Don’t worry, we’re almost there.
Part of being happy is realizing that even during the worst period of your life, that there were good moments too. It’s too easy to paint my twenties with a broad brush, and to say that they sucked. It’s simply not true, and I don’t think it’s ever wise to generalize an entire decade of your life, and to simply say, “I was lost,” or, “I was miserable,” or, “I was having a decade-long existential crisis.” There is truth to all of these statements, but they don’t tell the whole story. I spent so much of my twenties trying to sort out my life and put myself back together, but there were plenty of moments I’ll never forget.
My twenties were fun. There were big parties, nights spent with good friends, and one-on-one conversations with people I’ll never forget. I took the road trip of my life with my stepbrother, and we only fought once. There were moments of success and joy, the second year of grad school was amazing, and many of these experiences have played a major roll in shaping who I am today. I’m truly grateful for the moments that kept me going during a time in my life that challenged me beyond belief.
And yet, I know that’s not the whole story. We tend to romanticize or over-romanticize times in our lives that weren’t that great when we lived through them, forgetting the growing pains we experienced, or simply glossing over them. Maybe that’s the human condition, but in this case, I think it’s a good idea to not forget those growing pains because I don’t want to go backwards. I don’t want to repeat my own personal history. I don’t want to stagnate, and it’s admittedly easy to want to move on. There were some fantastic moments in my twenties, but I believe that better things lay ahead.
I spent so much of my twenties feeling frustrated, stunted, annoyed, baffled. I was floating, looking for something in life that would give me the happiness I wanted. After much soul-searching, plenty of reading, and conversations with friends and family, I’ve come to the realization that happiness can only be created inside of you. You have to give this happiness to yourself. Some people find happiness in the context of a relationship, but what if that relationship ends? What if the source of your happiness goes away? In a life where everything is temporary and fleeting, it’s incumbent on us to people to discover happiness and what that looks like for ourselves, so that no matter what comes our way, we can continue to float, rising and falling with the waves, rather than hoping someone will throw us a lifesaver.
Happiness is something that starts at home, both in the place where you live and within you. It should be an aura you give off. It should be infectious. It should energize the people around you, and it is a choice. It’s a habit you need to practice and work at. If you don’t work at it and replenish the source of your happiness, if you don’t push back against all the negativity in the world that seems to be never-ending, then that negativity will become part of who you are. Take it from someone who used to be one of those people. I used to be so cynical, so negative, so ready to criticize and laugh at other people that I thought were stupid. Maybe I’ve become one of those stupid people, but I’d much rather be one of them than who I used to be. It’s a change I’ve made, and I hope I stick with it. I’d rather be stupidly optimistic than overwhelmingly pessimistic.
Happiness is different for each person, and only you have the ability to find it. Maybe you already know what happiness is in this very moment, but for so many of us it isn’t that easy. I’ve had to search and look a little bit harder, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t had little moments of joy. I’m a simple man in a lot of ways. I love a good cup of tea, I love the beach, I love sitting in the sun, I love going for a run, I love reading a good book, I love exercising, and of course I love writing, as I’ve stated just so many times before. I promise this isn’t an online dating profile. It’s important to know what can get you back to a place of happiness when you get knocked off-center.
Happiness is not something that can be determined from a pros and cons list. You should feel it in your gut, happiness. You should feel it coursing through your veins. When you’re truly happy, then you feel it everywhere. It starts in your head, or maybe in your chest, and then it spreads in a way that is unbelievably powerful. I want this feeling all of the time, for the rest of my life, no matter if I’ve had a busy day or I’ve stayed home to write and sit on the couch. I want to stop viewing things that happen as bad or good. I want to stop assigning negative values to life events. If something happens that you don’t love, take a deep breath, relax, and find the silver lining. Don’t ever see anything as 100% bad; that’s just lazy.
Surrounding yourself with people you love and whose company you enjoy. Find people with similar interests, or who are totally different from you, and grow with them over the lifespan. Befriend people who push you to be better, who are doing things to better their own lives, who are still growing and progressing. The energy these friends give off will inspire you and motivate you, and they’ll teach you about life from a completely different perspective. If they can make you laugh with minimal effort, that’s a huge bonus.
Get plenty of sleep. I’ve met people who do not value sleep, or who don’t sleep at all, and I’m not sure how they’re able to function. When I don’t get enough sleep, those days are always harder to get through. I feel burnt out, and less in control of my emotions. I get more sensitive, more likely to take things the wrong way. Take care of yourself, and make sure to pay attention to how you’re feeling. Check-in with yourself. Make sure you do everything you can to get happy and to stay there. It takes effort, but it’s worth it.
It’s not a new revelation, that happiness starts at home, but it makes so much more of a difference when it actually hits you, and you’re able to talk about it with conviction. When happiness becomes personal, when it’s something that you feel inside of you, then everything else changes. You treat people better, everyone, and you build a life that’s a reflection of that happiness, the life that you want, a life that’s worthy of this new feeling you’ve found. Thanks for reading.