Eight steps to happiness

1. You may need to try different things to understand what is that you really want (and who you are)

At the end of 2016, I had already changed various countries and jobs putting a ‘6 months patch’ to my recurring boredom. But there I was, again, in the same shoes. I could not stand living in a cold town of Southern Holland a day more, cycling with sun and rain to a corporation selling chemicals. At the same time, emotional thunderstorms due to past grieve and depression were ghosting my mental sanity.

The truth is – I literally had no idea what to do with myself. 

I could not accept who I wanted to become because I didn’t know what that ‘me’ was.

Determined to avoid a permanent depression or the next full-time addiction (like my employer ‘burnout program’), in January 2017 I left everything. I was sure of only two things. Travelling might have been the answer to my restlessness and writing had always been present in my life, coming in different forms and intensity – like waves.

2. In order to understand what you really want, you need to overcome the fear of failure

In April 2017 I self-published a collection of poems. Today I am editing that book after I realized how much those poems suck. They weren’t ready for an audience yet. The 3 readers who gave me a 3.67 average on Goodreads, they are really nice people.

3. Stop rushing into the life your father, your friends or your neighbours have thought for you

When it comes to making choices, our cultural heritage, where we were raised, the values we were taught and how deep rules have been planted inside us – these are all factors that influence us more than we think.

However, if being an adult means being able to work, pay the bills and parent children, it means there is a right to choose what’s better for us, too.

This point for me was the hardest bit to digest (on my worst days, it’s still today). Sicily is not the place where you grow up seeing others hopping places with a backpack, scribbling poems and turning into modern nomads. But time is a good mediator. The more I grow older, the more I get better at being selfish. Today I look at people raised in unlucky places and I appreciate what I have but I also take my right to use it.  

4. If you consider joining the club and start a ‘new you’ version, most people will look at you being happy and will hate you. Make peace with that and wish them well

Or send them to hell before it’s too late.

5. Happiness is a lot of work. And it’s not once for all

The haters of point number 4 think my life is a holiday. But the truth is, I have never worked this hard (= not just for a salary, but with all my heart). In the past two years, I ended up living in a new country (Portugal), travelled to SEA, volunteered in Southern Europe – to name a few. (As I am typing, I am working in a permaculture garden in La Palma, with my knees eaten by mosquitoes and my manicure encrusted with soil). But also, I ended a relationship, fell back into full-time depression, worked remotely for a corporation. Things slowly changed when I started to study creative writing and attended writers’ circles and reading groups. This is how I became serious about writing my first book. Also, I have been studying poetry for one year and editing my first poetry manuscript ever since.

Happiness is stepping out from a condition of refusal towards our own potential, worth and right to enjoy life. But like most things, it doesn’t come easy. We have to dare to work on ourselves, to look at the bottom of our fears, those buried emotions we carry since we were very young and we even didn’t know were still there. We need to reinvent what we need if things go wrong and make peace with the idea that everything changes – and shit happens.

Above all, we have to look at our craziness and learn how to laugh about it. Those who claim perfection is the way are the real crazy (isn’t life already enough cruel?).

To my understanding, it all changes with the acceptance of our wishes, our goals and our real nature. But again, this is painful. It may involve ditching who we love or change lifestyle. It has to be done every time our head crafts excuses to go back to the old shit we don’t need (this will happen very often).

6. Stop comparing your life

What I want for me is not necessarily what you want for you.

When I consciously decided to sabotage my miserable and lifeless life, it was also when I started doing some of the things I enjoyed doing when I was a kid (back then: getting dirty with the soil while my mom was giving BBQ in the countryside house, writing down words looking at the moon, journaling in my bedroom at a wooden desk with a leather writing set when my curly brother and busy parents were out of reach, packing orange juice and bananas for a school day trip, being guest at my auntie’s house for a week, camping with my cousins on Sicilian shores).

Being almost constantly on the road and economically dependent on casual jobs or volunteer placements while working on writing projects isn’t for everyone though. You need some nerves to go through bureaucracy when you don’t belong to a fixed community. Unless you are rich, finances may run out fast. You will likely have to befriend bread and cheese for lunch and sometimes, even for dinner. 

Above all, you need an inclination to flexibility, uncertainty and the ability to master lessons out of unhappy events, rather than disappointments.

7. Where you see your limitations, it is likely where your uniqueness lies

We should all be brave to nurture, treasure and put out there what we have to offer to the world. We are all unique and no one – no one – is unworthy.

It’s a mindset switch.

8. Enjoy what you have. One day you will die and you don’t know when this will happen

For the first time, regardless of the beauty of every single place I stop, there’s nothing I  look forward to as switching on my laptop to write. Every. Single. Day.

Dying with no regrets is not a big deal today, but will be on our deathbed.

And you, are you doing all you can to live the life you want? Comment below 🙂

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