During this whole journey, I hope to learn what is important to me. One thing I now truly understand is how simple life really is.
If you have been reading this blog since the start, then you know that I quit my job to find my real passion, to understand what is truly important to me. Although I still have a lot to figure out, I know one thing to be true: I want to be happy.
Happiness is elusive though. It is defined differently by each of us, and even our own definitions of happiness change throughout our lives.
If you asked me what would make me happy at varying ages, these would have been my answers:
age 5: having left over pizza for dinner, watching a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movie, and going to the LA Zoo
age 10: playing soccer, sleepovers with friends, and delivering donuts to my grandparents every Saturday morning with my dad
age 15: getting into the college of my choice, learning to drive, and earning As on each and every homework assignment
age 20: graduating from UC Davis, being offered a high-paying position, and being independent
I know we hear it all the time, but life was so simple when we were young! My days weren’t clouded with anxiety over being the perfect student/daughter/employee. I wasn’t aware of the stresses society would someday put on me: the appropriate time to get married, the blurred line between thin and unhealthy, the need to have a job waiting for you when you cross the college finish line. At 13, no one cared if my body was waxed, if my clothes were designer, and if I had the latest iPhone – and, most importantly, at that time, neither did I.
When I write it out, put pen to paper, it is amazing to see how my definition of happiness shifted as I grew. Status. Independence. Distinction. These were paramount priorities in my life. My concern was being a person of worth in another’s eyes. My focus was impressing others.
So what about my happiness now, at age 23? Easy answer: experiencing something new and giving what I can to others.
Right now, my happiness is defined to those two things. I want to experience something new by traveling far and wide, and as often as possible. I want to give love by spending quality time with my family and friends. I want to challenge myself to learn new things. I want to provide the people around me with a renewed appreciation for the little things in life.
I stripped away the layers and simplified my life. I quit my job to find that happiness is not defined by the number of zeros in your paycheck. I left my relationship to learn that love for myself is all I need. I purged my belongings to understand that the things around me where just dead weight. I did this crazy thing to identify what is really important to me.
Through this experience, I am realizing that life is still pretty simple. With health, family, and the desire to enjoy life, finding happiness is easy. With those things, what more can you want? Once I started to fully appreciate the little things in my life; I found that gratitude turns what you have into enough. Everything else just becomes an added bonus.
Here is a great visual depiction:
“A teacher cleared off his desk and placed on top of it a few items. One of the items was an empty mason jar. He proceeded to fill up the jar with golf balls until he could fit no more. He looked at the classroom and asked his students if they agree that the jar is full. Every student agreed that the jar was indeed full.The teacher then picked up a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar with the golf balls. The pebbles filled all of the openings in between the golf balls. He asked the students if the jar was full. Once again, they agreed. Now the teacher picked up a bag of sand and poured it into the mason jar. The sand filled in all of the empty space left between the golf balls and pebbles. He asked the class again if the jar was full. The students agreed it was technically full. Finally, the teacher pulled out two beers from under his desk and poured both of them into the jar filling the empty space between the sand. Now the students began to laugh wondering how far this was going.
The teacher waited until the laughter stopped. “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life,” he started. “The golf balls represent the important things. Your family, children, health, friends, and passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles represent the other things in life that matter, such as your job, house and car. The sand -that is everything else. The small stuff. If you put the sand in first, there is no room for the pebbles or golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all of your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are most important. Pay attention to the important things in your life. Enjoy time with family. Go to dinner with your spouse. Play games with your kids. There will ALWAYS be time to clean the house or take yourself shopping. Take care of the golf balls first – the things that really matter. The rest is just sand.”
Before the students left, one shouted out. “You never mentioned what the beer represents!” The professor smiled and said, “Well I’m glad you asked. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room to have a beer with a friend.”
Happiness is simple. Life is simple.
How do you define happiness? Let me know below.