Sometimes, all it takes is a little moment to remind you of what you need to do, in order to materialize the life you have envisioned for yourself. I’ve been told that I was a happy burst of sunshine as a kid, brimming with optimism, and beaming with a big smile. I think, nay, I believe that every kid comes into this world in a state of joy; that’s why they are most likely to smile in their sleep.
However, the increasing pressures of the world erase most of these innocent smiles, leaving them with sullen mumbles in their teenage years, and confused drudgery as they transition into adulthood. At least that’s what it was for me; I turned into a cranky, pessimistic grump, dragging through my days, and for a while, I didn’t think it could be any different. Until one day when somebody tried guessing my age, and came up with a number that was about ten years older than my chronological age… If you want to give a twenty-something a panic attack, tell them they’re old! After many hours spent peering at myself in magnifying mirrors looking for fine lines, it hit me. It wasn’t my face itself that was making me look old, but my internal self, reflected on my face, that was aging me beyond my years. I took a good, hard look at myself, and realized that no amount of potions and lotions would help me look younger, unless I returned my mental state to a state of joy. Easier said than done!
Being happy is expected of kids, and hoped of teenagers, but generally elicits confused stares of bewilderment in adults. I encountered those stares fairly often as I began my conscious commitment towards being happy, and quite often, it was easier to be cranky than happy, but I had to try to be happy, especially if I wanted to be guessed as a twenty-something again! The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and for me, my journey towards joy started with baby steps – simple things like taking a moment to smile after waking up and being grateful for this new day, rather than just slamming the alarm clock and stumbling out of bed; taking a moment to look up at the sky and breathe in the dawn before getting behind the wheel, rather than succumbing to road rage and honking at errant drivers; taking a moment to ask my colleagues how they’re doing and listening to their response, rather than just getting straight into the task; taking a moment to look at my plate and savor all the aromas and colors, rather than just shoveling food down my throat; taking a moment to do a fist-pump at scoring a great parking spot in a crowded lot, rather than just jumping out and rushing off; taking a moment at the end of the day, to reflect on and being grateful for all the wonderful things that I’ve been blessed with, rather than just grumpily falling into bed, and complaining about everything that went wrong that day. All it takes is a moment to savor the experience and be genuinely grateful, to change from being apprehensive about all the craziness that awaits, to being anticipative about all the joy that’s waiting to embrace you.
Even though I have become more optimistic and joyous, that doesn’t mean I’m in a continuous state of helium-induced excitement – life has its fair share of problems and disappointments, and it’s natural to feel sad or upset when things don’t turn out as you had hoped. However, I’ve learned feeling defeated doesn’t mean that I’ve been permanently defeated. I get angry, sad and frustrated, and I recognize that those are my natural responses; accepting that it’s okay to be unhappy, for just a little while, allows me to take a moment and take a step towards happiness. Sometimes it’s taking a walk (fresh air amidst nature works wonders), watching a funny movie (laughter is the best medicine), baking a decadent delight while listening to peppy music (cookies solve most problems), talking with a friend (I’m infinitely grateful for my patient, nonjudgmental family and friends), all of the above (What? You’ve never walked to a friend’s house to chat as you two baked, and then watched a comedy while eating cookie dough?), or something completely different (maybe you’re the anomaly in the human species that doesn’t like cookies). Happiness comes in ebbs and flows, and not everything in life will go your way, but how you respond to the lows, by getting back on your feet, and taking a moment to find that little thing that makes you smile, even if for just a moment, before charging on, full-steam ahead, towards joy.
Why have I been talking about being in a state of joy? It’s because being joyous allows you to be more proactive towards, and receptive of the even greater joy that awaits you. I believe that to be true, and have experienced that to be true. But even when you know something, you forget – we’re only human, after all. And sometimes, all it takes is a little moment to remind you of what you need to do, in order to materialize the life you have envisioned for yourself. I was lucky to be a guest at a Rotary meeting earlier this week, where they wrapped up the meeting by passing around their Happy Box, and every member expressed gratitude for something good that they had experienced during the past week. It didn’t matter if the happiness was big or small, it was the mere act of expressing gratitude, and sharing that joy with others. The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller-coaster where I barely appreciated the highs, and tended to dwell in the lows longer than necessary. The little moment of sharing joys with the Happy Box, reminded me to take a little moment to be truly grateful for all that I have been blessed with. It may take me longer than a little moment (especially if I’m trying to write about it), but I think gratitude is worth the effort. So, here goes my top three for today… I am very happy and grateful for my academic and professional mentors who continue to guide me with their experiences and insights; I am very happy and grateful for my family and friends who continue to tolerate my quirkiness, encourage my creativity, and support my dreams and aspirations; and I am very happy and grateful for the invention of chai – it’s the perfect beverage to keep me warm and cozy for when it’s cold and rainy outside, and great for dunking cookies too! Hey, I already told you I was quirky! And being in a state of joy isn’t always about the big happiness moments, it’s about being happy to recognize (and appreciate) those little moments that make you smile and happy. So, thank you, dear reader, for patiently reading this post, sticking with this blog, and sharing your comments and words of appreciation 🙂
P.S. I am guessing there might be some wondering on how taking a moment to be grateful and joyous has to do with creativity, design or adventure… I believe a joyous state of mind not only helps you look happier and younger, but it also helps spark more creative ideas, and this adventure of life needs ideas and solutions that are better designed, with a dash of quirkiness to make you smile 🙂
P.P.S. While I will persist in my efforts to be joyous, I promise to have my next post focused more on design and/or an adventurous spirit! Thank you for your patience and support! 🙂