Sunday, June 29, 2014

Revisiting "Happy"

Courtesy of
I wrote about the idea of happiness a while ago, and in that post, I stated that happiness is an emotion, or a temporary state.  I've asserted previously that there is a difference between happiness and joy - as I stated, happiness is temporary (and usually provoked by a circumstance), while joy is a lasting state that doesn't necessarily need a specific situation to bring it on.  Happiness comes from without, joy comes from within.  I still think I am right about this, and while I can't really prove it, I know that I have felt the difference between the two.  But I am now coming to a new understanding about happiness and joy, and how the two states of being can work alongside one another.

Over the past few years, I have had numerous people tell me that I wasn't happy, and that they want me to be happy.  Many times, they equated happiness for me with being partnered.  Unfortunately, the very few times that I have been partnered weren't the happiest times in my life.  So I am not sure that being partnered would make me happy, but I do think that the right person in my life will add to my happiness.  That is, if I have some happiness for him to add to.

In my previous post on the topic of happiness, I pretty much insisted that I was happy.  I lied.  I wasn't.

I'd moved to western New York (what most people call "upstate") several times; once for college, once when I was married and my husband basically told me that I was going with him or else, and, once that fell apart - because, hello, too controlling - once more for graduate school.  The final move took place during the time said marriage was falling apart, so no, I was not a happy person, though I am adroit at keeping a smile on my face regardless of the circumstances.  I wasn't one hundred percent sure where life would take me once I'd completed graduate school, but I never thought that I would live in western New York for THIRTEEN years.  THIRTEEN.  So many negative things associated with that number.

Long story short: I really wanted to move to the DMV region (DC/Maryland/Virginia; not the Department of Motor Vehicles, obvs) after grad school (actually, way before that, but I'll get to that later), but I was busy doing a 1,000 hour internship, a 20 hour per week graduate assistantship, writing my Master's thesis, and studying for the National Counselor's Exam while trying to apply for a job.  Well, I applied for one job, and I ended up getting it.  It was a sweet gig, and since the standard of living was low and my credit had taken a beating during grad school, I decided to stay just for a little bit to get back on my feet. That "little bit" turned out to be a longgggggggggg thirteen years.  I hated it there, I knew I hated it, everyone I knew knew that I hated it, and I never felt settled there.  However, I tried to make the best out of a less than ideal situation. I joined a church, a book club, a gym, a library.  I went clubbing for a short period of time, ha ha.  I moved a few times to try to find the "right" feeling.  I was like the Prince in Cinderella, looking for the perfect fit for the glass slipper I was toting around.  It was never right.  No matter what I did or how hard I tried, I felt that something was wrong deep inside of me.

I hated it when people pointed that out, because I was never sure if they understood that I wasn't happy because I was in the wrong place.  It felt like people were accusing me of not being happy, as if I had deliberately chosen unhappiness.  And in some ways, I can admit that I did.  I chose to stay in western New York for so long because I was afraid to fail in the place where I actually wanted to be.

The DMV region was always the destination of choice for me.  I remember visiting Virginia Beach with my sister when I was nineteen, and then again as a graduation gift with my sister and nieces.  I loved the trip, and as a poor kid growing up, I hadn't been too many places outside of New York City.  I visited the DC area again with a friend, staying in Fairfax this time, and I enjoyed it. All three times I thought it was more so the fact that I was on vacation, but those experiences stayed with me for a long time.  Previous to moving to this area, I had never stayed a full week here (as I have during other vacations). However, something kept drawing me to this area of the country more than any other I'd visited, and for over twenty years. But life took me the long way to reach this destination.

Even my short stay with family in Maryland this year still didn't feel right, as much as I'd wanted it to, because I had quit my job and just decided to move, so yes, the risk needed to pay off.  But I understand now that it didn't feel right because it was just a stop on the journey to where I am now.  So when people would ask how I was feeling, if I was happy with my decision, it was difficult to say that I was happy.  I was happy with my decision to leave western New York.  As a matter of fact, it felt like this:

Courtesy of Tyrese Gibson's Facebook Page, LOL
But I still wasn't where I wanted to be.

The job I took here in Virginia was not the job I wanted.  Correction: it was not the job I THOUGHT I wanted.  As a matter of fact, I was thinking of withdrawing from the search process the day of my interview. I drove to my interview exhausted, with a headache, and knowing that I had to do a presentation that just felt like too much for a job I wasn't that interested in.  I give all of the credit to God, because before I went in there, I prayed and asked the Holy Spirit to do the interview for me.  I walked in and immediately felt that I was in a good place.  People seemed genuinely happy to meet me, and I walked out of the interview, sans headache and funky attitude, knowing that if I were offered the position, I would take it.  I literally went through five different interviews for this position. All the while, I did not really know that the job was what I wanted to do.  But when I got the offer, and then got the salary offer, I realized that this wasn't about the job function.  This was about going from a place where people were resentful, or maybe even unaware of my value, to a place where before people even knew me as a person, I was valued.

Circumstances also required me to move quickly, so in a matter of a twelve days after receiving the offer, I was moving just my clothes, shoes, and some dishes into my new apartment about ten minutes from my job (in DMV traffic.  So, heaven.). I have been here for three weeks now, and this is worth sharing: I suffered from insomnia for the entire time that I lived in western New York - waking up at 2 or 3am, and staying up for 2-3 hours, consequently being exhausted and more often than not, late to work, which caused me to be stressed out and feel depressed.  Previous to that, I'd slept like a baby.  For the past three weeks, I have been sleeping on an air mattress with none of my furniture or the things that make a home comfortable, and I have been sleeping like a baby every single night.  Every. Single. Night.

People ask about this new move that I made, and it's been difficult to verbalize how I feel.  But I know now that feeling valued is something that I needed in a workplace.  Being in a place where my supervisor is constantly acknowledging the totality of my previous experiences - where in the past people either downplayed or completely ignored it - means a lot to me.  Being in my own apartment in a place that has been attractive to me since I first visited over twenty years ago feels right.  

I wake up in the morning, and I think, "I'm happy".  

Here's my new definition of happiness.  Happiness is when your inner peace and joy align with your outer circumstances.  And now that I am happy, I can't even begin to imagine how many more good things will come into my life, because everything on the inside of me is finally conspiring with the universe on my behalf.  

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A New State (Get Yours)

Courtesy of my lovely friend and former student, Mah-G, a magical human being. :-)

State commonly refers to… the present condition of a system or entity…
(Courtesy of everyone's friend, Wikipedia.)

I just started a new job in a new state last week.

Over the past six months, I'd written a few blog posts about my decision to leave the job I'd had for almost seven years and move to a different state (which you can read here, here, and here, if you are so inclined).  In those posts, I touched on some of the practical aspects of unemployment, but mostly, I discussed the things I was learning throughout that part of my life's journey.  I thought that once I found employment, I would write a post about the end of that process, but what I find interesting is that I don't feel like there is an "end" to write about, besides saying, "I got a job" after almost six months of being unemployed.

So, yes, I got a job, and I started it last week.  I moved to a new apartment in a new state.  But that's not the end of the story.

I keep getting asked the question, "How is your new job?" And to be honest, I don't have a great answer. So far, so good, is the best answer I can give.  I like the people, and I like that my schedule is flexible and that I can wear jeans on Fridays (Yay!). I like that my new supervisor seems to be someone who will help me grow professionally and who is a down to earth, confident woman of color with no apparent ego issues (More yay!). Other than that, there isn't much I can say. I'm thankful to be employed.

While part of the reason why I left my previous job was because it was really just time to go, another reason was because my spirit and soul were not being fed in that region of the state (or country, but go with me here).  I needed to leave from that place because nothing was changing around me, and everything within me was screaming for change.  I felt as if I was dying inside, and honestly, I don't know if I ever didn't feel that way for the thirteen years I was there, I think I just tried my best to deal with the situation I was in.

State commonly refers to… the present condition of a system or entity…

So yes, I took the plunge and moved, first to a state where I had family and friends, and now to the state where my current position is located (thankfully, still close enough to family and friends).  And I really don't know what I expected to happen between the time that I left my previous job and now.  I thought I would probably spend more time writing my book.  I thought that I would read more and work out more.  I thought I would have some type of epiphany and discover what I was supposed to do.  I thought that some of the people I met along the way would be people I would become friends with.  I thought I had found a new mentor.  None of that really happened.  I really just moved to a new state and started a new job, and there is nothing magical about either of those things (if we're being pragmatic, which I am not prone to be).  

This process of going from being employed, to unemployment, to being employed again wasn't really about work, if you ask the people who know me best.  They would say that I have worked really hard and that I deserved a break.  And even I would say that I moved so that I could focus more on family, both my immediate family as well as the family I hope to have one day.  However, I learned how much I value work while I was unemployed.  I didn't do any of the things that I thought I would do during my break because I spent so much of that time focused on work: looking for work, doing part-time work, working on my job-search skills, networking, working on letters to help people get into school so that they can find meaningful work, and doing housework.  I viewed the six months I had off from work as more work, and I took on any and everything that would make me feel like a contributing member of society.  I didn't rest and relax as much as I could, or should have.  And I don't regret that. I don't apologize for it.  Even though I wasn't gainfully employed for half of this year, I was busy working to get to where I am today.  At this new job and in this new apartment in this new state; both a physical state as well as a spiritual, emotional, and mental state.

State commonly refers to… the present condition of a system or entity…

If there is anything that I learned in the past six months, it's that putting yourself in a position to receive something new takes work on your behalf.  It doesn't just happen because "it's meant to be".  I do tend to use that phrase often, but in reality, if I had not put in the time, energy, or effort to pack up and move, or to create the Excel chart to keep track of my job search, or to connect with any and everybody I needed to support me in this process, I would not be here today.  I believe that people and events do align to create the opportunities for new things to happen in our lives, but that only works if we are open to those people, and if we play our part at those events.  Nothing happens to me that I have not set in motion to occur.  You have to make your destiny, and along the way, God, people, and situations will lift you, hold you, and guide you towards that destiny.

I woke up one morning and DECIDED that the life I was living was no longer the life I wanted to live.  I CHOSE to step into many unknowns, with faith in God and the support of my family and friends.  I BELIEVED that wherever I landed, I would land safely.  And I TRUST that this is not the end of my story that began December 22, 2013, when I drove away from the state, and the condition, that I'd inhabited for thirteen years.  I KNOW that this is only the beginning of something new and great, and my soul and spirit are excited to see what new adventures await, in this new state of being that I have worked to reach.

A new state.  Get yours.  It takes work, but it's worth it.