Recently, I’ve had close friends, friends I haven’t spoken with in years, former colleagues and even acquaintances tell me that I just “seem so happy.” I’m not kidding when I say I’ve gotten emails, text messages and Facebook messages about this little blog letting me know how great it is (thank you!) and how happy I seem.
It got me thinking.
What about my life has changed that has made me so happy? Was it anything in particular? What could I narrow it down to? I was surprised at how easily I summed it up. That tends to happen when you’re the introspective-type. It truly came down to 2 things.
Pushing past my comfort zone.
Backing away from negative people in my life.
(Did you think I’d say having the man of my dreams by my side? While he contributes to my happiness, if you’re looking for a dude to find your happiness, you’ll always be searching for it.)
I digress. Those 2 items seem so easy, right? The reality is it’s been a culmination of years of being aware of this and consciously working towards it. It’s the product of a perfect storm of sorts in my life from years ago. I wasn’t always happy. I even look back on some of the things I said in my cloud of negativity and cringe. My spirit was broken. I was truly and utterly lost. I wrote about it here.
Pushing past my comfort zone
In July of 2012, we moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Read: The hubster started medical school and dragged me kicking and screaming. I was miserable our first few months here. I felt like I’d never adjust, I couldn’t ever fit in, I’d never stop sweating in the humidity and that I’d forever be the nice, midwestern gal begging for good customer service that is lacking in South Florida. I missed my friends and thought they had forgotten about me. I missed the comfort of being home.
The truth was Ft. Lauderdale was my new home and I needed to get used to the new comfortable. My new comfort zone.
2.5 years later and I can’t imagine leaving this place.
Sure, the drivers here still scare me. Sure, I have to move mountains to get some projects done that depend on a customer service response.
But, I now love it here. It has forever changed me, in such a good way.
For someone that lived abroad alone, I sure carried around my security blanket of my own little apartment and circle of friends nearby. So moving 1,500 miles pushed me out of my comfort zone.
I’m so incredibly thankful it woke me up, showed me that I needed to change.
You see, living in Michigan became incredibly predictable. I never had aspirations to move back to the city I grew up in and start a family and, for lack of a better phrase, “settle down,” like some of my friends did. These are very happy people too! It happened slowly over time, but in what felt like a blink of an eye, I was on the outside; not having babies, not being married, not looking for a mortgage.
It didn’t interest me.
I felt slowly nudged out because I couldn’t offer much in what the conversation had changed to. I realize now that friends can maintain friendships while being married and having babies. But for the ones who couldn’t–I took it personally. I wasn’t invited to playdates (where most of my girlfriends socialized) because, well, hey, I lacked a kid. I wasn’t invited to weekends away because my then boyfriend, now husband, and I didn’t have kids. And yes, I was told as much. Perhaps we’d be the odd couple out? I’m not sure. Either way, it hurt. But these were my friends, my comfort zone.
In the 6 months before we moved, I realized the writing was on the wall with some of my friendships. Of course dynamics change with marriages and babies, but I was at the point of wondering if some people would even say goodbye to us when we moved.
I needed a change and, man, moving sure puts friendships in perspective.
It was a harsh reality, especially the longer I was away and with the huge milestones I had like: landing a job I love, getting married and traveling more.
The universe pushed me out of my comfort zone to the beaches of Ft. Lauderdale and showed me just what could happen.
Authentic friendships survived. New friendships blossomed. I traveled more, even alone in Portugal. Blogging once again took a front seat in my life.
Once that ball started rolling, it hasn’t stopped. Making one change set everything in motion.
I promise if you focus on pushing through your comfort zone (even kicking and screaming) beautiful things will happen.
Backing away from negative people in my life.
As my tune changed with pushing through my comfort zone, I became more confident. Especially in my ability to know who was a good, supportive nugget in my life…and who wasn’t. In reality, I probably thought more of some relationships than the other person did. Hey, it happens.
It was all excuses for some, one after the other as to why support wasn’t given, why it was so tough to coordinate beforehand, why a call or text wasn’t made…why they didn’t show up. The silence often spoke louder.
It was then I realized it was all negative noise.
I had to back away from these relationships. Know and love how they once were, forgive (or try to) feeling taken advantage of and move on. This is something I still struggle with. People who constantly take advantage, whether they realize it or not, can suck the soul out of a relationship.
It was time to let go. Not in callous way, just appreciating the lessons learned; waving goodbye while smiling at the good times that were had.
I had to learn, the hard way, as anyone who is a glutton for hoping things change or the other person will finally understand, that some people are just plain toxic. Even family.
You know those people who no matter how much advice you offer, how often you try to make them feel special, how many times you go out of your way to help, they will always and forever be their own worst enemy? They aren’t worth your frustration.
I worried so much about burning bridges that I kept a toxic person in my life at the simple cost of my confidence and often, my health. I’m here to tell you it isn’t worth it. You don’t owe anyone an explanation as to why you’re cutting him or her out if all they bring into your life is strife and a constant character assessment that leaves you wondering if you’re a good person.
You are. I promise.
You are allowed to walk away.
You are. I promise.
You know those relationships you have in your life that pop into your head when something goes wrong? “Oh, great. I can just see so-and-so laughing at me and my misfortune right now.”
Cut the negativity out. Why surround yourself with such judgmental asshats?
I have personally experienced what it feels like to work hard for great goals, only to be reminded on a consistent basis that someone “wishes things like that happened” to them or even things I’ve accomplished being met with some snarky, cynical, gloomy reactions.
Back away. Back slowly away.
People go through bad phases, sure. Just keep in mind if your happy life is being belittled by someone, it speaks more about them than you.
In the couple years that I’ve made the conscious decision to leave the negative noise, I cannot tell you how positive the change has been. It’s honestly hard to put into words. Pushing it out opens up so much more room for productive, positive feelings. I’m genuinely happy when I see or hear good things happening to my friends.
When my husband started dating me, he fell in love with a confident, well-spoken, outgoing woman and sadly years ago he also witnessed as I withered away into negativity, surrounding myself with unreliable relationships. He is the first to point out the change or, perhaps to put it better, the leveling of the playing field with my choices.
I am so much happier because I know I am enough. Me. Caroline. As I am.
You are too. I promise.
I try not to reflect on my travels outside of travel-specific posts, but the most important thing traveling has taught me is how little you need to be happy. If you spend any more than one mili-second dwelling in your comfort zone or negativity, it’s one mili-second too long.
(Sure, I need to take my own advice on that sometimes too. I’m not perfect.)
Just know that all it takes is one step towards pushing your limits; making one change can set everything in motion towards a world full of happiness that you without a doubt, wholeheartedly, deserve.
You do. I promise.