When I was 10 years old, my parents let me plan our family road trip.
I mean…..they gave me the itinerary.
But it was MY responsibility to pick out which hotels we’d be staying at along the way.
And let me tell you. To this day, nothing beats The Medicine Hat Lodge….complete with 2-story waterslide.
I LIVED for hotel swimming pools. And The Medicine Hat Lodge was the be-all-end-all.
On our trips, my sisters and I would cram into the backseat of our silver Honda Accord from dawn until dusk. Battling for elbow room. Cross-country.
Sure, my dad’s cassette tapes of Elton John and Don Henley would help to pass the time. But it was a test of endurance, like no other. And it was the hopes of a killer swimming pool at the end of the day, that kept me in it.
My ability to endure was built, one summer vacation at a time. And I’m convinced that those experiences as a child, are a big part of why I have so much patience. So much stick-to-it-ness. So much stamina.
I see happiness, off in the distance, and I ride it out. No matter what.
I put up with hard stuff to get to the good stuff.
And as a child, there was no greater happiness than a swimming pool.
The power of fluidity
This, I feel, is what children are incredible at doing. Envisioning happiness. The dream of playing on NHL ice. The goal of walking with the penguins in Antarctica. The idea of an epic water fight.
It is where we all begin. Dreaming of happiness.
And at first, our dreams are boundless.
Then, we apply the filter of what others tell us happiness looks like. A wedding dress. A power suit. An apron for making baby’s home-made organic pea puree.
And so, when people start asking us…..“what do you want to be when you grow up?” we start spouting off roles, identities, and labels (a wife, a mother, a teacher). Rather than simply responding with the answer that speaks to our soul…..“I want to be happy.”
And while specific goals can be helpful in providing us with clarity…..they are also extremely limiting.
And in my experience, the more fluid we can make our goals, the better.
Because I’m all about dreaming big.
But the thing about dreaming big, is that there’s a pretty big gap between here and there.
And by the time you GET from here to there, you’ve likely shed a few layers, shape-shifted a bit, and become a slightly (if not dramatically) different person than when you started the journey.
Redefine what it means to be happy
Take love, for instance.
When I was 23 years old, I was all in on marriage. I was psyched about settling down. I was set on the idea of growing old with someone. And I wanted to start a family.
12 years later, my identity had evolved and shifted so much, that my vision of happiness was at odds with my current reality.
I reassessed my definition of happiness.
And I realized that, as a woman, it was important for me to learn how to build a life of my own, separate from anyone else. So that if shit ever hit the fan, I’d still have my own identity. I’d still have my own life.
I felt a deep desire for independence. And I knew that my own happiness depended on it.
And so this……recalibration. This detour. It has not been an easy one to navigate.
And at the same time? It has been the greatest gift I have ever received.
Because in the biggest way possible, it has allowed me to see that WHO WE ARE, is in constant motion. And that our ultimate goal should ALWAYS be happiness. Period. No strings….no labels assigned.
And so what does that look like? I think it looks like…..allowing ourselves to recalibrate. To refine. To reform.
It looks like a continual redefinition.
Because we are all in a constant state of figuring out who we are. Becoming more ourselves.
And it is only ever FEAR that holds us back from pursuing our own happiness.
The 3 KEY questions to ask yourself
And so in this current season of COVID-19…..this season of paired-down priorities, slowed time, and simple pleasures…..I invite you to ask yourself 3 questions. 3 questions that I ask myself…..and re-ask myself…..on a regular basis, in order to make sure I am in HOT pursuit of my own happiness:
1. What is my definition of happiness?
2. Does my current reality reflect that?
3. If yes, amazing! If not, how can I recalibrate my trajectory, so that it does?
For me, my definition of happiness is to live and love deeply. With passion. With joy. And with true authenticity.
It is a glass of red wine.
It is travelling to Bali.
It is writing.
It is running.
It is reading a good book.
THIS is my definition of happiness. And THIS is what my current reality reflects. For now. And that's the important part.
As I evolve and change, so too does my definition of happiness. AND THAT'S OK!!
All too often, we are expected to stay in our lane. To choose an identity, to define what makes us happy, and to live there. But life ain't that black and white.
Who I was last year, last month, last week…..is not the same person I am today.
And although I can safely say, I will always be down for a Cadbury Cream Egg…..I can’t safely say that I will always love being a woman who “rides the wave of love” without desire or need to get married again (just wait….some incredible guy will pop the question by hiding a ring INSIDE a Cadbury Cream Egg....oh the quandary).
Mind the gap
So as the British say.....mind the gap.
The gap between here, and there…..our reality and our dreams. And know that in journeying towards our goals.....our definition of happiness....WE change and evolve as well.
Walk towards greater happiness. Always.
But allow for detours.