How to Find Your Happiness

Being stuck in 80 inches of snow and with another blizzard on the way, leaves a lot of time for self-reflection. As a professional overthinker, I've been forced to sit and think. A lot.

Even Brinkley is amazed by all the snow.

There is an Alex and Ani commercial which I have now seen 1,245 times (I use sarcasm to emphasize points) in the last two weeks and the commercial begins with asking people to share their wish for the world. It starts with “I wish the world happiness.” So I started thinking. What is happiness? How do you find it? What if you don’t feel so happy? How can the world find happiness amidst all the violence?

Naturally, being a professional overthinker, I started thinking about the happiest moments in my life to see if I could detect some type of pattern that I could replicate as I sat here in a snow prison. Here is my very short list of happy moments:

  • Any memory that involves my family. Visiting my grandparents in New Jersey every summer. That feeling you have when you get off a plane and run towards your grandparents or parents. Eating the yummy Cuban food they always made for me.
  • Thanksgiving, Noche Buena (“Night Before Christmas”) and my Birthday parties in Miami or New Jersey once again, surrounded by family. It brought the entire family together. They were loud parties, full of food, people, and kids playing. For my Birthday I always planned “theme parties” and everything from the cake, the napkins, and plates matched. These parties were the happiest of times. I cannot remember a single gift I received. I only remember being happy.
  • Later growing up in Texas, we had no family in Texas so my friends became my family. And their parents became our family. We’d throw parties for Thanksgiving and Noche Buena but there were only four Cubans with like 20 American guests — so those parties were much quieter and tame but I enjoyed introducing my friends to my culture and food and they managed to get louder and louder over the years as it was the only way they'd get a word in at our family gatherings.
  • The first time I felt true euphoria and happiness was when I went to Cuba for the first time. I went as part of a mission trip for Hillel where I became an honorary Jewban. I had the opportunity on this trip to meet distant family that in spite of our inability to communicate regularly over the decades due to the embargo, they knew everything about me and my life. They even showed me videos they had kept of me as a child figure skating and dancing ballet. I felt so welcomed and loved that for a split second I realized what my purpose in life was — to tell stories on behalf of those who cannot or do not have a voice to tell their own stories.
Be brave with your life so that others can be brave with theirs. — Katherine Center
  • Spending a year studying at the Harvard Kennedy School was a year’s worth of happy memories. I made great friends who were so incredibly supportive and for the first time, I felt I was surrounded by people who believed in my dreams and encouraged me to dream even bigger than I ever imagined. As I sat last week in my first meeting as a board member of the New England Alumni Chapter for HKS it hit me “I really love this place!” A spirit without inspiration as might as well be dead. The HKS community feeds my soul.
Guess which one is me?

So what surprised me by this list is how little of what makes me happy has anything to do with achievements, money or things. What makes me happy is my family, my friends, celebrations and a life filled of inspirational moments. Life will always be difficult and we will have moments where we just feel sad. And that’s ok. We will always have bills to pay and deal with people who suck and have illnesses and suffer losses.

A Note from the Universe: “No one can be both happy and unhappy at the same time right? One blights the other. So here’s what we do: Pick any reason to be happy, and unhappiness gets locked out. And we do it forever.”

You know what else makes me happy? Cooking, fresh tulips, a clean house (I’m a tad OCD), country music, wearing cowboy boots and a sundress (in Boston), the ocean, lighthouses and the feeling after a good workout (need to work on loving the feeling before a good workout). It also helps to have a job that doesn’t feel like work.

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