#YourTurnChallenge is a 7-day blogging challenge inspired by the Your Turn book by Seth Godin. I will be taking part in the challenge which starts Monday Jan 19th and ends Sunday Jan 26th. Wish me luck and happy reading
What makes us happy?
What is happiness to you?
And why does this question seem less complicated when we were kids, have things gotten more complicated or has our perception shifted?
Maybe we should start from the beginning.
Indiana Jones Wanna Be
I spend most of my childhood loading up my backpack with my trusty notebook, walkman with my favorite tape by Tangerine Dream, all sorts of delicious snacks and a juice box or two. Then I would set off on a grand adventure in the large acres of Nebraska farm fields that were not only my back yard but India, the great pyramids or a dinosaur dig site. I’d spend hours exploring the gravel half mile long drive for fossils, sit in a tree to write my thoughts or jot down a story. I’d come back home and tell my explorations to my mother who would indulge my fantasies over tea. Oh but first I had to empty my pockets of all my newly found treasures, which I later found out to be fools gold and a horses tooth, not what I thought to be ancient tribal gold or a tooth from an undiscovered dinosaur that I would have proudly named “Case-a-saures”.
Other times I’d drag my brother outside and make him build a bike ramp with me. I was convinced it would send me miles high in the air and I would have to hold on for dear life. Ohhh....wait til Mom hears bout this ground breaking dare devil triumph. But alas, at the age of 5 I lacked the skills or patience to create a proper functional ramp or any structure for that matter, except a fort, I was a damn good fort builder. My brother wasn't much help; he was just there to make sure I didn’t kill myself on these crazy hair brained yet amazing ventures. Even though he would have never tried any of my wild ideas I think deep down he was hoping I’d succeed not only because it would make me insanely gitty but him as well.
And the Tomboy is off!!! My first bike, a big wheel! I soooo miss peddling as fast as I could to get to top speed then slamming on the breaks to skid into a 360. You remember. Wish I still had this beaut.
This was my first realization of happiness. Or even the idea of what it felt to be happy, at least that I can remember. What’s changed? Have I changed? I’m no longer a spunky 5 year old tomboy but a grown woman in my 30’s. Maybe I don’t know myself now or who I've become.
Sam I Am Not
Who am I? Now that’s a tricky question, or was it? I did realize that my genes were right, I am an artist. This happened when I was living in NYC and exposed to its art world. I then decided to move back home to Nebraska at age 24 to figure out what that really meant. I thought the best way to get started was to volunteer around the community. So I started at the humane society with cleaning animal cages, which is a very brave job, some of those cats were viscous and stink...okay...you're right...some were very sweet. I helped with costumes at the theatre and my mom with running her new café. I also took a few classes at the community college. I found I loved photography. Even though I still use this skill today it’s not the profession for me. I was pretty rad at painting but my heart wasn’t really in it and art history was interesting but not enough to keep my attention. After a lot of trial and error and 10 years this is what I found. I’m an artist, I love playing with tools, fire and metal to make wearable art/jewelry. I have a passion for riding bikes (after a 20+ year hiatus), traveling, food, environment, writing and I thrive for connecting with all these communities. Actually my heart and soul is community. But did all this make me happy? I still felt like something was missing? I needed to figure it out.
Moving To LaLaLand
I decided to move to Los Angeles to further my career as a jewelry artist which in turn I thought would help me find the missing piece(s) I’d been searching for. Goal, to sell jewelry to rock stars…..rad!!! I hit the ground running. I worked with a top designer who made jewelry for rock stars, was picked up by a killer boutique that also carried the artist I worked for. I was mountain biking with a crew of cyclists who rode all sorts of fun trails in and around LA. I was working at one of the top restaurants in the city and dating a personal training from the east coast. My boyfriend lived in the Hollywood Hills and was exposing me to all different parts of Hollywood and the city. Sounds pretty damn perfect. But something was off. Even though I was trying to convince myself that this is what I wanted and that this would eventually make me happy I wasn't. But I was determined not to fail. Cause if I failed Los Angeles that meant I failed my family, my friends and everyone that believed and didn’t believe in me. Didn't it?
Sometimes You Just Need A Swift Smack Upside The Head
A few months back I picked up my boyfriend from the airport and he told me he had been unfaith. Initially there was shock, rage and downing a bottle of Japanese whisky but then something came over me that took me by surprise, relief. I felt a weight lift off me and I actually smiled then laughed in, yes, happiness. I had thought if I lived the life you are suppose to, find the dream or big shot job, have the coolest studio space, have all the impressive gadgets, success in a big city, be at the top, hang at the best spot on the beach, perfect body, boyfriend….blah blah blah….no. I was wrong, again. So what if I failed, I’ve learned that you can find out a lot by failing. But I wasn’t failing I actually was succeeding. What if I didn't want this success? And If not, then what did I want?
NPR, Gets Me Everytime
It was a typical Sunday and I was in my car running errands. As I was driving I was listening to NPR and a story about Roz Savage. Roz was the first women to row solo across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean. Row a boat solo across an ocean, unsupported. Wow that’s badass, puts my 545 mile supported bike ride from San Fran to LA to shame. As I listened over the next minutes, maybe hour while sitting in my car in a strip mall parking lot, dog patiently sitting in back longing to go home, it hit me, Roz and I have something in common. We are/were both scared to live the life that would make us happy. We both have different reasons but the same result. She found her happiness in rowing across vast bodies of water alone. Would I find my happiness there? I think not, I can't snorkel without holding onto someones hand for dear life plus that just doesn't appeal to me. When I got home I found myself more intrigued with her story so I ordered her book. I wanted to hear her story.
As I awaited for her spiritual guidance to show up in my mailbox I longed for what would come from this. Would Roz change my life? My shelf was filled with books of adventures and life stories. I felt like I was one of those helpless people who are so desperate and unhappy with their lives that they long for that new self help book to come out so maybe, just maybe this time they would conger up the courage to do something about it. “Cause I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and doggone it people like me.” Right. What? Was I that pathetic? At times I know we can all get down on ourselves, that’s what makes us human. But at this point I was feeling far from human.
Finally the book arrived. I was sooo eager to read it and hear Roz's story but for some reason I just let it sit on my night stand. I think I’ll watch a movie instead. As I watched a movie I sat there thinking “Why are you being such a chickensh*t?” Was I scared that it had nothing to do with Roz and I already knew what made me happy? Why couldn’t I face my happiness? What’s wrong with me?
n my self pity I spent that night writing a letter to my ex saying maybe we could be friends. I addressed the envelop, placed a stamp on it and set it on the entry ready to be mailed. I was exhausted from my persistent Virgo thoughts so I went to bed.
Light Bulb Moment
People talk about waking in the middle of the night with an epiphany, I always thought those types were full of it. Waking in the night is for a sleep walking or a pee break. I was about to be proven wrong, I woke up that morning at 4am! I couldn’t sleep; I was restless, almost pissy. Friends!!! You want to be friends!!! I couldn’t send that letter. I didn’t even want to send it. I was running, running back to where it felt safe. I was running back to the arms of denial ready to hide once again. What are you thinking? I had to get my mind off things or I was gonna freak so I grabbed Roz’s book from the night stand and read. About a page and a half into her book I read the lines “deciding at age thirty-six to reinvent myself as an adventurer” I started to cry. I'm 36. A calm came over me. I felt centered and at peace and at that moment I finally faced my happiness. I knew exactly what I needed to do, it had nothing to do with anyone else but myself. It was time to finally grow up and give into my childish dreams.
This is what I wrote that morning at 5am.
My goal is to travel the US with my dog, my bike and my studio.
How am I going to do this? I don’t know.
How am I going to do this? I don’t know.
Will it make me happy? I don’t know but I’m in pursuit of it.
*If you have any questions or comments please be in touch at casey [at] caseyshepparddesigns [dot] com, thanks again for reading.*