With an all time high and newly energised by Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, I started this morning with a feeling of newness.
I strolled through a park to a nearby Starbucks with spring through every step, the cold wind brushing my cheeks and the warm sunlight on my skin at 7am in the morning. Nothing came close to this feeling of freedom and contentment, well, not for a while now at least. For some reason I felt optimistic, more than I’ve ever been since January this year. I was excited for this day, I was excited to share all that I’ve learned from the book so far, and how it has turned my life around.
I’ve often seen this little blue book at the bookstores. Wondering with interest as to why had always been one on the best-sellers list. I never bothered to pick up the book, thinking it would be a nasty, preachy, wordy, self-help book. There came a point in my life though, when I wanted answers, I was looking for directions in this ever-so chaotic world, so one day I grabbed it and purchased it straight away. I didn’t regret a single penny that I spent on the book that day.
The Happiness Project, has gives a wholistic view of how life could change for the better, with one’s own conscious choices and decisions to do so, of course. It doesn’t work like a preachy Sunday sermon or a lengthy book going around in circles. Rubin’s book was straight to the point, and very down-to-earth. There’s a kind of practicality in it that makes us realise what we’re missing and what we could do better; as a friend, a spouse, a family member, and a whole person generally.
I lie in bed on most days, wondering how my life has ended up going around in circles. Wake up, work, eat, sleep, repeat. It didn’t sound like much, and I knew there should be more to life than such a routine. I’m sure we can all agree that we are destined for more than to live a life dictated by society, family, traditions and status quo. I wanted more, and that’s why I purchased The Happiness Project. I was hoping for a roadmap, no, a treasure map. True enough, halfway through it I can feel my spirits lifting, as my mind grasped the fact that I was never alone in the search for true happiness. Rubin answers the life questions we were all too afraid to ask. In truth, this book is a wake-up call, an invisible force to urge us all to get up, get out and be YOU.
I’ve always asked myself why I feel stuck on the first step of the ladder, never going another step higher as the days go by. Why am I stuck in this vicious cycle? Why didn’t I feel any progress?
The Happiness Project highlights baby steps we all can do to find ourselves. As “finding ourselves” is such a broad incomprehensible goal, Rubin lays it out for us by chapter, with achievable goals and rewarding results.
Here are the points that have changed my life today.
TOSS, RESTORE, ORGANIZE.
Declutter. It has hardly come to my attention -until just now, that each day I open my cabinet, there is a slight nagging at the back of my mind that I should wear that blouse I bought two years ago. Going through that everyday cause a kind of guilt that I needed less of in my life. That’s why Rubin went straight to cleaning out her closet, and she felt free of that tiny shopping-guilt.
I happen to love this tradition I call “Spring Cleaning” even though Spring isn’t a thing here in the Philippines. It’s that day of the year when I go thorough all the things in my 10×10 sqm room and decide if it’s a keep or a toss. I went straight to the task, removing everything from my shelves, tables and cabinets, and deciding which one was worth keeping.
We, girls often have this habit of keeping clothes-we- actually-wear, clothes-we-hope-to-wear, and clothes-we-won’t-wear. I opened my cabinet to see all the impulse-buys I’ve made over the past years. Seeing that I had tons of clothes I just kept for the sake of it did give me that guilt, that feeling that I need to wear it soon-just because. Eventually, I mustered up the strength to finally let go. I was surprised myself when I ended up with two extra-large garbage bags full of items and clothes that I didn’t really need, at the end of the day, I decided to give them to charity.
HOARDING 101. My room has always been the only place where I can express myself. I can’t quite distinguish if it’s a good clutter or a bad clutter. Anyway, I’m happy the way it is, and it very well defines ME. A mix of artistic, adventurous and quirky.
Pinned to my wall are photos from my travels, a large world map to exude my sense of adventure, polaroids of my dog – Sushi, postcards from all of the places and countries I’ve visited (a colourful mishmash of cards I hand-picked from Greece, Spain, Tokyo, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, San Francisco, Paris, and more).
I am a fond collector of miniatures, figurines an memorabilia from various countries. Photos are a great way to remember not just the adventure, but the feelings associated with them. I kept a postcard from our recent cruise to Korea, and I couldn’t forget the nostalgia, the sense of comfort and enjoyment it brought me up to this day.
“THERE IS NO LOVE, ONLY PROOFS OF LOVE” (P. Reverdy) It’s often the little things we fail to notice, yet it’s the little things that matter. They say that expectation is often the poison of relationships. As a girlfriend I admit that I occasionally fall into the trap of expecting much from my significant other: expecting him to give me a ride home, or writing love letters in reply to the ones I wrote him (a year ago). Sometimes people love differently, and show it in their own way. I accept him for being that guy who shows his love silently, simply and yet genuinely true.
An illustration of love I drew quite a number of years ago.
As a big sister to two (annoying, smart, not-so-little) brothers, I do miss those summer days when we would stay in and do simple arts and crafts together while the dogs lay asleep beside us. Those little moments won’t happen again, those memories shall remain memories. Some say we never go through the same road twice, on the contrary one writer exclaims, we never go through the same road once. At one point we will always be a different person, at a different place in life, at a different scenario. “The days are long and the years are short” I will get out of my way now to say that I do miss those days. I hadn’t realised how much those meant until now that they’re too old or too far away to spend time together as a complete family again.
It struck me how simple yet profound this principle is. My generation and the ones to come, (admittedly I am also a victim to this) have a low self-esteem because of the standards set by others; whether it be the social media, movies, peers or family. Furthermore, the number of “LIKES”, “COMMENTS” or “SHARES” do NOT dictate who your worth. The only person who can define you, is you. Rubin mentions a quote by Erasmus: “The chief happiness of a man is to be what he is..”
I admit I’ve always been ashamed of who I am, for being that finance major who never had a inkling about math, for being an introverted wreck, for the inability to express my emotions vocally since childhood and the fact that I am an emotionally unstable person (currently under therapy). It’s hard to love a person like myself, I have accepted this fact since day 1, and I’m surprised there are a handful of people who have provided me with the kind of love I’ve never had nor deserved.
Rubin was right about this: “People don’t notice your mistakes as much as you think they do” I have long been afraid of gatherings, and opt out of group events because of the fear of being different. I’m afraid to be judged, to be noticed and then be the subject of gossip. I learned it the hard way, that you can never please anyone, no matter how what kind of wallflower you are. They’ll notice you anyway, gossip about you anyway, make up stories too. If you’re lucky, they won’t notice you at all. In the end their opinions about you don’t make up your identity, that’s your job, not theirs.
I am often plagued by my inner dialogues such as: “Go there and mingle! You need to get out there!”, “But I don’t know what to say!”, “Find a common interest and get to it!”; thus leading to lower self esteem when I don’t do what my mind tells me to because I personally enjoy being on my own. The Happiness Project reinstates my stand that you don’t have to have the same interests as others, you don’t have to go with the flow if it isn’t YOU. I, for example enjoy the company of dogs more than people for the reason that I am fascinated that they have a language heard only by those who listen well enough.
While on the other hand there are people, like my boyfriend who can mingle with a crowd like it’s no big deal! Some people can work for years in a closed-office environment, while it would drive me nuts to sit in one place for hours. Everyone is different, and it changed my life when I began to accept that I don’t have to be like everyone else, I don’t have to enjoy what others enjoy, but be at peace being ME.
“In many ways I wish I were different…” but I have learned to “embrace what IS”.
We are all unique individuals, beautiful and interesting in our own way. The key to happiness is to accept oneself, and be free of the standards posed by society. That’s true freedom, that’s true happiness.
I’ve divided my blog post into two sections, partly because it’s quite long, and partly because I can’t wait to have this post up right now and share Rubin’s goldmine of wisdom in this book. (THE HAPPINESS PROJECT)
I’ll be working on the second part soon!