I used to think that in order to “be happy”, I would need to be in a place in my life where I was consistently happy. At all times.
I used to dream of that day. I would look forward to a time in my life when everything was the way I wanted it to be. At different points in my life, that picture looked very different.
When I was a young teenager, I just wanted to get out of middle school. I hated that the rules were so strict, and I wanted to be in the big leagues where the things I did really counted. When I was in my first few years of high school, I just wanted independence. At that time, independence looked like a driver’s license. Once I had that, I realized that I didn’t feel as in control as I wanted to be. I wanted to be committed to a college. I wanted the stress of choosing one to go away and to be able to call a new place home.
Once I committed to college, I just wanted to be there. I didn’t really give myself a chance to enjoy my senior year of high school because I was so busy wishing away the time I had left. I wanted to fast forward to the day when I could step onto campus and feel that sense of freedom I had always desired. The place where I could control my own life and get things done on my own terms.
When I was finally in college, I started to wish away the smaller moments. I wanted to be out of class or done with practice. I rarely ever woke up and looked at a day as a possibility. I looked at my life as a checklist, doing everything robotically. Getting the grades and putting in the hours in the pool. It all looked good on paper, but I wasn’t really taking the time to enjoy the little moments in each day.
I always wanted to be somewhere else. Sometimes, I still do. Some days, I dream of a perfect life where I’m married, living someplace warm, working my dream job and building a family.
But in reality, if or when I have all of those things, there will be times when the days don’t go the way I want them to. There will be wrenches in my plan. It will not be all bliss. There will be days when I’m wishing I was somewhere else. It’s human nature to want to improve your life. To have goals and to do what it takes to achieve them. But there’s a difference between wanting to be better and wanting your circumstances to be different.
There’s small amounts of happiness in each day if you look for them. You have to take the time to make the best of every moment and enjoy the opportunities we have to live the life that is given to us.
Aly Raisman came to speak on our campus on Monday night. If you are not familiar with who she is, she was a two time captain of the United States Olympic gymnastics team in 2012 and 2016 and has won 5 medals. Her work ethic and talent is unrivaled. Throughout her interview, she spoke a lot about her experiences with gymnastics, being so highly talked about in the media, and how she recently exposed the USA Gymnastics official team doctor for sexual assault. Following her accusation, over 160 women and parents came forward to testify to what he had done.
I am amazed by her courage and strength. I know that was hard for her to talk about, and she sets an amazing example for women everywhere. But what resonated with me the most was not her stories about what had happened to her in her past. It was her ability to appreciate the present.
Several times throughout the interview, she explained that she grew up with the mentality that she had to go to practice and had to go to school, like many of us do. I don’t walk around campus wishing I could have spent more time in class. I would much rather be watching Netflix with my roommate or out to dinner with friends. But her take on this completely changed my perspective.
Aly shared that she was recently given incredible advice from a friend. Instead of saying we have to go to work or have to go to class, we should say we get to go to work and get to go to class. We are given opportunities in this life that others aren’t. We should be thankful for the moments that we are given to do what we love and care about in life to get to where we want to be.
Right now, my life is still kind of messy. A few months ago, I wouldn’t have been satisfied with the way things are currently. I would have been wishing that I was cured and that I was swimming. But today, I sit here and write to you from a place of real peace, knowing that things are happening the exactly the way they were meant to, and being satisfied with that.
I’ve recently learned that happiness isn’t a destination. There aren’t rules and regulations for what happiness is. It isn’t just going to happen. Happiness is a state of being. You can choose to be happy or you can choose to be unsatisfied. It’s completely up to you.