Nightmares and Fairy Tales
In 2021, a new Korean drama made its debut on Netflix under the English title “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay.” I had previously written an article about it (you can find the link here), but I find myself returning to this show with newfound thoughts.
The main character is a writer of fairy tales for children. Her character is exceptionally grotesque and cruel, which makes her intriguing due to her strikingly unconventional nature. While volunteering at a psychiatric hospital, she narrates fairy tales to the patients with brutal honesty, devoid of any embellishments or falsehoods.
This particular scene shook me, and the patients portrayed in it were equally affected. Some began to cry, while others chose to ignore her words, and the caregivers were left in shock. In short, it was a highly dramatic moment. I watched, listened, and couldn’t help but envy the raw emotional experience that had eluded me for several years.
"Fairy tales are not psychedelic, bringing happiness and dreams. They are stimulants, encouraging us to confront our lives. I hope you'll read many fairy tales and awaken from your dreams. Instead of gazing at the stars in the beautiful sky, focus on your feet stuck in the mud. When you come to understand and accept your fate, everyone will find happiness."
We are often taught to dream and gaze at the stars, to aspire to fulfill them. I, a child raised on Disney cartoons, understand this concept well. However, no one from our generation has emphasized that, beyond dreaming, there is also a need for action. Nobody told us that wishful thinking alone, without our own effort, would only remain an unfulfilled desire.
I remember the day when Ewa said to me, ‘Ola, princess, wake up from the fairy tale you are living in.’ I was furious, but that kind of anger can be a catalyst for change. I observed the scene mentioned earlier and absorbed the lessons from the main character. I envied her courage, her unwavering honesty, and her absence of excessive compassion when she conveyed the truth to patients who needed dreams and aspirations the most. Some of them may never leave the facility or fully recover, and she appeared to shatter their dreams and trample on the stars they had the strength to gaze upon.
Upon deeper reflection, I believe this was the best she could do. Why? Because it’s real. Every truth, whether pleasant or unpleasant, is superior to the kindest lie. Prior to watching this episode, I wouldn’t have considered this behavior, but now I’m grateful for this insight and will muster my courage.
Another noteworthy aspect is that Moon-yeong Go treated these individuals with genuine respect and without discrimination. She regarded them as she would anyone else. For people who have experienced rejection and isolation, those who feel different from a significant portion of society, this is the purest form of equality. In my writing and interactions with others, I have always advocated for the truth and equal treatment. After viewing this episode, I felt like a hypocrite when conversing with certain individuals. I realized that by sharing only a fraction of the truth, only a fraction of my opinion, I was unintentionally causing them greater harm.
The heroine bestowed a profound gift upon her patients. I understand that life is demanding, and no one but ourselves can motivate us to live a meaningful life, to strive for improvement, and to chase our dreams. She made them comprehend that genuine happiness stems from self-acceptance, an understanding of our circumstances, and acknowledgment of reality. It’s not about obtaining precisely what we desire or residing in a beautiful golden castle hidden behind seven mountains and seven forests.
"The Boy Who Fed on Nightmares"
The boy awoke from yet another dreadful nightmare. Painful memories from his past, memories he desperately wished to erase, tormented his dreams each night and haunted his waking hours. He had grown fearful of falling asleep. One day, driven by his desperation, he sought out a witch with a humble plea.
“Please erase my bad memories so I don’t have nightmares anymore. I will do whatever you tell me.”
Years passed, and the boy had become a man. His nightmares were a thing of the past. Yet, inexplicably, he remained unhappy. On the night of the blood moon, the witch returned to claim what he had promised her in exchange for granting his wish. He shouted furiously at her:
“My terrible memories are gone. But why… why can’t I be happy?”
Then the witch took his soul, as agreed, and told him:
“Unpleasant, painful memories. Memories of deep regret. Harming others and being abused. Being abandoned. Only people with such memories rooted in their hearts will be stronger, more passionate and adapt more easily. Only they will know happiness. Remember that. Remember this and overcome it. If you do not overcome it, you will always be a child whose soul does not mature”
We often find ourselves wondering why we suffer so much. Why me? Why can’t I just be happy? In reality, we should embrace both sadness and joy, regret and gratitude, happy and less happy moments, for they collectively mold us. It is through them that we become who we are. Without these experiences, we would be nothing more than empty, superficial shells.
I don’t have an explanation for everything. There are things and situations that I can’t turn into something positive. However, I’d like to share a few examples from my life for which, in hindsight, I am grateful. These experiences crossed my path, and I managed to survive them.
- My father let me down more times in my life than I can count. But thanks to those disappointments, I stopped seeking security in a man. I learned that I must ensure my own safety and stability.
- My beloved grandfather passed away before I could bid him farewell. It taught me that nothing and no one should be taken for granted; we never know when circumstances will change.
- I called off my engagement with my current husband a few months before the wedding. It allowed both of us to realize how deeply we love each other.
- During my school years, I endured isolation from the group, gossip, and disapproval. These experiences made me resolve not to treat others that way, as I know the pain it inflicts. I also learned to be comfortable in my own company. When I embraced it, I naturally gained the approval of others.
- I’ve earned many awards and distinctions, experiencing the taste of joy and self-satisfaction, as well as the bitterness of human jealousy, feelings of inadequacy, and invisibility despite being the best. These experiences liberated me from the need for others’ approval. No matter what I do, I’ll never satisfy everyone, but I’ve learned how to please myself.
What about your challenges, problems, recent moments of sadness, fear, or anger? Or perhaps something has recently brought you joy and happiness? Reflect on these experiences and be thankful for those that have shaped you.
Organize your life.
The first publication in the Untold product series, created to share methodology for organizing everyday life, cultivating systematic discipline, and developing proper habits. Drawing from the author's experience, knowledge, beliefs, and commonly available coaching tools, she aims to inspire you to take action and present you with a straightforward approach to achieving fulfillment and building self-esteem. Written in a simple way, it contains examples from everyday life, practical tips, exercises, and beautiful graphics. Available in e-book and audiobook.