One of the many new responsibilities that comes with adulthood is being in charge of your own happiness. Your mom isn’t around anymore to notice when you’re not smiling as much, to put your hair behind your ear and offer to make you a sandwich. She’ll be there to support you, as your friends will, when the going really gets tough. But they all have their own lives, and they can’t sit on the phone forever. As an adult, you’re in charge of your own happiness.
This begins with the basics. Choosing a job — a career — that interests you, challenges you, puts a smile on your face more often than a scowl. A job that may leave you exhausted at the end of the day, but it’s an exhaustion that feels good on your bones because you know you did something worthwhile. It’s a job that adds a new dimension to who you are, one that you’re excited to talk about. And if it’s a job that’s below your skill-level and doesn’t leave you feeling accomplished, it’s one that’s at least putting you on the path there — time you’re putting in to get to the eventual goal.
It’s choosing a group of friends that make things better. It’s having one friend that you divulge all your secrets to, the one who won’t even smirk when you’re drunk and crying for no reason, and others that just make you laugh, or think, or get of your apartment. It’s shaving off the people who make you feel like high school, the ones who have just a hint of that conniving, competitive or jealous side we all used to have.
It’s choosing a significant other that adds something to your life, makes you a better person, not just someone to call at the end of a work day, or someone who only calls you in the middle of a Saturday night. It’s knowing when and how to not have one, and still feel complete.
It’s finding a place to live that can be your sanctuary, a place where you can go to escape from the world, where you feel safe, and relaxed. It doesn’t have to be big — it might even start out as cramped, dirty — but you’ll recognize that it’s up to you to wipe the windows clean, to paint the walls a color that embraces you every morning. It’s up to you to put down rugs and hang up curtains, to buy a coffee table and set out candles, to make cramped feel cozy. It’s up to you to make it somewhere you’d want to live, and get out if you can’t.
Beyond the basics, though, there are the little things. There’s remembering to go get a manicure, or order a luxurious dinner for yourself when you’re sad, and not just sit around and let it simmer. There’s forcing yourself to go to yoga because it calms you, or comedy clubs because you always leave laughing. There’s recognizing the bad trains of thoughts that seduce you down their paths, not letting yourself spend hours on Facebook mulling over things that aren’t going to change. There’s knowing when to do something else, to take charge of your own life because you’re the only one who’s going to, and besides, nobody else knows you go to comedy clubs on Wednesdays.