When I was between the age of 5 and 7 I remember a specific incident when my parents took me to Navy Pier in Chicago. I can’t tell you what I was wearing or what it was like outside that day, but the day had a very strong impact on my future life and ultimately would help to shape who I am today.
While walking across the boardwalk, we came across a local news reporter doing a stand-up. I remember seeing her, with her makeup nicely done, beautiful dress, and perfectly kept hair. I remember seeing the camera and her microphone and I was frozen – instantly hooked by her presence and strange equipment. From that day I knew I wanted to live an extraordinary life.
I’m lucky in the sense that I have two incredible parents that have told me since I was really little that I can be anything I want to be. I know, it sounds cliché – but they actually meant it. Never once did they question how I was going to get to my goals or encourage me to try something else. They were fully invested in my dreams as if they were their own. Not everyone is lucky enough to have that kind of support from their family – and while that might be true – we are all able to make the choice to be happy and to set goals.
I like to think that we’re the artists of our life. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what your past holds, or what your religion or race is. The day that you choose to break free from the chains of your mental barriers – you have started creating your life.
Believe me, I’ve had a few jobs that never seemed to add up. I would often ask myself, “What am I doing here?” “How is this further progressing my goals?” The good news is that everything you do in life can be used as a lesson to further propel you to a happy and healthy life.
It’s taken me a long time to understand exactly what this means. I’m a very anxious person – not in the sense that I always think I’m going to die or get sick, but anxious in the sense that I know there is so much life and things to do beyond my bubble of comfort that I get overwhelmed with the idea that I’ll never get to do everything.
I’ve had a handful of jobs since graduating college and while each one served its purpose, I never felt like the shoe fit just right. From event promotions, to local news writing, to being a men’s clothing stylist at an amazing start up – I knew internally that something was missing. I had a feeling of something or someone pulling on my soul with the constant whisper, “you were meant for more.” I remember thinking to myself, if I died tomorrow – what would I leave behind? What kind of footprint on this earth would I be remembered for? What have I done to better myself or anyone else in my life? I had a hard time answering those questions and it was terrifying and overwhelming. I would try to find happiness, but in all the wrong places – not from myself but from friends, family, and my husband. I was constantly asking to be entertained and searching for deep conversation – but in reality – I had yet to have the deepest conversation of all with myself.
I knew there were so many things I wanted to do in my life: Volunteer, learn an instrument, make an impact in someone’s life, travel, and learn photography…. The list honestly goes on and on. I thought that I needed someone else to accompany me on my journey towards betterment, while in reality – all I needed was confidence. Unfortunately, I was in a job that didn’t allow much free time outside of the office or free time to explore who I really was. By December of 2013, I was searching for anything to take away the feeling of drowning. I remember getting amazing advice from my mother-in-law telling me that I didn’t have to make any hasty decisions in my life or act like the boat was burning to the ground. Although, I felt like the boat had already sunk, I thought over what she said. It helped to calm me down and focus. She was right – I didn’t have to change anything if I didn’t want to – but I WANTED to change. I wanted to conquer life with a giant lasso.
By January 2014, I knew I had to make a change. I knew that no one else was going to make the change for me and that ultimately if I wanted a life of adventure, success, and fulfillment I would have to do it for myself. I took a giant leap of faith in February and decided once and for all to be happy. I’m not saying I wasn’t happy before – I know I’ve had a blessed life with amazing experiences and loving relationships – but for me happiness needed to start growing internally. I gave myself a hard look and asked if what I was doing today would matter in a few years. I couldn’t say yes.
I decided to take a writing class in Chicago to get back on track and to outline some goals. The class lit a newfound fire in me and made me remember the little girl standing on the boardwalk at Navy Pier with so much determination. I was in love with writing and in love with fitness – why wasn’t I doing those two things!? If all I was thinking about everyday was writing and working out then I needed to move those from “thinking” to “doing”. I quit my job a few weeks later and I haven’t looked back since.
You know all those goals I “had” – they have since moved into the “in progress” bucket. In 6 short months, I’ve gotten numerous writing opportunities, become a certified personal trainer, competed in two fitness competitions, traveled to the Caribbean, Boston, Vegas, and California. I’ve taken up guitar and photography. I’ve invested time into relationships again – reclaiming friendships I had let fall to the wind. Most importantly, I’ve fallen in love with life. I’m not sure what is going to come out of the next 6 months, but I know that I will never again sleepwalk through another day.
I have learned that you cannot be happy with anyone or any relationship until you are truly happy with who you are and what you stand for. The moment that you learn to love yourself and learn to accept all of your quirks and flaws then you will be happy and you will be actually living. You cannot find permanent and true happiness from someone else – in fact, it’s not fair to put all the pressure of “happiness” on someone else. You need to be happy internally and then your love will truly flourish.
So how do you become happy? How do you become healthy? Look no further than a mental pen and paper. Speak the words, “I WILL be happy” out loud. In fact, say it a few times. Print it off and tape it to your mirror and put a copy in your wallet. Start writing down what makes you excited – the things in life that you really love. You think that you’re too old to change or try something new? Then go back to step one – “I WILL be happy”. Sketch out an outline of point A to point B. Invest in yourself!! Say yes more and no less. If you’re unhappy – then why would you keep saying no to opportunities. Are you scared of change? Are you scared you are going to fail? Good – your goals should scare the crap out of you. I cannot promise that your journey to happy will be easy but I can promise you that once you get there everything in life becomes more beautiful.
I’m traveling home right now from California to Chicago and while in the airport, I put down my phone and had an hour conversation with an older man about his life. He was 71-years-old and more active than myself! He takes a 30-mile bike ride every Sunday and travels the world. During our short time together, he would often throw back his head in complete laughter while telling me a story all while his eyes sparkled like diamonds. I knew that he was truly living. It gave me hope and encouraged me that although we age, we don’t have to relinquish “life”. I can only hope for each and every one of you that you too take out your lasso and reclaim what is undeniably yours – and that is happiness.