For the record, I’m barely in my dirty thirties. 31 to be exact. Really, it’s almost a technicality, because in my head I’m still 28 or 25 or even 22 some days.
Actually, as much as I fight it, being 30-something is pretty alright. The thing is, I’m not anywhere near where I thought I’d be at 31. For a long time, I thought I’d be married with kids and a cute-little house in Colorado or DC, or traveling the world with the State Department, or working with the Peace Corps somewhere in my beloved Africa (slightly different dreams, I know, but somehow I pictured it all happening simultaneously).
Instead, I live in a cute but tiny apartment with my awesome boyfriend and sweet cat in Oklahoma, work at a great nonprofit doing something I never really thought about (or even knew existed) before, and live a much simpler life than I’d expected.
Honestly, in some ways my life is better than I imagined, and in other ways I am far from where I want to be.
The last few years have been years of extreme experiences – extreme highs and extreme lows. Seriously, cannot emphasize enough how crazy the extremes have been! So, while I have had some incredible, dream-come-true experiences, the stress and loss I’ve gone through have overshadowed everything. I felt like I couldn’t truly experience the joy of the good experiences without being swallowed by the darkness of grief. I went to Africa (lifelong dream!!), got my M.A., and landed a dream job … and was miserable. I was waiting for life to start. Waiting to be happy.
I really believe our culture has a limited, if not twisted, view of what happiness is. The American perception of happiness seems to be confined to bubbly, carefree, happy-go-lucky cheeriness.
We seem to think that if we aren’t feeling happy all the time, we must not be happy. This narrow perspective both demands an ideal of happiness that most people cannot live up to, and misses the value of sadness, anger, or any other “negative” emotion.
I used to think that way. I used to look around and assume everyone else had it all together. Perfect relationships. Healthy families. No money problems. No worries. I waited for my life to start. Waited for everything to fall into place so I could be happy. Then everything started to fall apart. People died. People got sick. People disappointed me. My assumption about how my life would go didn’t play out. So I waited some more. For things to get better. For the stress and grief to go away. Slowly, over time, I got tired of waiting. I finally realized that if I wait for life to start, I will waste my life. So I started to think about happiness and to redefine what it means to me.
So much is out of our control. The world is messy, and happiness can mean different things to different people at different times. Mostly, though, it is a choice. I have always heard that, but only recently began to understand it.
I started this blog as an exercise in choice, a place for me to focus on the positive and define happiness for myself. It’s also a way for me to hold myself accountable. I’m an oversharer – obviously – but I can also be fairly anti-social. I hope that putting myself out here like this will push me to follow through on shaping the life I really want – healthier, happier, with deeper relationships and less anxiety – and stop waiting for life to just happen for me.
And now, for some pictures!
SARAH (aka me)
ERIC (aka the boyfriend)
Ella (aka the cat)