Here’s a really important question that I encourage you to ask yourself right now (and all the time):
You might meet some resistance when you first ask yourself. It’s too unusual. You might be scared because it’s embarrassing. Remember when you stopped dreaming, and your childhood dreams of becoming a ballerina or pirate (or whatever thing you wanted to be) got crushed? Yeah, that left an imprint.
But those “wild” dreams had something to them. The dream job you have, the image of your ideal self and ideal life has something to it. And that’s the thing I want you to get in touch with.
Do you know what makes you the happiest? Actually, let me re-phrase that:
Who are you when you’re the happiest?
I really don’t want the pre-packaged answers. Don’t follow some script. Come up with real answers. I can’t hear you. (But I wouldn’t want any fake-a$$ cookie cutter answers in person either… it’s me, your sis)
When I stopped teaching, when i stopped being a student, when I didn’t have anything to give me context, I didn’t know who I was, what made me happy, NONE OF IT. I had been distracted for so long, playing a part, that I didn’t know how to be me and I didn’t’ know how to be happy. Can I tell you what a scary experience that was?
I felt lost and empty.
I didn’t know how to be fulfilled just… as me.
So, I looked back at those times I was doing all that stuff. School from age 3 to 26… Playing sports since before I had all my teeth, then taking volleyball to levels most don’t. Those two things alone took me to some cool places: travel, a guest spot on tv, a job at 28 in higher education (wut).
But, why did I get those things? I’m not special. I just did what I liked, what I was good at, what was interesting…
I put myself out there. I had to get on coaches’ radars somehow. Outgoingness. If I don’t go to it, it’s not just going to come to me. Competitiveness. The desire to push myself. If I never try, I’ll never know. I had to remember what it was about me that sent me down the these roads, then I had to get them to work in my life again.
And i had to figure out how to use those things for others.
Because, when I looked at when I’ve been the happiest, there were others involved. Laughing with friends (because your girl is a professional hang-outer). The bonds of a team. Playing in front of crowds (when my high school friends came to our games at A&M, I died). Being cheered for making a remarkable play.
The part about teaching I liked most was seeing when lightbulbs turned on for my students. When we’d do summer camps or when I coached club volleyball, and I’d see a player master a skill or “get” the game in a new way, then how it changed their entire demeanor – that was my JOY.
I went to law school because I wanted to protect people. Knowing the importance of standing up for people has always been a driving force in my life. I like when people are strong and brave, not afraid or disempowered. And i’ve always been willing to be that friend at your side.
When I can remind people that they aren’t their problems, that they are strong and awesome… or simply to have a conversation with someone where we share those wonderful, curious, optimistic, quiet sides of ourselves – that makes life so sweet.
When I’m happiest, I’m moving onward and upward, not bogged down or focused on negative stuff. I’m sure that’s the same for you. And we’ll undoubtedly have different expressions of it, because universal themes may apply but the specifics are as unique as we all are.
I’ll be writing more about this as I break down more of the walls in my mind that separate me from my most-intense happiness.