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.  

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