Layers of Happiness in the 5-year journal

Layers of Happiness in the 5-year journal

I am getting ready to move into the next Hobonichi 5-Year Techo very soon. I started using a 10-year journal when I turned 30. There was no plan nor expectation other than it looked interesting to try. So I picked it up from a stationery store in Germany and took it everywhere I went for ten years. When I turned 40, I completed the 10-year journal and moved into the current 5-year journal by Hobonichi. I had a long hiatus from writing in this journal during the spring of this year, but I am now picking up my steady rhythm of adding a line or two each night. As the end of this year approaches, I am nearing the end of the notebook for one last time. The notebook is filled with my loose handwriting and occasional Instax photos. It’s a strange feeling to hold 15 years’ worth of my life documented in two chunky notebooks. Not every day has been filled, but there is enough to trace my journey, both ups and downs.

I have been thinking about the impact of keeping this kind of journal, which spans multiple cyclical seasons. Each year, I stumbled upon multiple versions of my past self on the same page as inked writings spread the space. In some ways, it nudged me (or perhaps forced me) to make peace with my past self.

Last night, the kids, Frido, and I were flipping through those pages at a dinner table. Coco wanted to see all of the Instax photos I had glued on, and there were plenty. Halfway through, she gave a deep sigh and said, “This is like layers of happiness.” We laughed because when we looked at the notebook from the top view, the wrinkly bundle of 365 pages looked almost like a slice of baumkuchen, aka layers of happiness.

It’s very humbling to be a bare witness to my own struggles, joys, disappointments, and adventures over the span of five years. Five years is not an eternity (especially while parenting…), but it’s enough for longer-term projected thoughts and ideas to metabolize into an actuality. I see it in the way I now connect with nature, my personal healing journey, the way I prioritize my life, the path BK took, and more.

Nearing the end of the notebook reminds me of running a marathon race. I remember right around the 18th mile of the last marathon I ran, both mental and physical exhaustion took over, and I slowed down only to find myself rediscovering the inner wind at the 21st mile to finish the last five miles with a smile and strides. Sometime earlier this year, I started to feel bittersweet about this notebook ending. I was excited to see it through, yet so sad to let it go because I felt like there was something more I needed and wanted to interact with. Today, I don’t have the same sentiment anymore about the notebook, as if the job of this 5-year journal has been completed. I am thrilled to enter the last ten days of entries in the current notebook as we clock down the year, and I am ready to let it rest. I am genuinely looking forward to opening a new chapter, literally and figuratively, with my next 5-year journal. The next notebook will take me into my 50s.

Something I am going to “try” to do on my 5-year journal pages in the future year.

  • Try to write down about the difficult moments if it feels right. // I tend to leave the page blank if the day ends with a conflict. Disagreements Frido and I might have had that left us feeling sour at the end of the night and might have never made it to the page. That’s okay, too, since that was my choice at the time. But in the future, I want to see if I can sit with those thoughts and put them through the ink in a way that feels right.

  • Try to take it with me on the road. // I usually don’t take my 5-year journal to air travel. It’s too heavy for my carry-on backpack, which is the only luggage I usually take. But I want to try to see if I could at least take my 5-year journal to our van camping so I can capture in-the-moment memories from our adventures. We will see.

  • Occasional day of the life entries on the same day every year. // One dedicated day, I wrote down exactly what I did during the day, what kids were interested in at the time, and how our day flowed. It was insightful to read the evolution of how we designed our time as a family over the course of five years. I think it might be fun to do more of those here and there.

  • Keep writing and trust the process. // I have learned that my present self never knew what resonates with my future self. So, I am just going to let the ink flow and let my future self decide if anything is interesting enough to read back to. I am sure they can deal with whatever they find on the page.


  • Kimberly: January 21, 2024
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    Thank for such a reflective letter. I am starting a 5 year journal for the first time this year. I have for the past 5 years done a yearly journal which I will still do but I am excited by the idea of reflecting back on the same day for a year. I like your thoughts on what you’d do differently. Here’s to the new journal for us both Happy New Year – warm regards, KO

  • Loren Gaffin: January 21, 2024
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    Thanks for the tips on commenting in the 5-year Hobonichi Techo. I’m normally perplexed about my subject matter to share in it everyday. Happy New Year!

  • Sam: January 21, 2024
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    I would love more Ideas for Writing!
    I do have Family Journal, Partner Journal (so the unsavory can be captured there along with the good) That one was a rough one to keep as I too didn’t want pages left for “negative” but after much reflection on our Parents era of not being vocal about their coupling. I felt it imperative my Seedlings understood a facet if they so chose to read my writings…
    I keep one for Travel and one for Day to Day… For all the different “Hats” as you say ☺️

  • Caroline: January 21, 2024
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    So lovely to see your beautiful notebook and all it holds for you. I started a hobonichi 5-year diary last year, at 45. I will turn 50 during the last year and it feels significant to be able to see that moment coming as I hold this journal. I love the image of you holding 15 years of impressions in two notebooks. This feels like the best reason to keep these journals. And how wonderful to share it with family. Coco is such a poet- layers of happiness. That made me smile. Thabk you for sharing this point in time — it really resonated.

  • Paige: January 21, 2024
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    Thanks for these insights. I’m starting mine in the new year and am trying to get past my self consciousness about documenting both the ups and the downs.

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