If I had to sum up myself at thirty in one word that word would be happy. I don’t use that word lightly. I’ve known sadness, depression, uncertainty, contentment, and even periods of extended joy. But I’d never known consistent happiness until this year. I say that having always been known for my optimism, but, still, in past years I would’ve never described myself as happy.
There were many obstacles standing between me and happiness: low self-esteem, constant self-doubt, insecurity, a fear of leaving unhealthy relationships, a fear of disappointing others, and most importantly a fear of disappointing myself. What it all boiled down to was I was fearful of how others might perceive me, and my emotions were on a never-ending roller coaster.
I’ve always been an emotional person. When I laugh, the walls tend to vibrate. When I cry, flood warnings are released. I cry during movies, books, and sometimes when I listen too closely to the lyrics of a song. The first time I watched Marley and Me I cried for two hours after the credits rolled. I’ve since outlawed myself from watching any movies that feature dogs as a leading character.
Inside my little body, I’ve got a whole lot of emotions. And the trouble was, I had no idea how to deal with them, so I just let them run wild assuming that’s what you were supposed to do. It never occurred to me that happiness was something you worked toward. I assumed happy people simply woke up that way.
The worst part of my emotions was the way little things would bother me so heavily. I was constantly bothered by silly, petty, misunderstandings. Sometimes, I was a real nightmare to be around. I’m not just talking about my teenage years and the surging hormones that go along with them. I’m talking about all the way through my twenties and then some.
It was exhausting, always being upset about something. It was also embarrassing. After my fuming emotions would momentarily settle, I’d find myself humiliated by the things I let bother me. It’s a true testament to my boyfriend‘s love for me that he stuck it out during the end of my roaring twenties.
On my thirtieth birthday, which I spent in Seattle, on an adventure, which is my favorite thing in the world, I made a promise to myself that this year I was going to try and be the best version of myself and most importantly, that I was going to discover happiness.
First thing was first, I had to look internally and hone in on what I was doing differently on my best days that impacted my persona.
One pattern I’d noticed in myself over the years was that meditation was my saving grace. I was twenty-five when I learned about meditation. I didn’t know how to meditate at the time, but it sounded easy enough. Close your eyes, be still and concentrate on your breath. I could do that, and I did. Think what you will about this new age hippy business, but meditation has impacted my life more than anything.
Over the past five years, when I meditate daily I’m the best version of myself, or better, I’m constantly striving to be the best version. I sleep deeper. I’m motivated to work out. Every minute that I’m awake I spend productively. My creativity increases. I’m more pleasant to be around, my boyfriend will vouch for that. The list goes on and on.
I know that meditation does all these things for me, yet, still, I fall off the wagon and when I do, I’m like a one-woman circus. I’m not exaggerating. I’m two totally different people when I meditate regularly and when I don’t. It’s like seeing someone on and off their medication. I only meditate for 10 minutes a day. So, it seems silly, knowing who I am when I meditate versus when I don’t that I go through periods where I won’t take those ten minutes a day to benefit myself and everyone else around me. But I’m human and sometimes when I reach my peak, I think, “Oh, I’ve got this, I don’t need to meditate every day.” Then I break my routine and the rollercoaster of my emotions tears through the tracks.
So, it was obvious to me that to achieve happiness, the first thing I had to do was stick to a daily meditation schedule. Through my meditation and its benefits, my mind, body, and soul would be nourished. Finding a balance between those three things is the key to happiness.
Bettering my mind couldn’t stop at meditation. If I truly wanted to become the master of my emotions, I needed to understand them. Just like I approach every other subject I want to learn about, I turned to books to educate myself. I undoubtedly read more books this year than I’ve ever read in my life and I say that with a degree in Literature and having been through Grad school.
I read books about psychology, philosophy, and a shameful number of books on self-improvement. My apartment looks like a used bookstore and Amazon made a small fortune off me in 2017. I read every spare second I have. I even listen to audiobooks while I’m working. I read books about emotional intelligence, discovering your soul, and countless books about other’s journeys to finding happiness.
Right now, I have six different books that I’m reading, and they’re not just sitting around gathering dust. I’m actively consuming them all. I’ve benefited from these books to unmeasurable degrees. As soon as I finish one, I order three more and I’ll read those too.
I’ll read them because I’m on a mission to happiness and I know now that happiness isn’t something you achieve, but something you must continuously work to maintain. But achieving happiness takes more than just bettering your mind. You must also work on the body and the soul.
Your body is a temple, so it’s important that you treat it like one. I’ve never been one of those people that love working out. I’ve known those people and I’ve always wanted to be one, but it’s just not me. I do love yoga, but yoga alone doesn’t cut it. I love swimming, but unfortunately, pools aren’t an option in New York. I’ve always wanted to be a runner. I have several friends who get up every morning and run purely for the joy they receive from it. The only joy I receive from running is when I stop.
BUT just because you don’t enjoy something isn’t an excuse enough not to do it. You need to work out. You shouldn’t work out just to get skinny that’s not a true motivation. To keep a steady work out routine you need a true motivation. My motivation to work out is to take care of my body, the same way you put oil in a car. I also work out for the mental benefits. When I finish a workout, I’m proud of myself and no matter how much I’d rather just sit down and do something else, I always feel better and have a clearer mind after I’ve worked out.
Unfortunately, just working out isn’t enough to care for your body, you must also eat right. By eating right, I simply mean stop consuming shit. I say this being someone who loves Doritos and every other junk food known to mankind, but this year, in my quest for happiness, I stopped eating junk, at least on a regular basis.
I traded chips and dip for veggies and hummus. I implemented a routine of not eating meat Monday – Thursday. There are a lot of studies out there that show the damaging effects animal fat has on the body. If you don’t believe me, watch the documentary Forks & Knives, which is streaming on Netflix.
I’m not a saint, there are weeks when I break this routine and have Lamb Korma, my favorite meal, for lunch. But for the most part, I make it a goal not to eat meat a few days out of the week. It’s a good break for the digestive system. As a substitute for meat, I eat beans of all sorts, shapes, and sizes. Instead of spaghetti and meat sauce, I replace the meat with lentils. It’s still great. I also eat a ton of vegetables, especially greens – kale, spinach, and when it’s affordable avocado. Granted, I know it costs more to eat healthy. I used this excuse for years, but the long-term benefits will pay off when it comes to medical bills.
I also take daily vitamins, and I don’t mean just one daily multi-vitamin. Every day I take Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Iron, Zinc, a multivitamin, a vitamin for hair and nails, and a spoonful of coconut oil. I can tell the difference. I don’t get sick as much and when I do, it doesn’t last as long. My skin is clearer, my hair doesn’t get as tangled, and my metabolism is crushing it.
Yes, taking care of your body requires effort, but of all the things you need to function properly, your body is the top priority. You must force yourself every day to prioritize it. Remember your body is your temple, and it houses the most important thing of all, your soul.
I don’t and haven’t in years followed any sort of organized religion. I have nothing against organized religion, I think it’s great and a true blessing for those who participate. Organized religion offers a structured faith, a heritage, and a community. I admire the people who go to church every week. It’s just not the best method for me, at least not right now.
I face a struggle when it comes to picking one religion because there are a lot of aspects I like about various religions. I love that Christianity places so much emphasis on forgiveness and redemption. I admire that Catholicism focuses heavily on morality. I believe in the Karmic teachings of Buddhism. There’s a lot of religions out there, and there are teachings we can learn from all of them.
Even though I don’t follow one organized religion, I still pray every day when I wake up and at night before I go to bed. I have random urgings throughout the day that reminds me, “Hey, you should pray about this.” And I do. Meditation itself is a form of prayer.
I also believe in God, a big, wonderful God. A God who listens when you talk, and who answers you through your soul and the workings of the universe.
When I walk my dogs every morning and see the way the light hits the trees, I know that’s the work of God. When I see the sunrise, I know God is telling me Good Morning. And when tragedy strikes, I know that too, is the working of God and he has a purpose, even if I don’t understand it.
My God may not resemble your God, but he doesn’t have to. God can be a he, a she, a living thing, or the water running out of a faucet. What I do know, is that God is a higher power. He understands all the workings of the universe, so we don’t have to, though it doesn’t hurt to try and understand.
You don’t even have to believe in God. You can believe in the universe, I believe in that, too. As well as fate. Your beliefs are your own, they belong to you, and that’s the beauty of it. But I’ve found that it’s very nice to believe in something.
Over the past year, I felt a desire to know my spiritual self on a higher level. I commonly achieve this through meditation. But again, I wanted to know more, so I read and educated myself on the different teachings. What I found that impacted me the deepest was understanding the soul and how it is the life force behind the mind and body.
Your soul is your conscious, your wisdom, and intuition. Your soul is that little voice that tells you everything is going to be okay. What I discovered was the more time I spent listening and understanding my soul, the more peaceful I became in all other areas of my life.
Through my studies, I also came across a wonderful teaching about judgment. Our nature is to judge. We judge ourselves if we take that second slice of cake. We judge the people who cut us off in traffic. We judge the homeless and we judge criminals. But it’s not our role to judge others or ourselves. Our purpose is to live without judgment and let God, or the Universe or Karma place judgment.
We don’t have a right to judge because we don’t have pure knowledge of a situation, or what circumstances someone may be facing. It’s not easy, but I’ve worked this year to live as judgement-free as possible and I’ll tell you it has taken a huge burden away.
It’s not easy because sometimes we don’t even realize we’re judging other’s, but then you see a picture someone posts on social media and you think, “That’s trashy, why would they post that?” That is placing judgment. Instead, admire the beauty of others and of course, yourself.
The more you actively try to let go of judgment, the more you will be conscious of when you’re judging someone, and eventually, after you train yourself not to, that feeling of judgment will dissipate and you will find yourself at ease.
It’s important to be aware of the types of energy you’re releasing into the universe. The world is tough enough to navigate, why contribute additional negativity to it? Why make yourself suffer through those negative feelings? The best gift you can offer yourself is learning to let go and focus on the positive energy that resides inside you, that resides in all of us.
The last thing I’ll say about the soul is that it’s your anchor in this world, more than that, it’s the captain and the ship too. The more you allow your soul to guide you, the brighter the horizons you’ll come upon.
At thirty I’m not perfect. I make mistakes every day, but what I can say for myself is that I’m a much better person now than when I wrote my birthday reflections at twenty-nine. I’m more educated, I’m in control of my emotions, I’m healthier, and I ‘ve finally found a spiritual side of myself that I can be proud of. Professionally, my journey to happiness has paid off as well. I’ve been promoted twice at my company within the past six months. Creatively, I write every single day for at least two hours and I enjoy every second of it. I’ve also started painting again simply for the pleasure of it. I wake up every single day excited for the adventure ahead. I’m truly, madly, outrageously in love like gushingly so. Some mornings, I lay in bed for a few extra minutes just listening to the breathing of my boyfriend and dogs and I think, “Wow, so this is happiness.”
This is happiness, but I work every single day to maintain it. It’s not easy, just because you’re happy doesn’t mean the struggles of life magically disappear, but now I can approach those obstacles with a clearer head, a stronger body, and a wise soul that guides the way.
I’ll be concluding my thirtieth year and entering thirty-one on vacation in Paris. I’ve always dreamed of visiting Paris. It was one those dreams that I overly romanticized in my mind and I fantasized about so much that I secretly didn’t believe it would ever really happen, but here I am and there I go. In preparation for my trip to Paris, I’ve been brushing up on my French, and I came across a simple phrase that perfectly paraphrased how I feel at the end of my thirtieth year: La vie est belle.
Yes, life is indeed beautiful.