You know that feeling when things seem pretty fucking perfect? When most things tend to go the way you planned, and if they don’t, it’s no big deal and you don’t lose your mind in a bottle of Xanax stressing about it? When you feel like you’re getting just the right amount of sleep, you’re getting around to doing all of your chores, errands you normally put off for months are getting done, you’re in the best shape of your life, your bank account is growing and you’re checking things like a trip to St. Barth’s off of your bucket list?
Yea, I didn’t think feeling this great was possible either. Guess what… it is.
How on Earth did I get to this wonderful place in my life after so many difficult months? I’m abnormally happy, abnormally calm and I’m almost reluctant to say it for fear I might jinx my zen.
But if I’m being honest, it feels pretty fucking great to say that on the anniversary of one of the worst days in my life. I almost want to cry about it.
One year ago today, as I quietly celebrated 17 years in remission from Hodgkin’s Disease, I was also given my breast cancer diagnosis. This day last year was cold, rainy and gray. Today, the sun is shining and it’s 75 degrees at 10 a.m. Shout out to the universe for being so cliche.
But I’ll take it because today marks my 18th year officially cancer-free. It’s a wonderful day.
And there’s that number again…
The irony is obvious. One year ago today, as my boyfriend of five years was packing to leave the home we shared, and I was told I needed to have a double mastectomy, this tough as nails bitch literally face-planted at rock bottom. From that point on, I didn’t recognize myself, for a long time.
But this is not a blog post to rehash the garbage year I had… this post is proof that when you hit rock bottom, there’s only one direction you can go in.
Even though it felt like it, the world, in fact, did not end. It kept spinning… and I spun with it, started over, picked myself up and took the next trail the universe guided me toward.
And the lessons I’ve gained along the way are invaluable.
I hate that 2015 was such a shitty year for so many people who I love, not just for me. For many, a sadness still resonates and it breaks my heart to watch people I love struggle as I float along on my happy fucking cloud. I’ve done a lot of reflecting on how people define happiness, and how I used to define my own happiness. By no means am I an expert on living the happiest life… I just know a thing or two about surviving in a world where there is enough sadness to sink a thousand ships.
Sadness is unavoidable, and perhaps necessary to balance us out so that when happy times arise, you feel them. But there are definitely ways to maintain the happy mindset, particularly when shit hits the fan.
My method seems to fit somewhere outside traditional norms, but it’s pretty simple… you and only you are responsible for your happiness. Stop expecting other people to fuel your happiness. Start doing the things you love, for you, and happiness will find you.
I realize I was a victim of the traditional world. Most of us live our lives with expectations that you must go to a great school so that you land a great job, find the perfect husband with whom you’ll build a perfect family with, living in a perfect house and all at the perfect ages, and if you achieve those things, you’ve made it. In my experience, living with those expectations was just as risky as having no plan. I did go to a great school, and landed great jobs where I made healthy salaries, lost some of my sanity, developed anxiety and debts. I found companions who were good to me, but who I also made excuses for when big red flags went up to avoid the relationship ending. I felt pressure from society, and given my own health, to get married and have children and quickly, because time is precious and I didn’t know how much of it I had left.
I felt pressure to make sure I was never alone, because I might not survive otherwise… as if I haven’t saved my own life, twice.
I am not living the life I thought I would be living today, but I’m grateful for the life I’ve found. I’m my own boss and I can truly revel in my own success, rather than having to live up to someone else’s expectations. I’m physically the healthiest I’ve felt since my teenage years, because I’m making fitness and strength a priority. I’m not searching for a soulmate to keep me company and make me happy, out of fear that I’ll be alone forever. Instead, I’ve fallen in love with being alone, being the keeper of my schedule, not having to compromise and being able to choose who and how many people I spend my time with. I’m no longer secretly jealous of my closest friends as they experience big life milestones that I feel I’m missing out on… I’m not missing a thing. I’m right there with them, enjoying every precious moment.
My tough year, and the hardships my loved ones have faced, taught me to throw out the conventional expectations. Don’t wait for permission from someone else to do the things you love. Don’t settle for relationships, friendly or romantic, that bring you down — end them. Don’t cower in fear over a decision you know is the right one but appears challenging. Don’t look back on the decisions you made with regret just because things didn’t work out the way you expected them to… they worked out exactly as they were supposed to.
For the first time in my life I have accepted that my hardships have hardened me in the best possible way. I have accepted that life is unpredictable and will continue to throw challenges my way, and while I may temporarily fall apart, I’ll always find my way. I have accepted that my life will be one that I can take full credit for… unconventional, abnormal, surprising and adventurous.
And those are the kinds of lives that people remember.