When I was five, I used to see the Air Force fighter jets fly over the military base we lived on, and I thought that one day I would learn to fly… I wanted to see what everyone looked like from up above. When I was ten, I wanted to become an actress. I wanted to step outside of myself, I wanted to learn how to be anyone (I still have the headshots from that time, if anyone wants a laugh). When I was fifteen, I wanted to become a writer, I wanted to tell stories about human nature. When I was twenty, I wanted to become a counselor. I wanted to help people navigate life. At twenty two, I became a mother.
We found out we were going to become parents during our first year of marriage, my husband’s first year in the military, and at the start of my final year in my degree program. We were pretty young, so we knew very little about parenting (and when I say very little, I obviously mean nothing. We knew nothing.) All of a sudden I found myself in roles I had never been in before. Mother. Military wife. College senior. It was hard (that’s putting it mildly). A lot of the dreams I had up until that point fell to the wayside. It didn’t necessarily feel like I was choosing one path over the other, but honestly, there still was a piece of me that mourned all the dreams I had fostered over the years. My first pregnancy was an emotionally lonely experience (that’s a whole other blog post) as I adjusted to these new roles. While I was learning how to be a wife and mother, my friends were enjoying their lives as young twenty something’s. I was enjoying my life too, but that was something that I had to remind myself of. As time moved on, Isabella was born, I graduated college, and we made our first move as a family to an entirely different state. Somewhere along the way I became painfully aware that it was okay to feel moments of envy, but it wasn’t okay for me to live in that place. I had to simultaneously learn to love and honor the woman I would have been, while nurturing the woman I was becoming. I had to grow where I was planted.
I believe it is an incredibly human experience to compare our own lives to that of others. So many of us are naturally competitive, and why wouldn’t we be? We grew up during the age of some of the biggest advancements our world has seen. I remember being in high school and looking around at my peers feeling incredibly envious of how book smart they were. Up until very recently, it seemed like being smart was the new cool. With the huge social media shift in our culture, many of us are highly inclined to check in with our peers, sometimes to see what they are doing, and sometimes to see what we are not. A lot of times we find ourselves silently competing with people who we may not even know, or we only know in a very surface level way. We are constantly looking at tiny puzzle pieces of their lives, trying to see how they fit compared to our own, without even knowing what their puzzle actually looks like.
During my early twenties I found myself struggling with both comparison and jealousy extensively. At a time that I was experiencing so much growth, rather than seeing the change as positive and necessary, I started holding on to the things I didn’t get to do. The me I didn’t get to be. And a piece of me began to pine for something that wasn’t mine. Despite having graduated with a degree in Social Work, I still could not see that it wasn’t my circumstances that needed adjusting… it was my personal perspective on life that actually needed some fine-tuning. As one of my high school classmates recently said on Facebook “One cannot grow by always pointing out the problems.” (Thanks for that quote Pam) It wasn’t until our youngest was born and we were coming face to face with time apart as a family that something inside of me just clicked. If I wanted to be happy, I could just do it. I didn’t have to wait for anything; I didn’t need to look over at anyone else to see what he or she was doing and mimic that. I already had an amazing life. I just had to start living it. Rather than watching the clock, and counting down the days until my husband had to leave us again, I tried to start fully appreciating every aspect of his presence in the moment he was there. And rather than allowing myself to get overly upset when he was away (I had my moments, don’t get me wrong. Pretty sure I started balling uncontrollably at one of my best friend’s girlfriends house when she simply asked me how I was- sorry girl), or when I couldn’t see my friends and family because of distance, I tried to start owning my happiness day in and day out. I made it a priority. Because my happiness is mine to own, and it is mine to sustain.
Of course, some things are out of our control. There will be times where life kicks us while we are down, or when the darkness inside us is too hard to carry alone. For those times, a simple positive mindset probably won’t be the cure all. And to be clear, I do not think that a person should ignore their calling or down play their own potential. But learning how to resist comparison and how to find your own silver lining is an invaluable skill worth learning and mastering. It is so important we realize the only person in charge of our lives is us. If something feels off, learn from it. Let it be a foundation for something that feels right, but don’t let yourself hand over your happiness to mere circumstance. Circumstances change. And because of that I have learned that happiness is not a destination. It is not an end point that you can only reach after completing x,y,z. Happiness is right now. It is often times a literal choice and it can be found when you learn to see the little moments. The ones you hardly even notice. It can be found in that first sip of coffee. In the way you feel after you eat an amazing meal with people you love. In the way you notice the shadows of the trees dance in the moonlight on your wall at night just before you fall asleep. In how it feels to be in nature. In the way your babies hug you and love on you even after you aren’t perfect. Happiness can be found in so many things, but they are things that can be missed if you aren’t careful. Things you’ll glance over if you aren’t putting yourself right in the moment that is your life. The truth about happiness is that you don’t have to chase it; it’s already there.