There was this girl in my high school who was pretty, kind, happy, and just had this radiating glow.
I hated her.
I didn’t understand. Why are you so happy? Why does your life look so seemingly perfect?
My gut-wrenching anger was created out of a place of jealously—I wanted that happy feeling. I didn’t know happy in the way she displayed it. You know—the kind that pours out of your soul?
I needed to know where this happiness she harnessed came from.
Was it because she was a cheerleader? Popular? Was it those after-school church meetings she was constantly talking about? Everyone was going to them, so I figured it must have something to do with having a “relationship with God.”
I mean, being poplar doesn’t mean you’re happy. Having been a cheerleader myself, I knew that’s not where you’d find it either. I messaged her one day and said something along the lines of: I see that you have a relationship with God—and I just have some questions, because I want to be happy and fulfilled like you too.
Associating her outward expression of happiness with the idea it meant she was fulfilled gave me the hope that I was headed in the right direction.
That was the First Time I Tried to Find Happiness.
I associated God with being happy and fulfilled—and so, I dove headfirst into creating a relationship with God. I didn’t know what that meant or what I was doing, but I figured that this is where happy lived…right?
(This isn’t a religious post. Hang with me.)
I read the Bible. I went to church and those after-school meetings. I tried to do everything “right.” I never felt like her, though. I never felt whole.
I even got baptized and waited to have that magical feeling of happiness rush over me, thinking that getting baptized was obviously the thing that would make me feel whole.
But, it didn’t.
I Sought Happiness in Being a Mom.
At age 18, I wanted the pregnancy test to say yes. I didn’t want to get pregnant, but once the idea that I may be registered in my brain, I thought—maybe this is what I’m suppose to do.
Maybe being a mom will be the thing that makes me, me.
And I do love being a mom—don’t get me wrong. However, this void I had in my being…it wasn’t filled when I became a mom.
I cut my hair, shopped at The Gap, and took my son to the park like a “good mom.” Still, I soon realized that the title of “mom” wouldn’t make me feel how I wanted to feel.
I kept searching.
I Thought Being a Wife would Make Me Happy.
I begged my son’s dad to marry me. I acted like I was kidding, and I didn’t want him too—but I did. I begged. I wish I was kidding, but I even went so far as to write lists as to why we needed be married right now. Not in two months, right now.
If I was a wife, I thought, I would be happy. I could do wife things.
You know—I could decorate the house, we could do married things, and I would surely be happy. I didn’t really know what married things were exactly, but I was about 99.9 percent sure that happiness would be found in those things.
Well, I didn’t find happiness—but I did find a relationship in which husband and wife didn’t love each other. We were just two people who were too scared to be alone.
We tried, but no amount of married people activities could create something that wasn’t there.
There weren’t enough casseroles or Instagram-worthy pictures that could make me happy in that marriage. I had everyone fooled so beautifully well. My Instagram was a big pile of lies, and I know we looked like the cutest and happiest couple—but we weren’t.
These lies and appearances were another place I searched for happiness. Maybe, I thought, if everyone else thinks that I’m happy, I could really become happy. Nope, wrong again.
I Sought Happiness in Being Small.
Surely, being small and losing weight will make me happy.
What’s there to not be happy about if I could rock a size two, I thought.
I got smaller and smaller, but I never got happier. It was never enough.
The day I got on the scale and saw my “dream weight,” I celebrated by eating everything in sight.
I was so confused. Aren’t skinny people happy? Don’t we “have it all?”
Nope, no magical weight would bring me to the feeling I was so desperately trying to achieve. I definitely didn’t understand this one. It’s a sure thing, I thought, get to that magical number, and all will be right in the world.
Skinny liars, I thought. Are you small people actually happy? Or do you just want us to think you’re happy?
I Thought New York City would Make Me Happy.
I thought that maybe I needed to follow my dream, go to NYC, and rock my life there—despite what I would be leaving behind. I thought that if I did what I thought was my dream, I would find happiness.
New York is grand and magical, but it could never give me what I was looking for.
Here’s where I Finally Found Happiness.
I was never going to find happiness in these people, places, or things. I wish I could have—it would have saved me a ton of money, heartache, and feelings of failure.
However, I would never find happy—until I realized that I had it inside of me all along.
“Everything you need is already within you.”
I made so many excuses as to why this seemingly cliche quote didn’t apply to me:
I’m a single mom, with no money, living on my dad’s floor. Screw you and your happiness—I’m struggling.
I’ve failed my business three times, how could I be happy?
If my adventures in finding happiness have taught me anything, though, it’s that despite your circumstances, the wholeness and joy you’re searching for are already in you.
When my marriage ended almost two years ago, I had no car, no home, and I had 37 dollars—that’s it. But I was happy for the first time in as long as I could remember.
When I gained 40 pounds last year, after dieting for almost three years, I finally loved my body and felt so damn beautiful. I realized that having fit abs didn’t mean I would be happy, and that I get to decide what is beautiful to me.
When I failed my business and started it back up again, I thought no one would sign up. Who would want to join some online community run by some high school drop-out? But I started it again, because it’s where my passion lives. It didn’t matter that I had just one client for three months, I was doing what made me feel alive.
I didn’t understand those quotes about how happy people with nothing are. I thought you needed things—clients, money, love, short hair, mom jeans, and Jesus to find happiness.
If you wait for those things to fall from the sky and land perfectly for you, you’ll find yourself 87 years old and waiting on happiness. I realized that I didn’t want to be one of those 87-year-olds, regretting wasting my life trying to find something that I had the whole damn time.
My short life, thus far, has taught me that I am capable, despite what cards I’m dealt or have made for myself. I can find the joy in nothing and in everything.
Braving the Storms of Life.
It doesn’t matter how much money you have, how small you are, what title you hold, or what you’re wearing—joy is available to you in every single moment.
I know that if you’re sitting in a storm right now, you may hate me—just like I hated that girl in high school. She tapped in to some seemingly magical feeling. Good for her, I thought. Must be nice.
Storms aren’t fun to be in. I remember crying to my dad, wondering how I would buy food for myself, thinking there is no way I could be happy during this.
But this is what I wish I would have known: Happiness doesn’t mean you have to be pooping rainbows and butterflies. You don’t have to mask your fear or your hurt.
Happiness can grow through our simple acknowledgement of knowing that where we are, isn’t who we are.
Happiness means we seek gratitude. We learn to be present, and we continue to honor what arises, without settling in to those deep and dark emotions, calling them home.
Where you are in life, isn’t who you are.
You don’t need to keep searching for happiness. She never left you. She doesn’t only connect with those who are pretty, small, rich, married, a mom, or anything else—she wants you. She is you.
Author: Rachel Turner
Image: Instagram @strongchicksrock
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina