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“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.” ~ Dalai Lama
Happiness is a feeling that someone cannot hand over to us, nor is it something we can chase.
I know because I tried for many years.
I was 20-something and living in San Francisco. I was essentially trying to figure out who I was.
I had an expectation that there would be this Aha! moment in life and I’d have this sure-fire acknowledgment within that would give me a metaphorical thumbs-up.
I wanted validation, recognition, and to be admired by my peers.
At the time, I was working for a downtown marketing firm and hated the job. I was the only woman in a toxic environment which meant that there were multiple sexist remarks, physical harassment, and an overall lame vibe that encircled around me for my entire workday.
In retrospect, at that time in my life, I was chasing money.
My conditioning had lead me to believe that self-worth was slathered in money.
It was clear to me (from the hives that popped up on my body on occasion) that this strategy was not working. I desperately wanted to find my “thing.”
I had put so much pressure on my young self to be something I was not.
That was not the end of my humility.
A few more painful jobs later, and after dropping out of an MBA program in Sustainable Business, I started to feel like I was living a lie. I hated the restrictive clothing (business attire) I wore every day and the role I played in the working world.
Each day, when I woke up, I felt this knot in my stomach that I’d carry throughout my day and try to ignore.
And essentially, I was doing this to myself.
No one was forcing me to squeeze my intuitive and feminine self into a toxic and soulless cubicle. I was experiencing internal conflict between who I thought I should be and my oppressed, intuitive side who felt unsure, scared, and alone.
Why was everyone around me so seemingly happy, but I was miserable, bored, and empty?
Eventually, I found a job working for a European software company and traveled two weeks out of every month.
I fell in love with the beautiful cities of Seattle, Portland, Austin, and Calgary.
Some of my best times were spent hunting for delicious food after a long day of meetings.
Upon returning back home, I always walked the long way back to my apartment. The steep hills of San Francisco were fierce and unforgiving on my legs, as were the black high-heel boots on my feet. But there was this feeling of solace that pervaded my heart every time I returned from a trip.
I felt a little closer to being content in my own skin.
It was not an epiphany but more like a subtle and gentle reminder that something was right.
“Happiness is like a butterfly, the more you chase it, the more it will elude, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.” ~ Henry David Thoreau.
And with that, I had a random idea as I was walking through the Haight Ashbury district while thrift store shopping.
I wanted to go to massage school just for fun. I did not overthink it, and I did not tell anyone.
Massage school lasted for eight months and I never felt happier. I would float out of class, after hours of practicum, and noticed how I was lighter, more in tune, and blissfully grateful.
I was free from the personal chains I had put on my life for all those years. I found something that gave me purpose and joy.
I did not have to wonder if I would be good at massage because I was so aligned with all that it represented, that it no longer mattered.
The experience of following my curiosity brought a new perspective of living life. One that did not require chasing money, painful footwear, and unnecessary stress.
Instead of trying to mold myself to work for corporate America and follow what my culture says is successful, I broke out of the limitations and let my intuition speak.
I dropped my conditioning completely and set out on my own personal adventure into finding out who I really was and how I wanted to move in the world.
Happiness is not something we conquer but a feeling that lives within us just waiting to be expressed.