Most of us are always chasing after happiness.
What if we switch our perspective? What if we realize that all this time happiness has been trying to catch up with us?
Allow me to give you an example.
I just spent a week in one of my favorite cities, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Everything about it is expansive—from the wide open sky to the attitudes of Santa Feans. It’s an enchanting city full of color, creativity, and beauty.
I first started going there with my wife and eventually began taking our son, letting him play in arroyos and dance to music in the plaza. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains and high desert plateau with its scrubby brush and fragrant sage nurtured our young family. It was like a second home to us, so much so that we talked about moving there. It felt like anything was possible in Santa Fe.
Then came the divorce.
You would think that the city held memories that I wanted to erase and instead create new ones in new places. That was true to a degree, but I couldn’t give up on Santa Fe. So I brought the first woman I dated seriously post-divorce there. She knew that it was the city that my ex and I had loved so much, but she was open to the experience.
I showed her many of my favorite places. We hiked my favorite trails and ate at my favorite restaurants. I loved the city so much that I wanted her to love it as I did. And maybe, just maybe, the happiness that had eluded me and that I so yearned for, would still be found in Santa Fe—but with someone new.
Then that relationship ended.
It was pretty devastating when I realized that, once again, I was left to find happiness in Santa Fe alone. In time, I started dating again. After all, I wasn’t about to give up on my dream. Five years later, I met someone new and I asked her if she would visit Santa Fe with me. She loved the idea, so we visited—not once, but twice.
Again, we hiked my favorite trails, ate at my favorite restaurants, and I told her about my undying love for the “City Different” and how happy I was when there. I wanted her to love it, and she did. Happiness was again within reach.
Then that relationship ended too.
Something was going on here. For some reason, Santa Fe was like some kind of litmus test for the women I was with. Each had expressed outwardly that they loved it as much as I did, but ultimately each relationship ended.
In taking a much-needed relationship break, I gained some perspective. Where did I go to gain this perspective?
Santa Fe, of course. This time, I went alone.
What I discovered was that everything I had been longing for was already there, plus more. I didn’t just hike my favorite trails or eat at my favorite restaurants. I slowed down and saw a Santa Fe I hadn’t noticed before. I saw roundtail horned lizards and flowering Christmas cholla and shooting stars. I savored agave silver tequila and green chili and fried polenta. Because I wasn’t focused on someone else, I really experienced things.
I realized that being in my own company was sufficient. I was happy alone. I didn’t need anyone to validate my joy.
I was experiencing the city (and life) for me, not for anyone else.
I am now back home. I am learning to shift that sense of really seeing things to seeing myself anew. I am giving myself the kind of attention, respect, and love that I always expected my partners to provide. This time, I take responsibility for my own happiness.
I had been chasing a dream—a fantasy. Now I realize that happiness was there the whole time.
I just had to let it catch up with me.