The Discomfort of Happiness


I remember quite clearly when it all started. I was discussing the subject of happiness with a friend a few years ago. One of the clichés dropped during the conversation, was ‘Happiness is in your own hands’. My reply at the time was, ‘Unfortunately..’. While the words slipped my mouth, I realized how wrong they sounded and instantaneously knew I was on the wrong track.

I never dreamed of material wealth but I always longed for a life wealthy in experiences and interesting encounters. I dreamt of travelling and working together with people from all over the world. Being able to connect with different cultures and to live in an open-minded environment was what I always wanted.

However, I chose to follow the blueprints laid out by society. I had a well paying job, I had a boyfriend who was too good for me, an interesting social life and an apartment many people were envious of. Objectively I had every reason to be happy. I was cruising along unaware of the damage I was doing to myself and the pending havoc I would wreak on the people around me.

For 6 years I played by the rules of society. I was ticking all the boxes. However, confining myself to these expectations was creating an emptiness within I couldn’t define. I was unconsciously planting seeds of dissatisfaction and frustration which were strongly setting their roots as time went by. For each source of discontentment I would blame others. Usually it was work, sometimes family, often the in-laws and from time to time my partner. I’d whine and complain about it but for ever say c’est la vie. In all fairness, I was truly afraid of what would await me if I would take action.

The turning point came when I was engaged. It was the best thing that could have happened to me because it shook me out of my slumber. I realized I had simply reacted to things going on around me and it was time to take responsibility and action. The following 2 years led to some radical and difficult changes. I ended my relationship, I quit my job, I sold my part of the apartment, I left the city I had been living in the past ten years and moved to another continent.

With every decision I made, I’d love to say that it lead to instant happiness and solved all my problems. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. With each decision, I pulled out the weed of unhappiness that had grown too big. By doing so, I forgot about the roots which as much harder to pull out. Every change, how exhilarating it is in the beginning, is paired with discomfort. It feels like a pair of new shoes. You love how they look, you know they will look great under that outfit but they give you blisters and sores.

I expected when I took over the steering wheel of the vehicle I call my life, I could continue cruising and I would know the way. However, there’s no built in GPS in my car and all the road signs are pointing in different directions. I’m getting lost more often than not and I constantly need to reorient myself. It’s a daily struggle of being aware of myself, being confronted with who I am, what my inner longings are and most difficult, finding the courage to pursue them.

Looking back on that conversation, despite the difficulties and struggles I have faced the past year and face on a daily basis, I can honestly say, I feel happy. I feel happy because I took my life into my own hands and am doing what it takes to get closer to what I truly want.

I share with you this personal story to encourage you to take over the steering wheel of your life. Don’t be the passenger cruising on auto pilot. Get behind the wheel and start finding your way.  It may be a bumpy ride with a lot of detours and you’ll need to ask for some directions but I guarantee, it will be an unforgettable journey with some awesome scenery and interesting encounters along the way.

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