Over the past few months, I’ve taken a really intentional break from all things digital. I really wanted to get in tune with my internal self so I could figure out what I wanted out out of school, work, love, and life as a whole. I’m not quite sure if I know exactly what’s going to make me happy yet, but I have such a newfound appreciation for three key things: people, processes, and pain.
Regardless of what technology can do for us, one simple goal lies at the heart of it all—to make people’s lives easier. Because of the speed and ease of social media and virtual communication, its really easy to forget about the importance of making personal connections with people and continuing to put effort into fostering those relationships over time. Social media tends to be home to many shallow connections that, at the end of the day, will not deeply fulfill you. Quality over quantity here.
In order for your relationships to be fulfilling, you should ensure that you’re surrounding yourself with people who energize you. People who make you feel like you can do anything. People who share similar values but maybe, different ways of thinking, so that you’re always learning something new about each other and the world. While lots of things contribute to overall happiness, like financial stability, job enjoyment, and health, you’ll get the bulk of your emotional satisfaction from the people you make a conscious effort to surround yourself with.
This group of women made my internship experience this summer incredibly memorable and are the core of why I loved what I did. Had I not had the ability to meet such dynamic individuals, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my work nearly as much.
Until recently, I had the awful habit of thinking of lots of things in my life as means to an end. For example, working out was a mean to the end of having a nice body; drinking lots of water was a mean to the end of having clear skin; and my internship was a mean to the end of ultimately getting my dream job. I didn’t take the time to appreciate the intrinsic value in, well, almost anything.
Here’s the thing. Life’s big moments—the times you see the culmination of all of your hard work result in reward—are extremely rare. You work long hours daily to get a promotion every… what? two? three years? You go to the gym for an hour every day to see a major difference in the way your body looks in a year? You spend four years in college to get your degree and celebrate for one day? The rarity of life’s big moments illustrates the importance of not just trusting the process, but appreciating it.
For example, I set a goal to lose 15 pounds this summer. Had I decided to approach it the same way I used to approach almost anything health related, it would be centered on how I looked in certain jeans and a number on the scale. After a few days of crash dieting and some random cleanse I found on the internet, I couldn’t take it anymore. I decided to change my goals. Instead of the goal being to lose 15 pounds, it became about becoming more cognizant of my diet, exercise, and sleep habits. My new goals were to: sleep at least 7 hours nightly, drink at least 2 liters of water daily, and eat no fried foods, added sugars, or unnecessary starches.
It became about ensuring the steps I was taking towards better overall health were happening on a day-to-day basis and less about what I weighed when I checked the scale. Eventually, I lost 13 pounds. Most importantly, I grew a greater appreciation for the little things, like the exhilaration of completing the last 3 reps when it feels like your body can’t function anymore or the self-satisfaction that comes from deciding not to eat dessert and remembering your great decision later.
You have to find away to derive joy from small, daily things. Because the big things are few and far between.
I walked 10 blocks to this park almost every day this summer to appreciate this view and I’ll forever cherish it.
I get that this may seem counterintuitive, but hear me out. Regardless of our race, age, or gender, we will all experience pain at multiple points in our life.
Pain is scalable. There are pinches, like not getting the grade you felt you deserved on an exam or a close friend missing your birthday. There are punches, like crushing breakups or being denied from the college you’d dreamed about forever. And then, there is the type of pain that makes you feel like you’re trapped under a boulder in the middle of the Sahara desert, screaming tirelessly for help but no one can hear you—or worse, people can hear you but don’t have the energy, wherewithal, or desire to help you.
This type of pain doesn’t happen at once. Rather, it’s a gradual buildup of certain recurring themes in your life that you can’t seem to escape. One day, you’ll realize just how trapped you feel. I think we all go through a realization of this pain, in some way, shape, or form, during our lives. Maybe it’s realizing how you let people take advantage of your kindness, or realizing that you’ve allowed insecurity to repeatedly get in the way of certain opportunities. Regardless of what your experience with this may or may not be, I think you should take the time to appreciate your lowest moments.
In this TED Talk, Andrew Solomon shares his experiences growing up as a gay child before people were as accepting as they are now. Only because of his past pain does he appreciate the moments where he gets to bond with his son in an incredibly meaningful way, because he never had childhood friends. He also explains the idea of “forging meaning through pain.” The premise goes something like this: we all struggle. But it’s our decision to either let these struggles define us, or to learn and grow from them so that we can reach our full potential.
The past six months (and hopefully the rest) of my life has been about understanding what made me hit my lowest points, and vowing to take care of myself to ensure that I don’t lose myself again. Every day, I ask myself what I can do to nourish, protect, and grow my internal happiness and love for life.
Then I do it.
I don’t think I’ve ever been a happier gal.
Thanks for reading.