This was a post I wrote over a year ago about feeling happy. I find that while I’ve learned and grown since then, this is still true for me. I’ve made a couple of small notes/corrections, which are in italics.
From birth to the age of 12, I was the youngest in a family of seven children. I experienced all the stereotypes of being the youngest — lots of attention, getting what I wanted regularly, everyone loves me — which ended up giving me a title that I try to break:
Now, ask anyone in my family or any family friend from growing up, and you will hear about what an upstanding child I was. I was obedient and listened to instruction. I was eager to please. Followed every rule put in front of me. I didn’t often hear the term “spoiled brat” because most of the time I was such an easy child to get along with that the brat side didn’t have to come out too often. Perhaps the best of all my personality traits at that point in my life was this:
I was always feeling happy.
Even today in my teen years, the compliment of “You always have a smile on your face,” or “Rose, you’re always so happy,” continue to follow me wherever I go.
But when I look back on who I was as a kid, I’m beginning to see where some of my insecurities and problems as an adult have come from.
Side note: I am not blaming any of my family for this; it’s simply how I was raised. We all have our vices and make our mistakes and I love my parents for what they did to raise me and think they did a pretty great job, whatever mistakes they made.
I was spoiled.
There is no way of getting around it. I was spoiled as a kid. While I didn’t ask for much on a day-to-day basis, what I did ask for was usually given to me.
My spoiledness as a child had a direct correlation to my happiness level:
I got pretty much all I ever wanted, and everyone loved me. Why wouldn’t I be feeling happy?
But as I’ve grown up and become an adult, insecurities that I never had as a child have cropped up.
I always have to be happy.
I understand now that this often subconscious mindset of mine stemmed from hearing so many people tell me I’m such a happy bean.
I relate to Riley Anderson (who happens to have the same initials as me), the main character in the Pixar film Inside Out, who has had Joy as her primary motivator and fulfiller for her whole life. But as she grows up, her family moves and things and people change, she discovers that not everything in life causes happiness.
This is something I continue to learn.
Life brings you down. Life tears you up. People hurt you. Disappoint you. Discourage you. Places aren’t as nice as they seem. Politics are a mess. Celebrities are a joke.
When taken as a whole, humanity isn’t exactly what I’d call a happiness motivator.
And that’s okay. I find it harder to be happy daily. I find it difficult to get along with people I don’t like because, unlike when you were in kindergarten, you can’t just walk away and pretend they don’t exist anymore. I find it hard sometimes when I don’t get my way.
And that’s rough. As an entitled millennial myself, who never worked a day in her life (this is mild sarcasm, mind you), it was scary to get a part-time job and pay for any special thing I wanted to buy. It was rough moving out of my parents’ house and getting a full-time job, only to discover that work, church, and just general life is hard to balance and manage all at once.
But I’m learning that there is more to happiness than just constantly feeling happy. Anyone can stick a smile on their face. Anyone can force a laugh at a joke they don’t find remotely funny. Anyone can artificially make themselves feel good by convincing themselves they are happy.
But happiness isn’t the feeling of being happy. Happiness is finding joy in the little things. Happiness is contentment in a book and a warm blanket. Happiness is a rainy day. Happiness is clouds that bring no rain. Happiness is watching two squirrels chasing each other up and down trees in the yard. Happiness is watching a child bond with an animal.
Happiness is deciding to continue, even if your emotions don’t like it. Happiness is being kind to yourself even when it’s easier not to be. Happiness is being a good person to the best of your abilities even when you fail daily.
Happiness is contentment with life.
It’s not smiling at everything. It’s not liking everyone. It’s not even feeling good all the time.
Happiness is knowing things are going to get better. Happiness is failing and resolving to try harder next time. Happiness is finding that feeling happy isn’t always possible but resolving to be hopeful anyway.
Happiness, at the end of the day, is hopeful.
I think what we often see as happiness is actually this:
Hope was my chosen word for this year. It hasn’t been the best year. I don’t know that I could call myself “hopeful” for the majority of it. But I do think that things have turned out the way they should have and that they are going to continue going in the right direction.
And I guess that means I do have hope.