A couple of years ago, a friend of mine left her comfortable magazine job to pursue happiness. I had, without knowing it, done the same a few months before she did. Her blog, “What Makes You Happy?,” was a compilation of her old friends, new friends, and strangers’ answers to that question.

I did a post, and am so happy I did – because though I was going through one of the most transformative times in my life, I wasn’t documenting it myself like I wanted to.

The story – I quit my job at People magazine with nothing to fall back on (except 6 months’ severance pay). What I found was what diving into your deepest fear felt like (terrifying) – and though I tread water desperately for what seemed like forever (2 months), there came a point where I discovered, finally, miraculously!, that I could float.

It was too difficult to compress the spiritual growth that was happening inside (and sometimes, it felt like, outside) into the two-dimensional realm of words – it was so big, effervescent, and uncontained! Because after a lifetime of searching, I finally found what they say can only be found within. I can’t tell anyone else how to get there, because there is a different, personal path for each one of us to follow. But I will share my words here, so that I can always know where to find them.

Defining Myself for Myself

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“What makes me happy?

Being good to myself. And by that, I don’t mean pampering my body at the spa, exercising or eating the healthiest food all the time. I mean forgiving myself, not judging myself, letting myself live by my own rules, letting myself decide when and if the rules should change and knowing that ‘doing my best’ every day doesn’t mean being the best every day (or maybe ever).

Even if I fall short of what I expect, I don’t punish myself.

The knowledge that I’m on a journey and it’s completely my own, unique, completely average and, yet, enormously special and meaningful makes me happy. Knowing that everyone else, judging me, as they are, by their own journey’s rules, cannot know what’s right for me, makes me happy.

I spent what seems like a lifetime trying to live by others’ rules and abide by the world’s collective definition of being valuable, intelligent, capable, etc. Well, actually, it was the United States’ and New York City’s version of those things.

Now that I’m ‘defining myself for myself’ – to paraphrase Audre Lorde – I feel like I’ve walked out of Plato’s cave and discovered the ideal.

The Song of the Sannyasin says ‘thou art that,’ and it means that we’re all part of one living, breathing life and are never separate, never more or less than that. I see that this is true and it’s this knowledge, and meditation on it, that, ultimately, makes me happy.”

– Melody Wells, 28 and an aspiring nonprofit communications leader/nanny in NYC (with her mom as a little girl and now)

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