It’s completely up to you

We can’t control the weather we wake up to, what color hair we’re born with, how much our rent goes up each year, or how loud the neighbor plays his music at night. But, we can control how we react to the weather, we can dye our hair, we can move to find cheaper rent, and we can put in ear plugs or kindly ask the neighbor to turn it down.

Essentially, there are a lot of things that are not in our control (it basically boils down to Mother Nature and other people), but there are many, many things we can control — it’s just a matter of perspective. It’s funny to think about how similar situations cause us to act differently, and I’m not quite sure how to pinpoint the reason why.

Example: last week, I walked out of my apartment to a rainy, muggy day. I had a headache, and had overslept a little. I was annoyed that I hadn’t slept well, and that it was still warm for September. I got to work, in a mad mood before the day had even started, annoyed with everyone and everything. But today, I woke up fully rested, still high off a great 10k run and great fall food cooking from this weekend, and feeling good about Monday. I knew it was going to be a busy week, and knew it was chilly out, but I threw on my tights, skirt, and cardigan, and set out for work, listening to an NPR podcast on my phone and ready to see what the day would offer. I topped it off with a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks and settled into my day. Even though I left the office an hour or more later than usual, and I was feeling the to-do list creep, I still came home feeling good overall.

Why? I’m still not sure. But I do know that context has a lot to do with it (my good feelings from the weekend carried me over), and that I felt in control of myself and my attitude today.

It doesn’t mean that tomorrow I’ll wake up and feel chipper and solid throughout the day again, but it does mean that it is completely up to me to make it so — or not. There were one or two things on my mind today that were weighing me down, but I’m choosing to not let it control my overall my mood. In reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, I’m realizing that I’m not the only one that has to sometimes make a conscious effort to be positive, to not let the little things get to me. Sometimes, I just want to be mad. I want to be down, left alone, moody. My mind screams, THIS ANNOYS ME AND I’M JUST GOING TO BE THAT WAY. But then I remind myself that I can’t always do that — not at work, not out with friends, and not if I want people to hang out with me. So we all have those moments, those days, maybe even those weeks. Go away, we say to everyone. I’m in a mood, we tell ourselves, our coworkers, our friends.

And then we realize, in a moment of laughter, in an unexpected moment of silliness, of joy, that we’re really not mad at anyone after all. Raise your hand if you’ve tried to stay mad at someone and it’s impossible because you realize they’re just too awesome and you’re being too stubborn? (Me) It’s completely up to you. You can let the rain and the heat and the cold bother you, or you can put on a sweater, or pull out an umbrella. You can let people on Twitter saying dumb stuff annoy you, or you can temporarily unfollow them. You can sit around waiting for a guy to call you or care about you, or you can move on to someone who is available for you, right now. You can be pissed that you’re not losing weight or that you aren’t eating healthy enough, or you can get off your butt and make a concrete change that proves it’s worth your time and energy.

It’s completely up to you what you do, and how you react. So what’s your plan?

Are you standing in the way of your happiness?


True Happiness

There are the people that are always happy, no matter what. They never seem to get angry, frustrated, sad, or down about anything. They may be standing in the middle of a hurricane, with no clothes on, and no one offering them help, and they’d still find something positive to say. It’s this guy, which Gallup says is the happiest guy in the country.

Then there are most of us, who have our happy days, sad days, and maybe some roller coaster days where we swing from highs and lows and in-betweens in the normal course of our lives as we journey through jobs, significant others, loves and losses — it’s all a part of life.

And then there the people who always seem to be unhappy, no matter what. They are called Debbie Downers, Party Poopers, sour-faces, etc. Sometimes they annoy us, but most of the time, at least for me, they make me sad, because I know that they’re the only ones standing in the way of their own happiness.

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How to get what we really want

We are constantly being presented by choices, some clearer than others. Some will affect us for about five minutes, like which flavor of ice cream to get, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Others leave a lasting impact, like moving, getting married, having kids or getting a dog, or starting a new job.

Why some of these choices are easier to make than others is a great mystery at times. What is it that holds us back from moving forward? Are we afraid of something, or someone? Is it the fear of failure, or the knowledge that the direction you thought you were taking isn’t at all what you wanted in the end?

We’ll never know what will happen after making a big change in our lives. We can only imagine-  it might be hard, it might make us cry a few times, it make make us immediately regret it, it might make us wish we hadn’t done it. But…we’ll also never know how good things can be, how happy we might be, or as my friend Drew says, how “wonderfully great” it might be.

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What do you want to do?

As a kid, we were endlessly asked by parents, teachers, friends and grandma what we wanted to be when we grew up. Back then, it was easy: a firefighter! a ballerina! In my case, a writer. As we grew older, the question still lingered, but the answer wasn’t always so simple. The one or two-word career we dreamed about wasn’t going to just poof! appear on a business card all ready for us to hand out. For some people, it’s because their dream career is unrealistic, too expensive, or too hard. But for some of us, that dream is still alive, but now, the question is more about how do we fit that into the rest of our lives? Too bad we can’t have it as easy as dogs: wake up, eat, poop, sleep, do it all over again. What a life!

What's all the fuss about?

We get boyfriends, girlfriends, rent payments. Our chosen field is suddenly not the best to enter into in bad economic times and changing technologies (newspaper reporter, anyone?). Suddenly, it’s not just about picking something and being it – and that age-old question of “what do you want to do?” is constantly staring us in the face, making us impatient, causing us to hem and haw over our every decision.

Four years ago, I didn’t know what exactly I would be doing, or where I would be. I just knew that I wanted to be writing, and living in a fun place (Chicago, DC, NYC, etc.). When I decided to graduate early and get a head start on life, I had only starting dating my boyfriend a week before. A boyfriend who was headed to law school, so that already meant long times ahead. Four years ago, I didn’t really have a plan, for once in my life, except to go do something I loved, and I figured the rest would come along.

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For someone who is very routine, very organized and very detailed down to a fault at times, I’ve had to think a lot more about being open-ended. I used to arrange my books and CDs not only by genre, but alphabetically by author or artist. I have to do lists on top of to do lists, and I like putting dates on the calendar years out. Although there are times when I say, sure let’s go grab a drink after work today, there are also times when I think, eehhhh, I need to go home and work out and make a healthy dinner.

All that aside, now is when I’m having to be more open-ended and open-minded about my life and the path it’s taking. Having a long-distance boyfriend about to start his third and final year of law school is a big part of this – it basically means that exactly a year from now, I have no idea where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to just follow him to wherever he gets a job – it’s a joint decision – know that now. But, there is a very real possibility that I could be moving to a place that isn’t near the top of my list, or taking on a job that I didn’t think about a year ago or even now.

At one point – that would have scared me to a ridiculous degree. I would have been making pros and cons lists of every factor going into this arrangement, and trying to pinpoint a date when my life would change and all the things I’d have to do between now and then. But now, I’m slowly settling into a different approach. I’m realizing that things may not be as I originally planned, and that’s okay. I’m realizing that I may not go where I thought I would, but that it may turn out for the best. I realize that when you choose to share your life with someone else, there are so many other things that come into play than just yourself – and I think that’s the thing that I struggle with the most. Me vs. us. Yes I might have always thought there would be an “us” in my life, but it doesn’t really hit home until you start getting to that moment.

I spoke to a close friend from college tonight who is getting married in a year. A year ago, before she met her fiancee, she didn’t want to live more than hour from home, she was nervous about traveling abroad, and thought she was a long way off from finding the love of her life. Tonight, she was glowing about living in her new apartment in a new city, looking for another new job, and preparing for a trip to Italy with a friend in coming weeks. She reminded me of a conversation we’d had soon after we left college, when I urged her to take risks, to not be afraid of change, to embrace change. Now, I see myself having the same conversation with my boyfriend – and honestly, I could listen to myself sometimes. I am no stranger to moving, to trying new things and putting myself on the line for something I want, but I’m realizing that a big risk is also going to be figuring out how to balance my needs and wants with that of the person I marry.

Anyway – many of you know that I’m a couple years off from marrying anyway, but again, as the person I am, I think about this stuff. I’m just working towards not thinking so much and just being and doing, and letting it be more of an open, dirt road than a paved one with mile markers and dotted lines.