London

I still remember a conversation I had with my mum when I was about 14. She asked me why whenever anyone asked ‘how are you’ I answered with ‘I’m tired’. Then a few years later that answer was replaced with ‘I’m stressed’. It was the simplest answers I could come up with for the mass of things I didn’t like about my life, and how I felt like a fish out of water.

But now, when people ask how I am I can confidently say ‘I am freakin awesome’. I still get tired, and I am a pretty good friend of stress, but overall I appreciate that I am lucky to live the life I do.

So what had changed? My psychology degree tells me that the greatest unhappiness comes from the difference between what we have and what we expect to have. And to be honest I think I changed my expectations.

I always thought that I would be all loved up by my early twenties (my family seem to find the love of their lives before they leave their teens!), but I’m single and I could not lead the life I live now if I wasn’t. I decided to move to London on a whim, if there had been a man in my life it almost certainly would have involved more planning and compromise. Being single more importantly allows me to be entirely selfish with my time. I can work 13 hour days without explaining myself, I can then spend all weekend going to galleries or blogging without feeling guilty. So my expectations have changed, I could not give a toss about having a boyfriend right now which means there is no cognitive discord.

I also thought that I was going to be a career woman in a power suit and high heels. Ok, so I went down the wrong road quite far on this one (a four year degree, internship and eventual job as a tax accountant) and it was a massively hard jump to leave – after all I was failing the ‘self’ I thought I was. When I left pretty much every friend and family member said the same thing “I never understood why you wanted to do that, it didn’t seem like you”… Well thanks guys, could you not have told me earlier?

But they were right, I now work for a company with values I believe in, that challenges me in every way and supports me whole heartily. In return they get my endless devotion and a frightening proportion my time and energy. It wasn’t a matter of changing my expectations, rather understanding them better. A career didn’t have to mean suits, hierarchy and tax legislation, it actually meant a job that I could throw myself into and feel like a was a valued cog in the machine. Even if those same friends and family now laugh themselves sick because I work for a fitness company and I’m not exactly exercisey (is that a word?).

I also particularly feel blessed because of my grandmother. I have been told my entire life that she was a Prime Minister stuck in a farm wife’s life. She was intelligent, feisty and born too early for that to make any difference.  Life was planned out for her, with the only option being to marry and have children. That is the life some women choose and they love it, but for me that would have been an even worse choice than tax accounting. I get to live my life how I want to – a luxury that my grandmother didn’t have and that millions of girls around the world today miss out on as well.

Yes London is hard. Yes I get stressed. And for sure I get tired. But I know who I am, and more than anything I know that who I am is 100% completely and totally ok.

Hell, I’m still a fish. But at least I’m a fish that learned to fly.

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I know it has been a while since my last Happiness Project update, mostly because it has been working so damn well. Those little projects with short term goals have turned my life around and made me a happy camper. It has made me think of happiness as a fluctuating emotion rather than a magical life that I am missing out on.

But like all projects it is something that you need to constantly work on, particularly when you are worried about New Zealand shaking itself apart and you can’t do a damn thing about it. So this week I am going  to start on micro Happiness Project called three little things to give me a bit of a boost.

The rules are simple, pick three easy things that you have to stick to for a week. Make sure you write them down somewhere that you can see every day, and make sure they are so small that it only takes a little effort to complete them. Then at the end of the week you will not only have completed three goals, but also have made your life better in three small ways.

My three little things for this week are:

1. No buying food while at work (this can be a serious money drain)

2. Screens off by 10pm (I could watch iPlayer till the early hours without intending to)

3. Two lots of exercise

Easy right? That is entirely the idea.

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I tend to think either in the short or long term – medium term, now that is tricky. Tricky and important.

With no medium term plan I found myself obsessing about the future. Would I buy a house? Would I go back to New Zealand? Would I travel more?

I am very happy in London and plan to be here for a fair few years – so all those questions were just pointless and destructive because no conclusions could be reached.

To divert my attention from this silly path, I found myself a medium term.

I booked theatre tickets, I tracked when art exhibitions were going to be on, I found events to go to, and an unexpected holiday in May found its way in there.

All of these are little things, but they have made a huge impact on my Happiness. Yes my long term goals & questions are still there, but my medium term is so interesting and exciting that I don’t obsess over the big questions any more.

And all it took was putting a calendar on my wall.

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This was not a planned part of my Happiness Project, more of an important realisation. It comes down to three little words…

I am happy

It is unbelievably easy to judge your day as whole. You may have had a stressful day at work, therefore you have had an unhappy day. A few of those in a row and it is easy to think that there is no sunshine in your life at all.

I have changed my mental thinking around a bit. If you find a moment in your day that makes you smile … RECOGNISE IT. Those little bright moments will stand out when you are looking back over your day, pretty soon life looks rosy indeed.

I have had one of the Happiest months of my life, and I mostly put it down to recognising when I am happy – even if for just a fleeting moment.

Here are some things that have been part of my Happiness this month.

Happiness is… walking past the Tower of London and getting caught in a sudden sun shower

Happiness is… lashings of butter on a welsh-cake

Happiness is… discovering Wiltons Music Hall

Happiness is… the docks on a calm night

Happiness is… free coffee

Happiness is… listening to an angry song when coming out of the subway and seeing a grey London day

Happiness is… being congratulated by fellow bloggers for my 200th blog post

Happiness is… being brave and feeling butterflies

Happiness is… Jennifer Lawrence meeting Jack Nicholson

Happiness is… uncontrollable laughter while watching The Last Leg

Happiness is… a clean bedroom

Happiness is… shopping without buying

Happiness is… Dad sending me a ‘kitten picture of the day’

Happiness is… reading Tigers in Red Weather