Life as an adult is funny. When you’re a kid, when you’re a teenager, there is this romantic idea of being a “grown up”. No bedtime, you can eat cereal for dinner, and there isn’t anyone that’s going to boss you around. And then, BAM!- You become an adult, and you learn really quickly that that is exactly not how it works. You have to set alarms so that you get to work on time. You have to learn to write and stick to a budget. You have to learn how to… Well how to adult.
The worst part about that is when you figure out what has had to take a backseat. When you realize that whatever you’ve been pursuing isn’t actually going to make any kind of difference in your life. When it hits you like a ton of bricks that you’ve been chasing this phantom idea of happiness, when it was attainable the entire time, just not how you expected it to be.
I’ve been thinking about what makes me happy. Like giddy, full of joy, feel it in my soul, kind of happy. And why it has taken me so long to prioritize that pursuit. Even more thought provoking is why do I feel guilty for that pursuit. In talking to friends, coworkers, everyday people, I’m realizing that I am not the only one feeling this way. It seems like everyone I know is coming to terms with that emptiness we keep trying to fill. There seems to be this emotional phenomenon of people coming to terms with how vastly unfulfilling life has ended up being.
So what do you do? How do you make the changes that are necessary to lead a more fulfilling life? And what are those changes that need to be made? I can’t speak for everyone. All that I can do is sit back and take a moment to quietly reflect on what makes me giddy and light and feel more whole. And what is all of that, exactly? What makes life more than bearable? And how do you get back to that child-like feeling of everything being Christmas morning?
For the last six months or so, this has been the thought in the back of my head. This has been what I have been trying to figure out and sort through. Because there is a big, fundamental difference between what you do because you’re soul is heavy and tired, and the thing you do because it makes you feel whole again. When I get off of work, I go home, get under the blankets and snuggle my two cats. Not because of how wonderful it feels when they’re loving on me, but because doing anything other than staring at the wall is just too much.
I’m not going in that direction. Well, not this time. What I’m trying to say is that things are seldom as easy as we’re told they’ll be. Being a happy, fulfilled adult isn’t just face-masks, brunch, and yoga in the park. And don’t get me wrong, all of that does and can serve a wonderful purpose. But I personally struggle with the how— How will those (and other) things really make me happy. Sure, I can document them, and post beautifully curated content to my Instagram, that shows the world how whole I am. I am absolutely just as guilty as the next millennial for doing that.
But when I really do attempt to take the steps that need to be taken so that I can be really happy, I pause and second guess, because there is this guilt that accompanies it. And where does this come from? What seed, what root does it grow from? It’s not a struggle in and of itself, but it’s something that I struggle with.
The last job that I had was very well paying. Like, really well, the kind that allowed me to have exactly the life that I wanted, and then some. It was rad. The hours were insane, and my boss(es) were equally insane. And one day, I had this moment of “fuck this shit”, and so I finished out my day, went home, and thought very carefully about my next step. When I returned to work, the very first thing I did was tender my resignation. I had nothing planned, and I didn’t really care. Because at the end of the day, I was not happy. My body, mind, and soul were all suffering, and for really no reason.
I got hired at this adorable little bakery after being unemployed for all of two whole days. During my interview, I was asked why I wanted to work there. I responded with “I just want to be happy again”, and that is something that I have stood behind. In the four years since leaving my job, there have been moments where I have really really missed that paycheck. And there were moments where my ex reminded me how nice it used to be. But at the end of the day, the kind of happiness that I really needed was something that couldn’t be found with a paycheck.
The guilt though. That dreadful feeling of selfishness that accompanies trying to do what’s best for you. A very old friend of mine gave me some advice that truly changed my life. In coming to terms with the direction that my failing marriage was going, there was this insane amount of guilt. Guilt, because it’s supposed to be for life. Guilt because you’re not supposed to quit. Guilt because because because. And this very old friend, who guided and shaped me in church, stopped me and told me “this is it. This is the only life we have. And if you aren’t happy, then you’re not living your best life.”
And I totally needed to hear that, because yeah, we only get one shot at this, right here and right now. No matter what’s going on, barring extreme variables and circumstances, every one deserves to have a life where they are happy. A life where they are free from the guilt that somehow follows that quiet pursuit. The kind of life where they can look back on it, and feel like they did it all.
So this is what I tell myself every day. Out of necessity. As a quiet battle cry. Because I need to be reminded that it’s completely and totally okay to prioritize being happy and healthy and whole, and that sometimes, that means more than washing my face and drinking a nice wine (although, I do love a nice wine). I am a newly-minted 30-year old woman, and I am fearlessly (or at least attempting to) taking ownership of my happiness. Whatever the hell that means.