Happy vs Content

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Happy vs Content

What do you want most out of life?  Seriously, answer the question.

Two weeks ago I walked in to a gym looking for a kick boxing class.  I was in the wrong gym (I found out later), but the owner, Dave, was there and the first thing he asked me was, “What do you want most out of life?”  I thought it was a rhetorical question but he just stared at me quietly, so I started thinking.  He then said, “Yeah, I know, it is happiness.  That is what we all want, isn’t it?”  I told him no, that wasn’t what I wanted out of my life.  “I want a full experience.  I want to be able to look back on my life and say that I lived fully.”

Dave smiled.  I think it was refreshing for him to hear.  I feel like we hear so many people talk about how they want to be happy.  It is an admirable goal. The Dalai Lama said, “The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”  Happiness is one of the best feelings life has to offer.  And after all, who doesn’t want to feel good?  But, in my humble opinion, there is more to strive for in life than just happiness; strive for fullness.

My mother is one of the people who know me best and she phrased it accurately when she said, “Kelsey, you have always wanted a rich, full experience.  You don’t just go through life, you purposefully experience it all.”  I will not tell you that my life has been easy, because it hasn’t.  And my life hasn’t been impossible, because I’m still here.  I have had both easy and hard times, smiles and tears, ups and downs.  I think we all have.  I notice though, how many people shy away from the hard.  I can’t blame them; being down feels like sh**.  But do you let the possibility of being down keep you from living fully?  Life is a risk; take it!

When I was 20 I moved to Spain for three months to study abroad.  It was one of the most exhilarating and terrifying experiences of my life.  I flew there without knowing where I was going to live, without knowing where my school was or having enrolled prior to going and without knowing a single other person in the city where I was staying, Granada.  Yes, this is the point when you can call me crazy.  But after three months, I can tell you (still to this day) that it was one of the best experiences of my life.  It was hard, no doubt.  I had to make new friends (they ended up being awesome, by the way.  You know who you are!); I traveled alone at times and even felt lonely on occasion.  Looking back though, I think it was the tough stuff that made it as rich of an experience as the good stuff.

We can’t go through life thinking that it will be easy.  It won’t.  But if you live fully, it will be worth it.  To have a great life, you have to struggle at times.  God does give someone an easy road to walk down and then call them to great things.  No, He says: struggle, keep trying, fail, get back up, and then you will be ready to do great things.  And so when I think of happiness, I do strive for it.  But when it’s all said and done, I would rather have contentedness.  I would rather look back over my life and know that when it was hard, I made it; and when it was fun, I enjoyed it; when it was sad, I cried and when it was funny, I laughed.  The full spectrum of a life lived well is not only marked by the good, but also by the hard.  I hope my life includes a lot of happiness, but more than that, I hope I always feel content that I have lived my life fully.

So, what do YOU want most out of life?  Really, I want to know.

Inspiration

San Diego Beach

How a Series of Unfortunate Events Led to a Dream Come True

I’ll start off by saying that I have an inspiration to write, and so I am.  Writing a blog will be an adventure, as with most things in life.  I can promise only two things.  One: I will be honest.  I will tell the truth about my life, experiences, thoughts and beliefs.  Two: I will be positive.  Each article will include controversy, difficulty and possibly failure, but I am an optimist and so you will find that each time I share, I will focus on the positives.  After all, life for me is about honesty and optimism.

I have dreams; goals and ambitions for my life that until recently seemed clear and attainable.  One of the goals is to be a writer.  And as I sit at my table, sipping coffee on this cloudy Monday morning, it seems surreal to actually be writing.  It was not an easy road that led me to take steps towards this dream.  But I’m glad to be here, difficulty and all.  I like how Daniel Handler used the phrase ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’.  For me, it truly was.  But first, some history…

In December of 2012, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type I disorder.  Honestly, this came as a shock to me.  I pride myself on ‘knowing’ myself.  I can recognize that I have highs and lows, bad days and good, but I never thought of my experiences as being a disorder.  I was quickly placed on a regimen of medication and found it much easier to maintain balance, especially in my thinking.

I had been cautioned by many people, including my expert doctor, against quitting my medications.  My doctor explained that I had a 98% chance of hitting a manic or depressive episode if I were to quit taking my meds.  And yet, he explained, it is the nature of many bipolar patients to want to quit their meds.  Why would I want to take medications for the rest of my life, when I was feeling fine?  Why deal with a host of side affects, which for me included weight gain and mild tremors in my hand, when I did not think I was struggling?  Fast forward two and a half years: I decided to quit my medications.  That was unfortunate event number one.

When I was originally diagnosed, I was living in San Diego, CA.  I had a wonderful job, and although I lived far from my family, I was enjoying the freedom and fun of sunny San Diego.  After four years in California, I made the drastic decision to move to Portland to help my sister.  She is a single mom with two kids, and needed the help to finish culinary school.  I found myself working 60 plus hours a week, between watching my sisters kids during the day to working a low-paying administrative position in the evenings.  I was burnt out and ready to make a change.  I was applying, and finally landed what at the time was my ‘dream job’.  I was chosen as the office manager for a local primary care practice.  That was unfortunate event number two.

After three stressful months of long days, half of which I was not medicated, I was fired from my dream position.  They told me ‘it was not a good fit’.  I had hit a manic episode a few days before the news (not sleeping, anxiety ridden, racing thoughts), and plummeted into a depressive episode quickly after.  I wasn’t sure my life was worth living anymore.  That was unfortunate event number three.

Slowly but surely, I began to recover.  I had started back on medications, this time with a doctor who was able to give me a plan of action that felt closer to what I  wanted.  I applied for unemployment and was able to begin my job hunt.  When my unemployment check finally came through, it was accompanied by a letter.  The letter said that if I wanted to start a business, in lieu of looking for work, that I will still be eligible for my unemployment insurance.  As long as I was working 40 hours per week on my business, I could quit looking for work.  This sparked something in me.  It created the option for a new future, a hopefulness in me that had been lacking.

Now, there is no way in high heaven that I want to start a business.  I’ve seen it done, and it seems like way too much work.  Long hours, financial stress, little to no predictability, all of which are not my cup of tea.  But the letter was like a calling.  What did I really want to do with my life?  What was I good at?  What was my dream?  Finally, I was able to see how my unfortunate events were leading me somewhere.  I’m not sure where that is, but this blog is the start.

At age 26, I cannot claim to know it all about life.  Nor do I think it is attainable to ‘have it all’.  But two things truly tickle me: happiness and health.  I love to dabble in what makes us happy, how our journey can be blessed with long periods of joy and contentment.  I also enjoy focusing on health.  What makes us healthy, how can we pursue health, and what does it mean to be ‘hot’?  Women in their 20’s and 30’s face a lot of challenges, particularly surrounding how to be happy and hot.  Inspired by my own journey, I will explore what it means for women to be happy and healthy.  After all, happy girls are hot girls, and healthy girls are hot girls, and you can be both.

I hope you enjoy my journey and my dream.