Mes chéries, welcome to a brand new section of my blog’s Personal side, L’Esprit! The word “l’esprit” means “the spirit” or “the mind” in French. During my hiatus last week, I decided to create this new space for us to sit down and chat about the things people want to address but never directly do: the wellbeing of our minds and spirits. Now I’m definitely no Dear Abby, and there aren’t hundreds of letters in my inbox, but I have been through my share of difficulties when it comes to mental health, toxic friendships/relationships, and not growing up in a picture perfect home. These posts are going to be heavier, maybe even tougher to read. I hope that with time, you’ll give me the chance to give you some of my two cents and help you in your pursuit of happiness.
In this inaugural post for the L’Esprit section, I chose the one topic we all struggle with the most: finding the key to happiness. After years life just purely shitting on me daily, I learned that happiness is actually a overall long-term goal, not a short-term feeling. And sometimes, that means you have to go through the shitstorm to get to that place.
The photo above (which is actually a #tbt and taken a year ago) was taken around the time where I was starting a chapter of my life where I was the happiest I had ever been. As a 20-something year old, I can’t say I found the key to eternal happiness. After all, what we define as happiness in life changes as we grow and change in life. But I remember that night, returning home with a pound of sugar in my body, smiling on the L train as I crossed the island of Manhattan. I felt like crap, but I was so warm and peaceful inside because I felt like I found who I was that summer. It was on that subway where I started to realized how I solidified my personal formula for happiness.
My formula can be broken down into five main points:
Do What You Feel Like Doing
Have you ever wanted to do something but felt like that’s not what you’re “supposed” to do? Then you do it anyways and get mad that you let yourself get talked into it? This was my biggest hurdle in college. If I wanted to stay in on a Friday night instead of raging at the same gross little dive bar with the rest of the student population, I would somehow get peer-pressured by friends to go out. Next thing you know, I’m annoyed at overly drunk girls, tired from bar hopping, and craving an unhealthy amount of greasy pizza at 2am. It was not as fun as my friends promised it will be.
I’m sure you have all encountered something similar to this, whether it was going out or not. While this is less of an issue post-graduation, it still exists! Like I mentioned in my The Pressure For Perfection As A New Yorker blog post, sometimes just being somewhere pressures you to try and do as much as possible. But honestly, if you’re not in the mood to do something one day, that’s totally acceptable! Do what you and your body feel like doing in the moment. Everything else does not matter.
Be Self-Focused, But Not Self-Centered.
There’s a fine line between focusing on yourself and being selfish. There’s also a fine line between self-focused and self-centered. Focus on yourself before you worry about a single other person. You can’t be the best friend, child, employee, or significant other you can be to anyone in the world if you don’t have a solid grasp on who you are. The only way to find true happiness is in yourself, not someone else. At the end of the day, you will die alone. You will be the only one who has to worry about whether or not you’re happy with yourself.
So, put your blinders on and don’t worry about anyone else’s opinion or expectations. Do you until you feel confident and comfortable. Be the energy you want to surround yourself with, and you will find those type of people entering your life. Just be sure to know the fine line between self-focused and selfish or self-centered very well.
The Art of Saying No.
I used to be the biggest pushover. Then I became the “Yes Man” and would do anything my friends asked me to do, even if the idea they pitched was absolutely insane. Now, I’m a “F*ck No!” girl. It sounds bad until you take a step back and look at the greater picture instead of feeding into your FOMO.
Sometimes, but not always, you just need to say no! Say no to going out on a Friday night if you’re not feeling it. Say no to spending extra money on a dinner if you know there’s a cheaper option. Say no if someone asks you to go out of your comfort zone in a non-beneficial way. Say no if everyone is asking you to help out but you just can’t spread yourself so thin.
Saying no will give you a boost of confidence in the long-run. It’ll teach you to treasure your values, your mind and body’s wishes, and even earn the respect of others who know your word is your word and you keep it. When you say no to something, say yes to something else, something that you feel like doing and want to do.
Find A “Me” Hobby.
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, as they say. I found that having small hobbies really uplifts me when life’s toils brings me down. It’s great to have hobbies like snowboarding or dirt biking or playing sports with people, but you also need a “me” hobby where you can do anywhere at any time for no one but yourself. For some, this is reading or painting. For others it’s cooking. When I was a teen, my biggest “me” hobby was playing with makeup; my second “me” hobby was writing. Both kept me busy and helped me lift my mood, even if it was just for 10 minutes, when I had a rough day. Both also taught me new skills and helped me hone them.
The key to having a suitable “me” hobby is it cannot consume you or replace your responsibilities! It has to be a hobby you can enjoy in moderation without taking away from the things you’re supposed to do. Think of it as something that will give you a break from the world while adding to your actual life.
Take Things Day By Day.
As humans, we are constantly seeking something bigger, something better, something more amazing. But if we spend all day today worrying about the future, when do we actually take time to work on the future? There is a quote that states people overestimate what they can do in a year but underestimate what they can do in a day. There is not a truer statement! When you take things day by day, moment by moment, you’re ensuring that you’re tackling whatever is in front of you before you go to the next problem or next step. This doesn’t mean you don’t have your greater goal in your mind. It just means you allocate your energy and resources to focusing on what’s in front of you in order to make sure you can build towards your end goal on a stable foundation. (And, it helps you not get overwhelmed or too lofty with your visions!)
Everything Is Temporary.
I’ve said this before somewhere on this blog, but I stand by it to this day. Everything is temporary. Nothing stays. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Step back and take a look at the grand scheme of things: does this ~traumatic~ event matter in the long run? Or is it just consuming me now because I am in the heat of the moment? Don’t waste your precious time and energy on something temporary that will not matter in the long run. Instead, take that energy and focus on bigger problems or the positive things that will bring you to your next milestone.
I’m a firm believer that the key to happiness is all in perspective and mindset. You have to want it to achieve it. So if you want to be happy, don’t mope in what’s bogging you down. Change your mindset, tackle the issue to the best of your capabilities, and keep pushing no matter what life hands you. I promise you that you can handle it! You were made to handle it. You just have to believe it.