I remember when I was in second grade my teacher asked us to write what we wanted to be when we grew up on a notecard. At the time, I was bursting with dreams—an astronaut, a singer, a writer, an English teacher just like her. Of all the items on the list, though, there was one overarching theme. When I grew up, most of all, I wanted to be happy.
And so I wrote that on the piece of paper—‘happy,’ a promise to my future self. That scribbled word was a goal, a mindset I would work towards, regardless of the obstacles along the way.
Years later, and more or less ‘grown up,’ I think about that notecard often. I think about how it has followed me through the turbulence of my teenage years, the chaos of college, and into adulthood, where honestly, being happy seems like the most important conscious choice I can make.
Being happy, I’ve realized is not something you can pinpoint, grab between your fingertips, or keep. It’s more abstract than we give it credit for. We search as if we’re able to discover it, obtain it, hold it in our palms—but sometimes it’s so beautifully fleeting.
And sometimes happiness is not really a ‘thing’ at all, but a decision. Deciding to live with a spirit of gratitude. Choosing to be thankful, to see the bright side, to love and smile and have hope, regardless of what’s in the way. Accepting that you cannot change everything, but you can adapt your attitude. And letting yourself heal.
Happiness comes from finding peace with where you are. Not because it’s exactly where you wanted to be. Not because you have everything you could ever need. Not because you are wealthy, or in love, or doing better than the person next to you.
Happiness comes for no reason at all, other than because you decide you want it there.
You decide to create it, to make it, to build it out of the circumstances around you. You decide to open the door to it, to let it in, and then to foster its growth in your life, no matter what good or bad moments you face.
You decide that you want to live positively—bringing in good energy and people and moments and exhaling all that is out of your control. You decide that when terrible things happen to you, when you’re broken, when you lose people you love, when you’re left, when you’re exhausted or defeated or angry, that instead of letting the circumstances of this life control you, you want to react with a smile on your face. You choose to say, ‘I can’t change what has happened, but I can change my reaction, my next breath, next step, and where I go next.’
And you walk forward, focusing not on what you’ve lost or has been taken from you, but the knowledge you’ve gained, the love you’ve created, the strength you’ve found, the hope you’ve given yourself, and the wealth of things, people, memories, and moments you have to be thankful for.
So choose to be thankful in the challenges. Choose to see the bright side, the healing, the places you will go and people you will meet next.
Choose to let go of what you cannot fix or control, what you are not in charge of, what is out of your reach. Choose to accept the circumstances of this life, even when they’re imperfect or awful, and instead of wrapping yourself up in negativity, exhale and release.
Release what is not meant for you. Release what has abandoned you. Release what has attempted to destroy you, hold you captive, bring you down. Release the pain you’ve been holding in your chest. Release the anxiety, the anger, the fear.
Release and make a conscious choice—today and every day—to seek happiness and live with a grateful heart. Because there you will heal, you will begin again, you will grow.