I learned the importance of happiness in 2011.
Yet it was only a few weeks before the year started that my sister passed away. The last thing in the world that I felt was happy. And, I knew any joy I may feel in the future would not be complete because I wouldn’t get to share it with her. On the other hand, I would have been doing her a huge disservice if I didn’t try to be happy. I’ve learned over the years how resilient the human spirit is in the face of sadness and devastation. So, to honor Charmaine, I set out to be happy.
I’m fond of lists, of setting goals and resolutions. But I wanted to stop planning too much and to start doing. “Make It Happen” was the year’s theme and the key to my happiness. I was going for my dreams.
Spoiler alert: I’m still not a successful published writer of children’s books. Sometimes the road to success is long but at least I know where I’m supposed to be going. I’m going to travel on and enjoy the journey.
I did take baby steps in fulfilling that particular dream by enrolling in a couple of writing classes. I got to know the character for my picture book series better and I can’t wait for you guys to meet him soon. The classes were such positive experiences that it motivated me to continue taking college courses- even if they aren’t for writing- just to continue learning.
I continued to immerse myself in Portland’s literary scene- and the Book World in general. I won a contest for Wordstock. I know it was just for a button but I’ll take any win I can get. I met one of my favorite writers ever- Jasper Fforde- who proved to be as hilarious as I thought he would be. Libraries continued to be great sources of both information and entertainment- from Bollywood dancing during a multicultural presentation to eating hot dogs and cracker jacks after an opening reception for a traveling exhibition on baseball.
Volunteering has become a big part of my life since moving to Portland. I was able to explore different projects yet be more involved in the causes important to me- namely the ones promoting literacy in people’s lives.
I also set monthly challenges throughout the year as a fun way to keep myself accountable for the things I set out to do- Spring Into Shape, The Incredible Lightness of Being, and Step Up, just to name a few. They really worked and I think it motivated others to do the same.
I did things I wanted to do (enjoying festive moments throughout the year)- and things I didn’t realize I wanted to do (tangoing in the park). I got to explore Portland- and Oregon- and appreciate the quirkiness and wonderfulness of where I lived.
In late October, my dad passed away. We hadn’t really been close over the years. But the more I heard stories about him and how he lived his life, I realized we had a lot of things in common. I was my father’s son despite not having a relationship with him besides the occasional phone call.
The deaths in my family made me appreciate life even more and taught me how important it was to nurture the relationships I had. Everything I had been doing took on another dimension. Taking care of myself (the monthly challenges). Volunteering (because now I was doing it in memory of them as much I was for myself and helping out others). Going for my dreams. Creating moments with family and friends. If it weren’t for my efforts in seeking out happiness and choosing to be happy, I don’t think I would have been able to bounce back as quickly as I have.
I feel much more confident in going after what I want. At the same time, I know I’m still a work in progress. I’m so ready for whatever happens in 2012 (and beyond). I look forward to the future with all the happiness it has to offer.