This was a post I shared awhile back on my personal blog that I was keeping for family and friends to read after we moved from the States to New Zealand – and I felt like it needed a comeback.
Every once in awhile, I recognize what an important emotion gratitude is. It’s an overwhelming feeling, really, but one that is very necessary to experience.
Keep reading to hear about the day I experienced pure and uninterrupted gratitude for maybe the first time:
Being at Peace: My Happiness, Gratitude, and Overall Contentment
I felt compelled to write this post and share it with you today for many reasons.
First, I had a conversation with my cousin today and I found myself talking at him more than I was talking to him (sorry, Brandon!). I was trying to convince him to pull a “Mac and Cheese” – the nickname we were given in our favorite hometown bar for our tabs that has followed us across the world – and get rid of his stuff, quit his job and MOVE TO NEW ZEALAND. Or anywhere. Just to do it.
He said something, with a little laugh, that really stuck with me: “I don’t know, I’m not as brave as you.”
Me? Brave? Au contraire, my friend – that is NOT a word I would ever use to describe myself.
Then, when we got off the phone, I thought about it more and realized that I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. That he wasn’t giving himself enough credit.
Everyone’s got that braveness inside of them, they just have to access it, even on a whim, and DO something with it.
I am definitely brave. I’ve stuck up for myself and said “no” in sticky situations. I’ve faced adversity personally and professionally and came out on top. I freaking beat cancer! Then I moved to another side of the planet with my husband, away from everything we knew.
Some may call it irresponsible; silly even. But I would absolutely call that brave. And in that moment, I knew in my heart that if I could make that decision, if I could make that move, ANYONE could.
Next, I received the call I was waiting for…I GOT THE JOB!
I have officially been offered a position as the Communications Advisor for “Who Did You Help Today?” – a non-profit in New Zealand strictly dedicated to utilizing skills throughout the community to create a positive change.
I am so excited for my position with this company for so many reasons; only a few of them including:
- The incredible small team I get to work with. They may be small, but MAN are they mighty! This is a group of powerhouse women totally dedicated to seeing a positive change throughout New Zealand, and they have BIG goals.
- Since this is a brand new role and fairly new organization (that already has a lot of traction), I get to be a major player in how this position is executed – which means I will actually get to SEE the positive changes go into affect after working on them.
- It’s a perfect combination of both my communications background and my not-for-profit background!
It is so great to have the security of a job that aligns with my skill set, and my personal beliefs, so perfectly. This is the kind of job that, in fact will not feel like a job at all – but more of a privilege. I am, without a doubt, elated.
When I got the phone call, I wasn’t sure what to do with energy. After calling Mac (my husband) and screaming in his ear with excitement, and pacing around the house for about 15 minutes, I decided to walk down the hill to the water with my new book, “Gratitude,” in tow. After all, it seemed like the perfect day to read the four short stories compiled by Oliver Sacks.
I took a short walk down the hill to the edge of the Pacific Ocean (literally) while listening to Rising Appalachia on my iPod, hiked a little further over some rocks, and found a very comfortable rock to sit on among the splashing waves. Check it out:
I opened my book and started to read, and immediately felt at peace.
Oliver Sacks was a brilliant medical professional and author who had a deep fascination with the human brain and how it worked. “Gratitude” is a compilation of four short stories that Sacks had written leading up to his death at age 82 after a diagnosis with terminal cancer, about accepting his fate and getting lost in complete and utter gratitude for the life he has lived.
One passage truly touched me:
“I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.
Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.”
It was as if it hit me all at once: I am living an actual dream.
My husband and I built a life of pure and utter happiness for ourselves, and I have come to learn, in a very short time, that this is the one crucial element of being alive.
I have dealt with anxiety my whole life. When Mac and I made the whimsical decision to sell/get rid of most of our material possessions and move across the planet, my brain was not about to accept that as truth without giving me some pushback.
In the year and a half that we planned this journey, it was all so exciting to talk about – and then it was happening. The day came to board the plane and leave our home, friends, family; our comfort zone.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t cry during the ride to the airport, and probably a good three hours into the plane ride. What were we doing? Was this seriously the smartest move we could make? What if we hated it? What if we couldn’t find work? What if we didn’t make friends? What if the few things I packed weren’t at all appropriate?
SPOILER ALERT: I absolutely did not pack appropriately.
But you know what? When we got here, I fixed that. I got what I needed and didn’t buy anything I didn’t need.
The wind was ferocious on our first day here and we were worried that it would turn us off to living in Wellington; and then we grew to laugh at it, and joke when we almost got blown off the sidewalk from an unexpected gust.
We found an apartment that maybe didn’t work out in the long run, but led us to the glorious home we have now and allowed us to explore the city with ease.
We’ve made tons of friends – GOOD friends – and have every intention to keep making more.
I worked in hospitality for a short time to bring in some income, and it took Mac a little longer to find a job. Then I left my job and Mac was our sole source of income.
But we made it work.
Settling into a new lifestyle, no matter what that means, comes with its trials and stressors. Heck, moving from Youngstown, Ohio to Cleveland, Ohio (a two hour distance) even gave me a few panic attacks.
It took a couple weeks for Mac and I to find our footing here. We couldn’t get the hang of the time difference (we are 18 hours ahead of our hometown time). There were points at the very start when Mac loved it here and I disliked it, and vice versa. We got in some tiffs with one another and needed to work them out.
However, I can honestly (and proudly) say that, because we went through those stressors and made this life for ourselves, things are better than ever; in our relationship, in our personal lives and in our MINDS.
Many of us are taught to go to school, get good grades, get some sort of higher education, use that higher education to segue into a career that perfectly aligns with our skills, stay in that career until you are at the top of your game – where people answer to you. Meet your person, fall in love, get married, get a house with a fence and a dog and whatnot, have a baby (and more babies), grow old with that same person and have a great retirement nest egg to settle into when you’re old and gray and the happiest person you could be.
That’s the American dream, right?
Well – not for all of us.
I have learned over the years that it is OKAY to have aspirations that do not align with those standards; to set yourself up for a life of positivity, happiness and gratitude. For some people, the aforementioned life is the life that would give them all of those things, which is also totally acceptable. But for others, it’s just not.
Personally, I tried to fit into that mold for a long time, but something was always a little off. I would love my job but not feel confident about myself. I would feel amazing about myself, but hate my job. I would be happy with Mac, but at the same time cause silly arguments that were unwarranted.
I tried yoga, dieting, working out, breathing routines, meditation, crafting, throwing myself into work, throwing myself completely out of work, spending lots of time with Mac, scheduling alone time, trying to make new friends; nothing was working.
My mind was never just at peace.
It was when I arrived in Wellington, and after spending our first four months here, that I really had to focus on what small parts of all of those things were putting me in my happiest place. After all, it was just me and Mac now – no other comfort zone to rely on.
And as I sat on the water today, after I finished my book, I really reflected on which parts of all of those things I used to do truly brought me clarity and happiness:
- I felt healthiest when I was eating whole, real, natural foods – vegan foods
- I felt most confident when I spent a half hour a day working up a sweat
- I felt most calm when I did 15 minutes to 30 minutes of combined yoga and meditation a day
- I felt most creative when I set aside at least 30 minutes, at least two days a week, to do something I love that didn’t have to be done; i.e. crafting, writing, reading, watching a horror movie, baking
- I felt most useful when my career involved work that would help me see a positive, noticeable outcome that would help people in the long run
- I felt most productive when I made lists and physically crossed off my bullet points to show that I had completed a task
- I felt most positive when I eliminated the toxic people and activities from my life and focused instead on the people who loved me for who I was and the activities I genuinely enjoyed doing
That’s when I had a moment of genuine clarity: I AM LIVING ALL OF THOSE THINGS.
- I have submerged myself in the vegan culture in Wellington, and have found a serious passion for cooking at home and creating my own recipes
- My mom and dad gifted me a year-long subscription to Beachbody on Demand (yay for being able to do it in another country!)
- I do 30 minutes of yoga a day and I continue to see an improvement in my ability to clear my mind and focus on my breathing
- I have been setting aside time daily to write for my blog, documenting our adventures and planning more for the future
- I make grocery lists with only what we need for me to make meals for Mac and I, and lists of stuff I want to get done in the week, on Sundays – and cross them off as I complete them
- I don’t make friends just to make them; I have made sure to only let people into my life that accept me for who I am, support me, trust me, share some common interests and can get me out of my comfort zone once in awhile
You guys – my puzzle pieces are all in place! I am a happy, healthy, sentient being with an overwhelming feeling of gratitude.
Now, I am not naive enough to think that this is it; I will be this happy and blissful and content forever. I know that, as a human, we are ever evolving. Our thoughts, our lifestyle, the people in our lives, the activities we enjoy – it is all ever-evolving. But for the first time in my life, I can’t wait to see what that evolution looks like.
I can’t wait to meet new people, see new things, find new hobbies, and see the world through new eyes; and yet, I am also perfectly happy with where I am right now.
To me, that is the definition of pure and utter happiness.
I have become the woman I want to be – confident and strong in her convictions, a person who is considered a lifelong friend, a great wife, a valuable employee, a giver, a role model. I want to achieve so many things, and I finally feel as though I can.
I do not think that Wellington is solely responsible for the personal changes I’ve made and positive improvements I’ve seen in myself. I can echo the words that my husband has tattooed on his arm as a daily reminder:
“There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.”
You must be content within yourself before you can see the beauty that this world and all of the people in it have to offer. However, traveling to a new place, with a new, positive, accepting and relaxed outlook, has simply removed me from the noise and let me focus.
I strongly encourage, and even insist that, each and every one of you to seek out that focus. Both the journey, and the reward, are utterly enchanting.