I couldn't escape this time.
The last five years I've been roaming around the world looking (unknowingly) for happiness. I moved from New Jersey to San Francisco. I quit my day job. I lived in New Zealand for a year. I built out a van and started traveling all over North America.
During these pursuits I never recognized how externally-dependent my happiness was. I didn't view any of my dreams as particularly superficial (like simply wanting to be rich or famous) so I didn't think twice about their origins.
Yet during or after each goal was fulfilled, I found myself in the same place — unsatisfied, unstable, and looking for the next.
Deep down I knew I'd never find true fulfillment through any outside endeavor, but I refused to face this idea until recently, when I literally couldn't run away any more. Van life.
Everywhere I drove, the insufficiency of my external happiness followed. I cried. I drowned my sorrows in ice cream and Instagram. I had good times, too. And after much avoidance, I reluctantly lifted my gaze and locked eyes with my suffering.
I should be happy, I said to it. I don't have a boss; I can travel anywhere I want; I get to be creative and adventurous every day. It's my dream. Why are you here?
A sneaking suspicion arose: What makes some days hard and some days easy? Could it be me? Pshhhh. But I can't just CHOOSE to be happy. I can't. It's too hard. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE.
Soon after this internal dialogue I listened to an interview with Tony Robbins while driving from Portland to the redwoods in Northern California. And it all came to a head.
I can't do the episode justice in a few lines, but my biggest takeaway was Tony talking about two states of being — beautiful states and suffering states — and it's up to us to choose which one we live in right now.
Simple. We've all probably heard something like this a thousand times.
And it's true.
"We live in a world where most of us are looking for what's wrong. What's wrong is always available. So is what's right. ...find what is beautiful in each moment, and I'm telling you, there is nothing on earth I've experienced that's brought more joy."
This interview blatantly confirmed all I'd been avoiding, that nothing — no gorgeous mountain backdrop, no passionate relationship, no accolade or award — will truly fulfill me.
That can be a hard truth to accept because there's no road map that'll show us the way. It's uncharted territory. Murky waters. An internal exploration and you're diving solo.
Fulfillment is an art and a state of being. You don't stop having dreams or desiring relationships or travel. It simply means that happiness starts here and now, regardless.
Of course, I'm still figuring all this out, and there's always sooooo much more to learn, but for now it seems pretty straightforward:
You choose to be happy. That's it. So simple it's almost maddening, isn't it?
Nothing will ever be just right. Nothing on the outside will ever fulfill. So I'm choosing happiness. Because if not now, when?