Happy Progress

May 16, 2013 by

          I’m beginning to feel consistently happy. This is new to me, and I love it! I’ve recently noticed this through small changes in my daily life, such as looking forward to the gym when I wake up in the morning, my more upbeat personality at work, my friendliness toward strangers, my increased use of smiley face emoticons and exclamation marks in emails and text messages, and my random breakouts into song and dance in my apartment. It’s immensely gratifying. My happiness experiment has quickly become my proudest accomplishment.

          I didn’t know that I could get myself here. I thought I was going to die on that bathroom floor. I don’t remember the last time I felt continuous experiences of happiness. Until recently, I had spent over four years in what seemed like an unending state of emptiness. Any small bursts of joy were limited and unappreciated, because I knew that they’d be short-lived. Depression is an evil that I would wish on no one.

          Lately, my thinking has changed. I am no longer waiting for some epic future moment to bring me ultimate happiness – the moment that I’ve spent too many hopeless nights praying to a God that I don’t believe in to deliver to me. Life is not a lead-up to one final moment of undoubted happiness. We do not get to some undefined, epiphanic end to exclaim, “This is it! This is what I’ve been waiting for my entire life!” From what I’ve seen by being aware of my own behaviour and by observing the behaviour of people that I know, each time we achieve a goal, we tend to move our focus to a new one upon realizing that our attainment of the that goal didn’t bring us endless happiness. We are sure that, once we achieve this new goal, we will then finally achieve happiness. This mentality is flawed. Life is not defined by a single accomplishment. Life is ongoing. As such, it needs to be enjoyed on an ongoing basis. After 23 years, I think I understand that. I’m now trying to embody it.

          Of course, I have my big happiness goal for the future (Europe) that I’m working toward. However, I’m approaching this goal differently than I’ve approached my past goals. Firstly, I actually want this one. It is not an educational goal or a career goal that I feel I should reach for to fulfill someone else’s definition of success. It is my goal that came out of my personal assessment of what I feel would make me most happy to achieve. Secondly, it is not my sole focus in life. While I know I will be ecstatic when I venture across the Atlantic for an extended (currently undetermined) period of time, this goal is not my everything. I am aware of the steps (financial and otherwise) that I need to take to make it happen. I am taking them, but I am not sacrificing everything else to do so. Unlike my previous attempts to meet goals, I’ve framed any progress toward this goal as background to the grand stage that is my present life. This frame of mind serves three purposes: (1) it prevents me from resenting my dream, (2) it allows me room to grow other aspects of my life, and (3) it keeps me grounded in the moment.

          For the first time in my life, I am learning to live in the moment. The past is over. I’m trying to forget it. As for the future, I don’t have it. I will never truly have the future. It is always in the distance. It is always something that I’m reaching for, but can’t quite grasp. Yet, I’ve willingly made myself of constant service to it, doing everything in my power to secure a happy, unguaranteed future and completely forgetting to enjoy what I actually have: right now. Currently, I’m striving to be done with fear of the future and worry over the potential consequences of my decisions. The future is unpredictable, so I try not to stress about it. I make most choices based on what makes me happy right now. I’m not suggesting that I’ve cast the future aside, completely ignoring it. I can’t “live everyday as if it’s [my] last.” That is not sound advice. Everyday most likely won’t be my last. Unless I die while writing this, I do have a future beyond today. I’m not going to pretend that future doesn’t exist, throwing it away with foolish decision making in favour of immediate gratification. I am, however, deciding to put less emphasis on the future as a determinant of how I choose to act in the present. I am focussing on the reality that the present is, and will always be, what I have, and I’m empowering myself to fill it with happiness. I don’t want my present to be tainted by past and future, as it has always been. For dramatic purposes, I am dethroning Past Maria and Future Maria.

          In summary, I love my happiness experiment! I love how it has changed me. I love the perspective I’ve gained from enjoying my life. Most importantly, I love the self-confidence that it has given me. I picked myself up off the floor that night at the beginning of March. I started The Happiness Experiment. I took action to make my life something that I want to live. Therefore, I’m assured that I am all that I need. As long as I have me cheering myself on, I can be happy because I made myself happy. After years wasted in sadness, I’ve found freedom within myself. I’ve become nicer to myself. I’ve begun to respect myself. Only two and half months after starting my happiness experiment, I feel self-reliant and genuinely happy. I didn’t expect to feel so good so quickly, but I’m inarticulately grateful that I do.

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