It is my humble opinion that “things” do not bring you happiness. Experiences bring you happiness. People bring you happiness. Conversations bring you happiness. I am also of the mindset that one doesn’t have to scale Everest or hike the Pacific Crest Trail to find happiness. Happiness is found in everyday things. We just have to condition ourselves to recognize it. My search for happiness was about training myself to recognize the daily occurrences that bring me joy. As I searched and documented my experience, I was blown away by the discoveries. Below, are some insights that stood out to me.
I often feel more alone than I would ever publically admit. I can work the room with the best of them. I can hold a conversation with anyone on anything. Yet, I can still feel alone. I don’t know if I should blame this on being a millennial and our need to always feel connected or perhaps the blame falls on my own mental state. My guess is that it is probably a combination of both. What amazed me about this experiment was the community of support. Not since I left Oklahoma for Seattle have I felt so much love. With every weekly update, messages, calls and conversations from people who were following along came my way. You encouraged me to keep pushing forward and cheered me on from near and far. Everyone should be this lucky and I am grateful for the love.
This experiment was not without its moments of anxiety. If you saw photos of food, drinks or books, I had no idea what to post. In all honesty, there were days when I wasn’t happy. There were days filled with sadness, loss, depression or a thousand other emotions that were not happiness. Here to, is a teachable lesson; even in the darkness there is a light. In those moments, I could fall back on something that comforted me. I could make a cocktail from my home-bar (and if you follow me on Instagram, you know this is a favorite time). I could prepare a wonderful meal. Following instructions and having to pay close attention to food in order to keep it from burning or undercooking, allowed my mind to drift elsewhere. Books have always provided an escape and an opportunity to look at the world through someone else’s eyes. Those moments when I wasn’t happy were important, but I also now feel equipped to escape from their grasp.
Within a couple of weeks of beginning this experiment, I was faced with disappointing news. Feeling lost in the almost 2 year search for a job, I applied for the Peace Corps back in January. Having just finished a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Leadership and stints as the International Service Chair for Rotary, as well as the Communications Chair for the Southeast King County Coalition Against Trafficking and a volunteer for Seattle Against Slavery, I felt confident that my education, volunteer experience and employment history would make me a strong candidate. After six months of waiting, on June 1, I finally received the news. I had not been selected to progress through the interview stage. Once again, I was heartbroken. Within minutes of receiving the news, I broke down at my desk and soon after I could feel the dark cloud of depression sweeping over my shores. Luckily, I was in the midst of this experiment. I quickly rallied my newly discovered community of support and relied on their words of wisdom. I also plugged myself into those things that make me happy; cooking, hiking, reading, traveling… Without this journey to find happiness, I don’t know where I would be right now.
Over the course of 100 days, one thing became obvious; people matter. As independent as I often think I am, I cannot do this life alone. As strong as I often think I am, I too need to rely on others. As determined as I often think I am, I need to be open to a different way of viewing this world. This journey forced me to look within myself and my circle of friends and family and reevaluate the things that truly matter. Again, at the end of the day things don’t matter. People and their power to impact your life matters.
In the same breath, the moments I will cherish the most were the conversations with family and friends. For the first time in a long time, I found myself really paying attention, focusing on what each person had to say and searching for some application to my own life. Frankly, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, because while searching for happiness I had three longtime friends visit Seattle and went back to Oklahoma for a wedding. Each conversation with those I love dearly seemed more profound and impactful. The take away here is that we should strive to give every person with whom we interact the very best of ourselves. When we do, change for them and us is possible.
Not every day is filled with long hikes, friends visiting from afar or concerts with your favorite bands. Most days are pretty mundane. It involves getting up, storming through your morning routine, working, the gym or shopping, home and bed. This cycle happened to me a lot over the course of 100 days, but the mundane and routine mattered. I woke up every day more thankful for the wonderful apartment I call home, the neighborhood I live in and its access to the sound, a job where I get to make a difference, the food and the chance to take care of myself. Every moment was filled with privilege and gifts. Clothes on my back, a roof overhead, food in my belly and a purpose for life are reason enough to celebrate.
I began this journey inspired by a blog post provided by someone who I have never met. I never thought my journey through the process would inspire others, but before I knew three of my friends also began the 100 Days of Happiness journey. The lesson here is that you don’t always know who is watching and looking up to you. Our actions and the decisions we make carry weight. We can either use that power for good or not. These 100 days have inspired me to strive to always do my best.
Losing my brother, Lucas, was the genesis for this journey. We are rapidly approaching one year since his passing. Every day, I battle grief, pain, loss and depression. When I placed my hand on his casket and said goodbye for the final time, I promised myself I would do everything in power to ensure the world was a better place for him being in it for the time he was here. If there is a heaven or other celestial body he is watching me from, I hope he is proud. I hope he saw this challenge as a way to honor his life. I hope he is providing me strength to turn this tragedy into a positive. I hope together we are inspiring happiness and maybe saving some lives together.
Finally, I would like to close by saying, my search is not over. There will be days when I win and there will be days I lose, but I move forward knowing some very certain truths. Every day, I get to choose my attitude. I have no control over what life throws at me, but I can choose my reaction. And, this life of mine can be a symbol; a symbol that this too shall pass and with every tragedy comes the opportunity to make the world a better place.
Thanks for entering my world,