Today I want to introduce a new series to SASSY: Choose Happiness.
Lately I have been thinking a lot about happiness. Maybe it’s because it’s the summer and I have more time to actually enjoy living life. Maybe it’s because a lot of my friends have found love or are having babies and just seem to be oozing love and happiness. I don’t know.
So what does choosing happiness mean? What I’m striving for is simple: To be happy every day, not necessarily all day every day but every single day. No matter where I am in my life, or what I have. Currently I would describe myself as on the pursuit to happiness. I think I’ve even become a little obsessed with it. I don’t like spending time listening to friends complain about aspects of their life they can easily change – don’t like the way the guy you’re dating is treating you? Stop dating him and move on. Totally bored and uninspired by your job? Figure out what your passion is and then figure out a way to get paid to do that. I know these things are easy to say, but I’m finding it’s actually not hat hard to do. I think that people forget that they are actually in control of their life. You choose who you let in and spend time with. You choose how you spend your time. Now chose happiness.
I recently finished Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. It’s an interesting book. Essentially her New Year’s resolution was to be happy and through research and a pretty intense reward system chart, she tackled different aspects of life that affected her happiness and documented the whole thing. At first, I was giving her (and the book) the illest of side eyes because theoretically she was already supposed to be happy – she was married, she had kids, she owned her house and she was doing what she loved (after quitting a very financially stable and respectable job). But then I had to check myself, everyone has the right to be unhappy, or rather, everyone has the right to want to be happier. And so, I read about her journey to becoming happier. And I had to admit, some of her tactics could work in my life.
I was struck by one of her revelations. That some of her unhappiness stemmed from bad feelings she had for not doing something said she would/ was supposed to/ needed to do. When I look at my life, and the times when I beat myself up, it is normally because I didn’t do something I said I would (normally something I promised myself – like going to the gym, or attending a friend’s event, etc). So she created a Nagging To Do List and listed every single thing she had put off that she needed to do (and had beat herself up about) and she took a month and completed them. After creating my list, I know it will take more than a month to handle some of them (that 19th century Black fatherhood paper is just not going to get done this month), but other things, like getting my pesky stove fan fixed where really simple – simple to avoid but also really simple to handle.
The point of this series is to remind you that you can choose to be happy. It really is a choice to make and that is just the first part. You have to choose to be happy, you have to realize that you do deserve to be happy and recognize how important happiness is to you. While Rubin spends a lot of time arguing with herself about whether it is totally selfish to focus on one’s happiness, I am actually not having that problem at all. Although others are having a problem with me following my happiness because it is almost contradictory to my current work trajectory. I’m on the third year of my PhD program and the thought of being a full time professor is less than appealing. My boss/mentor is about to jump through the window; he is so over me saying “but I won’t be happy doing this.” But you know what? I’m going to do what I want to do, which is not following the script of what I’m supposed to do, and choose happiness.