It was while I was clearing out the archive of Ella In The Big City (RIP), deciding what to keep and what to expunge forever that I came across something I wrote and published when I was 23:
“When I was in my teens, I used to think being 23 was going to be fantastic. 23 was like, THE age I couldn't wait to be. I'd have a job, my own flat, a boyfriend, loads of friends, my family around me and a decent disposable income. Well, I've got all of those things. So why aren't I quite happy yet? I seem to lie awake at night torturing myself over what I should do next, wondering if I'm missing out on something big. I have a horrible sense of urgency, like I'm running out of time and should be doing something greater or somehow I'll fail.”
Okay, NOT me thinking I should have it all figured out! 23, you know. Worrying about doing great things and missing out on the big stuff, all while I was actually laying the foundation for what was to come. If I wasn’t disgusted enough by my past self, I then spotted this sickeningly relatable tweet by fantastic journalist Emmie Harrison-West.
As 30 comes racing towards me in that comically sped-up way that only living through a pandemic can achieve, I realise it’s only in the last year or so that I’ve actually started living in the moment. I think back to the years of poring over pictures, worrying over imagined imperfections or ‘weird’ expressions, telling myself I’d be happier when I lost just half a stone more. It’s not until you look back that you realise how gorgeous you truly were.
It’s not just body image. “I’ll be happy when” syndrome, or “destination addiction” is something that can seep into every facet of our lives - our careers, our love lives, our hobbies. It leans into the idea that it’s only the future where success is, where happiness is. But if we are so focused on viewing happiness as some far-off destination, how can we ever be happy now?
You guessed it: we can’t.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we can’t actually control anything - no matter how much we plan for it. Also, what you think will make you happy changes form all the time! It’s important not to tie yourself to arbitrary goals and have the confidence to ride the wave. Besides, once you reach a milestone you’ll just replace it with another one, right?
We all need things to work towards. And I don’t want to oversimplify things by saying “just be happy now”. But can’t we learn to love the process a little more? Surely it’s important to recognise that it’s the actual process - our own efforts in getting there -that drives the eventual buzz of our achievements. Why hand the power of our happiness to something outside of ourselves?
I ~!!REALLY!!~ don’t want to come over all *Live, Laugh, Love*, but I truly think that how you achieve happiness is by building a life around your current situation, establishing those foundation blocks I mentioned. We’re such a ‘right now’ society, but the process of achievement can take time. Years. Years you could be enjoying if not for the race against yourself to arrive at your destination quicker.
I’m not saying don’t worry about the future. I’m just saying perhaps don’t put such heavy pressure on yourself to get there, batting away what’s happening right in front of you - until you look back ten years later and realise how happy you could have been, if only you’d been able to notice.
In light of the lockdown roadmap set out by Boris Johnson on 22nd February, I wrote this for Huffington Post in response - for all engaged couples and wedding suppliers who still need support and clarification:
The Wedding Industry Is On Its Knees – And There’s Not Enough Help Coming
I also wrote an article on the benefits of ASMR for The Breakdown magazine, mostly as an explainer for my husband who has caught me watching videos of someone else having their hair brushed on many occasions!
The things I learn along the way aren’t going to encapsulate all that life can teach you. I want to hear from you! To share something important you’ve learnt while giving life a good go, submit it to the form below and see it featured in the newsletter.
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