This blog post has taken over 6 months (or maybe longer) to write. Why? Because I knew what I wanted to write, I knew what it was meant to feel like but I had to experience it for myself… no it’s not an orgasm, it’s something better! No disrespect to my amazing lover… this was just something I had to do and experience on my own….
I have been meditating with the thought of happiness lately… why? Because I had this feeling that I had been lying to myself about actually feeling happy. What does it mean to be happy? When will I be happy? How do I get happy? Am I am happy now? So this “epiphany” I guess you could call it started back in February when I returned from my first overseas holiday to New Caledonia and Vanuatu. At first I thought it could have been post-holiday depression talking to me because this whole time I thought I was happy… I was up to date on all my bills with a little bit of savings, happy in my relationships, living out of home and pretty much winning at “adulting”. So I couldn’t understand why all of a sudden I felt like this… and this is when I started to have one of those “awkward conversations” with myself.
Google defines Happy as: feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. I sat back in the chair sitting at the desk of my 8.30-5.30, staring at the computer screen to re-read the same definition probably 10 times before I that awkward conversation started…Am I happy with every aspect of my life at the moment? With work, my relationships, the colour nail polish I am wearing, the shape of my reading glasses, what I ate this morning for breakfast? Am I happy within myself?
So without making you all jealous I won’t go into detail of my holiday, but what I will tell you is that I was able to redefine the meaning of happiness. Everyone that we crossed paths with in Vanuatu and New Caledonia were so welcoming and proud of how they lived, you could see their passion, love and happiness with every word they spoke, with every small gesture and through every small detail they taught us about their culture. I am not going to lie, I felt a little embarrassed about the whole “tourist thing” because I would probably be offended if people came into my village and paid to see how I lived. I couldn’t grasp the fact on how this was “normal”, to me (this is the depression and anxiety talking) this whole zoo like concept would make me feel so insecure about my life because essentially someone is paying you to come into your “home” and judge you and the way you live. Anyways, I soon learnt to grasp that concept and while we were there we “hired” a tour guide to drive 12 of us to the other side of the island in his taxi…it was a rundown Ute with a makeshift seat (a piece of timber) in the back of the Ute tray. I was shitting myself with the thought of sitting in the back of the tray unprotected from anything, and then after maybe 10 minutes I started to embrace that this was normal to them. I remember sitting there feeling so free and happy for the first time in ages. On our one hour journey across the other side of the island to visit one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen we were greeted by all of these amazing humans! Almost every local we saw collecting coconuts on the coconut farms stopped what they were doing to stand up and wave at us with a huge smile.
The “tour guide” was so proud of where he lived and asked us if we would like to visit his house and his little village. He showed us his pigs, chooks and tiny brick house. Everything started to sink in on our journey back to town, especially when I saw a lady (maybe around 40 years old) washing her clothes in a river, while her kids were 10m downstream having their baths, this really hit me hard in the feels… this was normal to them. You know what, the more I thought about how much this trip had affected me the more I get angrier with myself. Why the fuck am I depressed? (Well that’s a long story and you will find out one day), why should I be depressed when I live in a house, have food on the table, have shoes on my feet, a new car, a wardrobe full of clothes… I literally have everything I need (no, not need… want) and yet I am not happy and I sure as hell don’t appreciate any of this!
These people are the happiest people I have ever come across and they have fuck all…. literally nothing after the tsunami/cyclone hit. They are still trying to rebuild everything they lost, but yet that doesn’t bother them. They look out for each other and don’t expect it to be returned… I learnt this when I embarrassed myself by asking the tour guide if he would like me to help him pack up our table and throw the unwanted food in the bin, his reply “no that’s fine, we leave it here for the locals to eat”.
Upon returning home I couldn't shake the anger and tried so hard to think about what I can do to feel that kind of happiness and making the most of what I have. Just seeing how much they appreciated the small things (like a smile or a wave) changed the way I viewed my quality of life. I want to feel the happiness and freedom I felt when I sat on the back of that “taxi”! So, I went on a journey and I searched a shit load of bookstores for a manual on how to be happy and stumbled across The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. Gretchen is an amazing writer, maybe too proper for me but I still read her book, she had some valid point’s that prompted me to also embark on my own Happiness Project, I wanted to be as happy as the locals in Vanuatu. Look, I know that I may be a little naïve about building my Happiness Project on one particular culture and destination because it is the only place I have been overseas but this trip is exactly what I needed to open my eyes.
After reading 5 self-help books I grew to learn that I wasn’t going to find “Happy” hiding in the context of each novel… they pretty much all had the same advice in different formats. Instead I introduced the thought that maybe the happiest place on earth is within myself (So cliché right?) Well, reflecting back to my visit to Vanuatu – it was pretty evident that this theory actually works! You’re probably thinking WTF is this bitch on about… well there are 2 ways to look at this: the suicide and depression rates could be significantly high over there because it is a third world country who have lost everything they have built in a natural disaster, some people don’t even have shoes… But that isn’t the case at all. They walk the streets (sometimes barefoot) with the biggest smiles on their faces and the suicide rate is extremely low. So yeah, maybe minimalistic lifestyles do make you happy and maybe happiness does come from within? It is a hard concept to grasp but it was a new concept that I am willing to invest in… all the other things I thought made me happy were only making me "temporarily elevated".
So, after contemplating buying a one-way ticket to Vanuatu to find my happiness, I decided not to. Instead, I decided to do something about finding my happiness within; I sent my book to an editor for help (it’s totally fine to ask for help), I started reading and writing more, I practised Yoga every day, I learnt how to meditate, I hiked, I camped... I invested my time and energy into things that made me happy. I understand that there are bills to be paid but at the end of the day it made me realize that I wasn’t happy and the only way I could “live like a Vanuatu local” is to cut the bullshit that doesn’t make me happy and to start to value my time and understand self-worth (also a hard concept to grasp at times…. Especially struggling through depression).
And you know what? After this whole experience I was able to redefine my perception of Happy (without google). So, how are you going to redefine your perception of happy? Are you happy with every aspect of your life? Are you proud of who you are? Do you love what you do? If not, what are you going to do to change it?