Planning For Happiness

Planning For Happiness

Lauren's First Birthday

Lauren’s First Birthday

This year my greatest birthday wish came months before my birthday.  It was to be out of the hospital to celebrate my special day.  This week, on Tuesday, is my birthday.  I will be turning 29 and entering the last year of my twenties.  After 11 long, hard, and often frightening weeks in the hospital, I am very relieved and grateful to say that I am home from the hospital to celebrate.

It feels strange to know that my twenties are winding down, and I will soon be in my thirties.  Thirties sounds rather grown-up, and, in a lot of ways, I hardly feel like a grown up yet.  More than that I’ve spent a large part of my twenties feeling like I was failing to live up to my own expectations of myself.  I wrote about this last year in my post Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later).

What I began to see last summer when I wrote that post and that I now see so clearly is that I was so busy feeling like a failure for all the ways I didn’t measure up to where I thought I’d be or should be by now, that I couldn’t see how successful my life really is.  And more importantly I was robbing myself of the satisfaction and happiness that could come with that success.

Lauren's First Birthday Cake

Lauren’s First Birthday Cake

Life often doesn’t turn out how we plan as young adults.  As we grow older, we find out what God has planned for us.  And the wonderful thing is, though we cannot see it now, that plan is grander than anything we could have imagined for ourselves as teenagers and will ultimately lead us to happiness.  So my new plan is to abandon my own old expectations and put my trust in my Heavenly Father.  Trust that he knows what is best for me.  Trust that he can see the whole picture.  Trust that by following his plan I will be lead back to Him.  And trust that in doing so there will be more blessings along the way than I could have possibly imagined.

What a blessing it is that God is no respecter of persons.  While I, for the last decade, was so worried that I wasn’t in the right career, living in the right place, having the right romance, and achieving the right things, God and my Savior Jesus Christ were loving me for exactly who I was.  And they love me now for exactly who I am.  This frees me to give up all those old expectations and just move boldly forward with the knowledge that if I put my trust in the Lord, I will find eternal happiness.

Lauren's Fourth Birthday

Lauren’s Fourth Birthday

But what does this look like on a practical, day-to-day level?  The first thing that come to mind is I must make every effort to live my life according to His example.  The basics of prayer, church attendance, scripture study, and service are His standards to live by.  Beyond that I can create my life within the context of what’s happening now rather than what I thought I wanted or should be doing at this point.  So instead of trying to force the old dream of a career in film that just doesn’t fit anymore, I can relish in my new found love for novel writing and work towards getting published with passion and gusto.

Finally it’s absolutely critical to live in a space of constant gratitude.  I am so so so blessed to be alive after the last hospitalization I just had, how can I waste time worrying what a teenage version of myself would have thought of me?  Life is too lovely, too perfect, and too short for anything less.  This year on my birthday I will remember that.

Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later)

Living Up to Teenage Expectations (Ten Years Later)

My High School Graduation (2001)

My High School Graduation (2001)

Last night I went to my ten year high school reunion, and it has put me in a reflective mood.  It was fun (though somewhat strange) to see everyone after ten years apart.  I was impressed by how friendly everyone was and how genuinely happy everyone seemed to reconnect with everyone.  It has me thinking though about my seventeen year old self and who I thought I’d become verus who I’ve actually become.

When I was seventeen I had a lot of expectations for myself and everyone.  The other day on Twitter I mentioned that I was “Trying not to compare myself to the me my 17 year old self thought I’d be by now.”  My friend (@nerdgoddess) replied, “Don’t worry. I don’t think any of us live up to our teenage expectations.”  I think this must be true.  But I sure had a lot of them at that age.  At seventeen, I thought that by ten years later I’d have made my first film, have a husband or at least a serious boyfriend, and be living on my own.  None of these predictions were accurate.

At first I was feeling kind of bummed about what my seventeen year old self would have thought of me now, but on further reflection I’m really rather happy with where my life is at as unpredictable as the last ten years have been.  It hasn’t all been great; don’t get me wrong.  No one predicts or wants to think they are going to end up with a chronic illness.  But there have also been so many wonderful things that have come of the last ten years of my life.

When I was seventeen, I was headed to the University of Southern California to study film.  I wanted to be a director.  Or at least I thought I did.  And although I’m sure I could have found happiness pursuing that line of work, my real love is for the written word – specifically the novel.  At seventeen, I never would have considered that I’d have it in me to write a whole rough draft of a novel by the age of twenty-seven or that I would be doing freelance graphic and web design.  Or that I’d be designing Alternate Reality Games.

When I was seventeen, I was in the middle of a serious depression.  My perfectionism consumed my life and made me miserable.  Thanks to meds and therapy and a lot of hard work, I have found so much happiness in the last several years.  And that is something I certainly didn’t expect at the time.  In fact, at the time I didn’t even know what it was to be happy.

When I was seventeen, I was essentially an agnostic Jew searching for some meaning and connection to something larger.  I NEVER would have dreamed in a million years that I would have found it in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  But a little over a year ago I did.  And becoming Mormon has brought me a level of joy, comfort, and perspective on life I never anticipated was possible.

The last ten years have been a roller-coaster ride that my seventeen year old self never would have imagined.  Sometimes the sudden drops and loops make me want to throw up, but all in all I wouldn’t get off the ride for anything.

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