When I was 13, I searched for happiness in triple jumps. At 16, I thought I could find it by making an Olympic team. At 19? Happiness was going to appear after I lost just one more pound. And, at 32, I had convinced myself that happiness was hiding in the arms of a man.
I have searched my whole life for happiness. I have spent year after year trying to figure out the equation that would provide that feeling of pure bliss, that sense that I’ve finally arrived and am where I’m supposed to be.
On the eve of my 34th birthday, I am happy.
I am happy because I have finally learned that happiness was never going to be found in some future success, in pleasing everyone around me or in my Prince Charming. Happiness was only going to be found inside of me. And it was only going to reveal itself and stick around—forever—when I accepted that it was up to me to choose to be happy.
It sounds cliche. Too simple. Too easy.
But choosing happiness was anything but easy.
I had to first search for it in everything external. I had to take wrong turn in life after wrong turn. I had to experience heartache, disappointment and then fall flat on my face—many, many times—before I realized that happiness was something that only I could give myself, and it was a choice. Only when I stopped searching for it, chasing it and looking for it somewhere other than within, it arrived.
It isn’t a big, monumental moment when true, sustaining happiness arrives. There isn’t a National Anthem that is played and a medal placed around your neck; although happiness can be there, too—but only temporarily. I’ve found that true happiness, the happiness I feel tonight, doesn’t have any conditions. It's there on a Sunday morning when you’re washing dishes or on a Thursday afternoon when you're sitting at a stoplight. Happiness becomes a constant companion that is always present, even when you’re frustrated because something isn't going your way in life or you're crying over a breakup. True happiness is the knowing that despite any conditions you’re facing, everything is going to be alright. It's the acceptance that you and your life are good.
The biggest lesson I’ve learned in 34 years is that everything we need is always available to us—all we have to do is listen to ourselves and give ourselves what we truly desire. It is so easy to get caught up in the fallacy that happiness will be found in accruing stuff, another person or monetary success. We can live our whole lives believing this, and the thing is, those things can bring us happiness—but the happiness that results from anything external will always be conditional and is always fleeting.
True happiness will only come—and stay—when you’re willing to stop the search and accept the truth: happiness is yours to choose and has been within you all along.