Today is the best day of my life. I have that written on my refrigerator and remind myself of it anytime that I start to feel ungrateful or unhappy, (even on the most exciting days, there are still moments when I have to remind myself of this). It is true though. As much as days past bring me happiness in their memories and days coming bring me happiness in their anticipation, no day compares to the only day that I have right now, today. It is amazing how just reminding myself of this while sitting in traffic or doing household chores centers me into a space of gratitude and presence in the moment. This whole pursuit of happiness thing is not a new arena for me, I’ve read all kinds of books and taken little gems here and there, but I find that it is the little daily reminders that actually make the biggest difference for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually consider myself a pretty happy person. I just find that maximizing my happiness requires ongoing maintenance, reminders, and study. I am in the middle of reading The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin, which is actually part of what inspired me to start a blog as a space to keep my writing fresh and find happiness in something that I enjoy doing, writing. I love books like her’s because even if our views on happiness and life may not be precisely the same, I always gain little gems from other people’s experiences, (which is part of what I love about reading other people’s blogs!).
In the book, she talks about a study where people were asked to rate their happiness on a scale from 1-10. On a recent road trip, my husband and I talked about where we rated ourselves a year ago and today, and I came to the crazy realization that in just one year, I had brought my happiness from a 5 to a pretty consistent 8-9! Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be on summer vacation, taking a road trip through the beautiful forests of Oregon with my husband and my dog when rating my happiness… But, I think that’s where the 8-9 comes in. At that moment, I was probably at a 9-10, but in the realities of life, my happiness fluctuates and probably averages out at about an 8.5.
The point in sharing my self-perceived happiness is not to gloat or paint an unreal picture of my life. Having just completed a year-long boot camp of full-time co-teaching and earning my master’s degree in my spare hours while dealing with the day-to-day struggles of low-income students, learning to hold my own in a classroom, navigating the realities of securing a job, and balancing the needs of my family and friends, my life has not been without recent challenges. However, what is so striking about all of this, is not that my life is easier than it was a year ago, but that it is significantly better despite its huge challenges! Am I happy every moment of everyday? No. But overall I’m a happier person and it was within my power to change my own happiness. That is what I want to share.
So, how did I find this happiness? In part, it began with my quest to seek out as many points of view on happiness as I could. But, more so, it came from the courage to walk away from something secure and outwardly respected to something scary, new, uncertain, and with far less pay, (a point that ironically hung me up the most and in the end has mattered the least!)… I quit my job as an economic analyst at a respected consulting firm to become a teacher in an urban, low-income school. I left behind a period of time in my life that was characterized by frequent anxiety and pretty deep lows in search of something better. The biggest part of this leap of faith was actually believing that something better truly existed.
The year spent in this endeavor changed my life. I rediscovered my voice. Literally and figuratively. I had to learn how to be loud, (or loud for me!), and how to speak in groups of people again. I developed a new sense of self-confidence. Sitting in my cube as an economic analyst, I spent most of my time isolated, writing away about things that I did not always care about. Now, I am in front of people all the time and I like it! This is huge because when I first decided to quit my job and begin my program I spent a night awake on a friend’s futon having a panic attack about whether I could handle it all. But, that is when my mantra became one day at a time, and it worked! No feat seems impossible when you look at it one day at a time.
Now, here I am, wrapping up my summer vacation, sitting on the floor of my living room, laptop out, cat in front of me, dog cooling himself from the Sacramento heat on the cool tiles of our entry, and husband lounging behind me on our couch. I really never have been happier. Yes, I am again nervous about what the school year will bring, (particularly since I will now be on my own instead of co-teaching), but I am also happy. I am happy that I have a job that makes me excited, happy that I have a sweet little home and family, happy that there are so many people in my life that I love and am grateful for, (including, most likely you if you are reading this!).
Maybe it’s the juice fast that my husband has us doing, (a topic for another entry and a possible cause of my ramblings!), but I’m feeling particularly open and grateful today. If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to share in my spontaneous happiness manifesto.