We walk in the front doors of the apartment building. And as always, I am carrying 10,000 things at once. A bag of groceries. A Starbucks coffee. An iPad. A sparkly pink ball-cap. A basketball. And two stuffed animals under each arm.
My sunglasses are slipping off my nose. And as we pass the mailbox, I get my daughter Clara to dig the keys out of my pocket so she can open it up.
She slips the key in the lock, just as my son Liam turns around to see the horror.
“Noooooo!!!!!!!” he yells. Tears instantly start pouring down his face.
“It was MY turn to get the mail!”
I roll my eyes.
“Come on, Liam,” I say. “It’s not THAT exciting to open a mailbox!?!”
Then he lays aaalllll his 7-year old wisdom on me. And it makes me stop dead in my tracks (and feel horrible).
“Maybe not to you!”
Huh. He’s right.
There is absolutely zero thrill in opening a mailbox. To me. But to this little boy, it is like opening a pirate’s treasure.
I see the potential for flyers. Bills. And a picture of some lame-ass real-estate agent with way too much hair gel.
He sees the potential for scratch cards. Envelopes with money in them. Mysterious packages.
Happiness is a choice
Ah yes. Perception.
It truly defines reality. One man’s treasure, another man’s trash (after all).
And THIS is how I feel about happiness.
Happiness is a choice.
And ultimately? It is a choice in perception.
And maybe that’s a bit of a loaded statement. But I believe it to be 100% true. And here’s why.
When I was in the depths of despair….hating my 9-5 job….wanting out….I knew that in order to be happy, I needed to quit.
But quitting required effort. A change of routine. Risk.
And it was sooooo much easier to just….be unhappy (and complain about it), than to somehow find the energy to create a new path. And risk failure.
But like souring milk, unhappiness has a way of intensifying over time. And the more you tell yourself (and everyone else) you hate your job, the more you find reasons to prove it to be true.
“Did you see that snicker?!? Pam from HR is totally talking behind my back!!”
“Paper jam?!? I told you! This printer is out to get me!”
“Seriously Jon? Tuna for lunch?! Again?!”
The danger of letting your own unhappiness simmer
But the moment we start to swim in our own woe….and get angry that life has handed us this god-awful lemon….is the moment we give up our own power. AND our own happiness. For the long haul.
When I leapt from the cliff of my life-sucking job, I did so, with a hell of a lot of fear. But the discomfort of that fear was only outweighed by the discomfort of my unhappiness.
It was that bad.
But need we let it get to that point?
Sometimes, I think we let unhappiness simmer for while. Just to make sure it’s turning into a true unhappiness stew.
And sure, it’s probably a good thing to give shitty things a chance to de-shit (the last thing you wanna be is that person who continually chases shiny objects).
But “weighing your options” often happens for waaaayyyy too long. And we just linger there. In misery.
We question ourselves….am I really unhappy? Or did I just have a bad day? Am I really unhappy? Or did I just not get enough sleep last night? Am I really unhappy? Or did I eat one too many bean burritos?
Flip. Flop. Flip. Flop.
Then OK. We call it. We decide. Yes, I’m unhappy.
At which point…..we need a bull-shit exit strategy. A transition plan. A guaranteed safe landing. Before we can jump ship.
And the unhappiness? Continues.
The plus-side of unhappiness
In the meantime….you get all kinds of sympathy for being “stuck” in a job you hate. Your mom drops by with cookies to cheer you up. Your best friend checks in with you to see how you “survived” your week. And you get to ditch that house warming party you were ho-hum about attending anyways, because you’re “just not feeling up to it.”
And admittedly….it feels kinda good.
Until we realize. Damn. This unhappiness ain’t going away. And these band-aid solutions? Aren’t cutting it.
Sometimes it takes a wake-up call to snap us into awareness of our own power.
Other times (like it was for me)? It is a gradual awakening to the simple, yet profound truth. We can absolutely choose our own happiness.
Just like we can choose to see opening a mailbox as the most magical thing on the planet.
We have the power to take on a different perspective. A different reality.
And it starts with making different decisions.
You must be willing to stop at nothing to cultivate your own happiness
Sometimes, we sit around, waiting for happiness to somehow come to us. Like a ship in the night. But happiness is not something that is bestowed upon us. It is not something that happens to us. And it is definitely not something that is on the other side of the bridge.
Happiness is a choice. An active choice. The alternative path to unhappiness.
And if you are truly in pursuit of it, you will stop at nothing to cultivate it.
And that’s the kicker.
You have to be dedicated. And willing to…..talk to a therapist, journal your heart out, get active, eat healthy, go to bed early, give up complaining, have the difficult conversation….or whatever it looks like for you to DO THE WORK.
You have to be willing to prioritize your needs, your wants, your passions, your desires. And you need to be willing to sacrifice the predictable path. Which (yep, I get it) takes a hell of a lot of trust in yourself….and the universe.
Happiness is the scarier path. Because it is the one that demands more of you.
But it is also the more fulfilling path. The one that will leave you looking back at your life, thinking, “Holy shit! I did that!”
Bring the magic
For the longest time, I was the person counting down the hours to the weekend. Agonizing over my boring job. Living for Friday night.
Until I wasn’t anymore.
Because I chose not to be.
Also? I am now embracing the mailbox magic.
I have turned myself into the mailbox fairy. And have started leaving little trinkets for the kids to find.
Because why not?
It is waayyyy more exciting than real-estate.