say to get me to keep pushing those wheelbarrows for three straight days.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I have been keeping a daily, two sentence journal for 12 years. Each date gas it’s own page and the four composition notebooks hold a decade. It is fun to look back. The Fall Creek Falls mention made me happy.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m assuming your road trip will bring you through Worthington, MN about an hour east of Sioux Falls. If you are in the need of some caffeine at that point may I suggest a stop at Phileo’s Coffee & Eatery in the downtown area. Requires getting off the interstate, but they serve great coffee (and food) in a historic building just blocks from beautiful Lake Okabena.

    Safe travels to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I believe it will, and since we’re leaving from Sioux Falls super early, we may be ready for a coffee break right as we’re passing through. Thank you for the suggestion!


  11. Well, shucks, happy birthday, Mark! Lemon cheesecake does sound really interesting. I’d like to hear how that goes.
    Crazy about the dirt. Thank you for calling her Christmas Light Kelly, so we all know exactly who you mean. THAT woman. 😉 Sounded like a really fun Saturday afternoon.
    Neat about the diary. Cool idea. I almost feel guilted into doing it. Almost.
    Never got to hear how the Subway manager exchange went. Maybe while Tara is driving? Stay safe, happy trails, and all that. Oh, what about Sydney? Someone watching her while you’re away?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I meant to mention Subway, but this post was long enough already. I went back yesterday and there were three people behind the counter, instead of one…including the same guy! But he seemed much more lucid, for lack of a better word, this time around. Service was great and accurate. Subway is back in my good graces!

      Tara’s coworker, Chelsea, will be stopping by to check on Sydney a few times.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I loathe journaling so much that that book would be a 5-year torture session.
    I think you guys earned more than a night out with all that labor. Full body massage springs immediately to mind.
    Happy birthday and have a great trip. Yell hello when you’re in MN. Maybe I’ll hear you.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I read a book on vacation called the Happiness Project. I finished on the plane home, and tried to internalize the philosophy. I walk in the door and my daughter, who was watching the house for us, had completely destroyed my house. I mean closets emptied and nothing put away, dirty dishes up to the ceiling, kitchen cupboards emptied and all over the counter. I asked her WTF? Her answer I was looking for something. I threw the book in the trash, realizing I would never be happy until I lived alone.

    Liked by 1 person

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