the pursuit of happiness. i feel like this term has been glamorized by Hollywood, probably around the time when Will Smith starred in a movie titled The Pursuit of Happiness. despite the overuse, i still like the term. i like to think that we are in constant pursuit. it’s one of the few things that can never be fully achieved. we have to continuously look for it. though we can feel full of happiness at any time (and i hope you all have), it’s not ever going to be totally permanent. i like that. i embrace the chase.
for example, last weekend i was camping wtih an old friend i haven’t really seen in years. we were outside at one of our favorite places in grand lake, colorado. we were together. we were grilling and laughing and dancing. i was happy. i felt so happy, in fact, i decided to jump up on a tree stump and proclaim to the universe that exact truth. “my name is angela and i am happy!” i yelled with a mouth full of watermelon. during a later conversation, i jumped onto the same stump and shouted, “i am unreliable and i own it!” but that’s for a different conversation. however, when the weekend came to an end and i was forced to wash the smell of campfire from my hair, my happiness levels depleted. some would call it “a case of the mondays.” others would call it “back to reality.” i chose to accept it as “life.”
since that weekend i’ve been back up with my head full of happiness like when i used my wok for the first time in a while and my entire kitchen smelled like stir-fried shrimp. i’ve also been down, like when i stupidly signed up for crossfit at work and haven’t been able to stand, sit, lie down, laugh or breath since the first session. i’ve been everywhere in between. but there’s one thing i’ve noticed in the last few months: my ups are upper, and my downs don’t seem to go quite so low.
for all of my loyal followers (hi, mom), i’ve written a significant amount on finding happiness, particularly in regards to coping with the unexpected loss of my dad two years ago. i’ve been looking for it up every tree, on top of every mountain, and occasionally in the lush brown hair of a particular work crush who wears really nice sweaters. it’s been a good long hunt. i’ve learned a lot about myself. i’ve learned a lot about people in my life. i’ve learned about the kindness of strangers and the joy of sharing and the annoying dependence i’ve grown for my page visit count. i could attribute my newly found hurray! feeling to all of the above, but it was a conversation i had with my best friend (hi, mom) that gave me one of the most significant ah-ha! moments of my life.
my mother and i were sitting on her deck at the house i grew up in. we had spent the morning digging in the dirt, finding worms, planting flowers, and laughing our asses off (like we always do minus the worm part). we were finally off our feet with muddy legs and all, enjoying hard earned peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or something else equally adorable. we were routinely going through our list of mutual friends who seem to be having a hard time. it was a neighbor and an uncle and a family friend. each of them felt lost or stuck in their own lives. they’d lost their way. they’d lost hope. they’d lost happiness. we talked about what we could do for them, how we could help, what they needed (after all, we know best). the answer that kept coming out of my mouth for each problem, whether it be relationship struggles or loneliness or something else altogether, was volunteering.
i wish i could say that i’ve been a great example of philanthropy my entire life. i mean, i was a girl scout. in fact, i was the top cookie selling girl scout of my troop. but then i dropped out to play soccer, then competitive tennis. instead of visiting the elderly or creating crafts to sell at world fairs, i’d spend my evenings hanging out with friends in parking lots blasting kelly clarkson or sneaking off to parties we didn’t tell our parents about (sorry, mom).
the reality is, i just haven’t. i’m not hard on myself about it. i was busy in high school just trying to figure out how to manage my hair type (i’ve since learned it’s thin, curly, and completely unmanageable). i was busy in college counting threads with a pique glass, learning how to sew welt pockets and completely rediscovering myself in a foreign city. i just didn’t think i had time, or i wasn’t interested, or i didn’t try, or i didn’t care.
it doesn’t matter what i did or where i was or reasons why i couldn’t. what matters is that i do care now. ever since i signed up to summit for someone, my entire perspective has changed. i am thankful.
i am thankful all of the time. for everything.
i’m thankful for the relationships i’ve made since the start of this journey. i’ve met one of my all time heroes, john fielder. he knows my name. he gave me a hug. he donated to my cause. i finally met musicians that i’ve swooned over for months who donated their time and talents in my name. i’ve met owners of companies i admire who offered gifts or suggestions or words of encouragement. i’ve met complete strangers who’ve shown their generosity in less than a five minute conversation. i’ve met nothing but kindness.
i’m thankful for the physical challenge i’ve put upon myself. i work out more. i eat better. i take care of myself. i push myself to try things i’ve been scared of trying. i’ve met people who want to help support me, or who want to join me, or who just want to wear a hot pink tutu beside me during yoga. i’ve found nothing but strength.
don’t get me wrong, i face challenges constantly. i feel overwhelmed and i struggle and i definitely cry. i’m terrified most of the time. if i’m not working my 8-5 job, i’m contacting sponsors or setting up events or running follow-up. if i’m not doing that, i’m out on the trail training. but i’ve managed to find a project that takes my passion and let’s me share it with others. sure, i haven’t done my laundry since last december and i can’t tell you the last time i actually sat on my couch, but fresh socks has never made a girl feel this good.
if you’re feeling lost or stuck or too busy (especially if you’re too busy), just try it. sign up for something in your area. find your passion and share it with others. if you hate it, i offer a money back guarantee.
sitting on that porch, i realized that at least for me, the key to happiness is volunteering (and ice cream, obviously). it provides purpose, routine, friendship, creativity, surprise, abundance, and love. but just like the pursuit, i’ll never fully achieve it. i’ll never be able to turn around one day and say, “that’s it, i’ve helped all that i can help.”
instead, i get to embrace the chase.