The Pursuit of Happiness

I just read Maggie Mason’s recent blogpost, “20 Things I wish I’d known at 20” and it reminded me of all the key points and goals I’d made for myself when I read  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. This book took me some time to read, I read a chapter or so and made notes. I had to think on her thoughts and how they applied to my life. While reading other books, I would feel like it was time for a dose from The Happiness Project.

From the start, I was struck by her words, “What you do everyday matters more than what you do once in awhile.” Somehow, I have come to be 25 years old and my life (like most) is a collection of memories of family vacations, parties, and milestones. This may be that a camera is only present at important events and thus their is only photos for reflection of milestones. So what do I do everyday? Well of course I have to read Twitter updates, check Facebook to see what all the people I’m not actually friends with are doing, and waste a good deal of time. I feel successful in my career change, and I do go to work everyday. Hanging out with kids everyday is far superior, for me, than sitting in front of a computer.

Some other gems from The Happiness Project:

  • Most decisions don’t require research
  • If your not failing, you’re not trying hard enough
  • No deposit. No return.

These lines bring up different feelings and memories. I have often been guilty of running things by my friends and relatives before making a decision. While their help is appreciated, what am I doing? Where is this fretting getting me? I could be taking action. Why aren’t I? Albeit that some decisions are major and require others input, but there are many simple things that I would be far better off going with the first thing that comes to mind.  On the flip side of that, everything that I am truly proud of in my life has taken a great time investment, hard work, and sticking to who I am. NO DEPOSIT. NO RETURN. I may need to write this large somewhere. Deposit: working through the summer, Return: having the funds to buy a car.

Maggie Mason’s post struck a few chords on things I want to work on in pursuit of my own happiness. #4. “When in doubt, shut up.” Ummm… I do the opposite. I know that I shouldn’t, but I just keep talking. I am guilty of telling people more than they should know or want to know. Her #5 ties right into that, “Don’t Complain” in her explanation she says, “Maybe venting makes you feel better, but letting off steam can also lull you into maintaining the status quo.”  And then, “If you’re frustrated, turn that energy toward fixing your problems, not bitching about them.” ACTION. I think Maggie Mason wants me to get into action. It easier to just spill out my problems. Do people perceive me as a complainer? If so, how can that be good for me or for my relationships? Her list is great. Maggie makes other points about how good I look and how I shouldn’t be intimidated. It is a good reflection tool. Please, read this list and read this book (I will loan it to you if you promise to give it back).

Happiness is my goal. It can be easy to find or it can be difficult. Maybe I need to make some signs at home as reminders or write these things on my arms. It’s funny how thinking of ways to make myself happier, is satisfying (thanks Gretchen Rubin!). These are goals I can reach. I can be proud of what I do everyday, what I do everyday makes me who I am.

Past and Future, Side by Side

Last month I started working part time for my old job. This is the job that pushed me to make a change in my life. This is the job that made me realize I didn’t want to sit in a cubicle/room of computers/coworkers all day. I am working here for the duration of their busy season. I’ve said goodbye to my weekday afternoons, but I’ve said hello to quite a few positives.

Before I came back, I had begun seeing my previous life in an office through rose colored glasses. I love the kids, but I remembered the world where I didn’t have to give someone permission to use the restroom and I didn’t have to wait half a day to use it myself. I was remembering the free food and tickets to events very fondly. Coming back to the financial communication world has truly giving me an appreciation of the new path I’ve chosen. My decision to change directions feels like the best decision I have ever made. In the financial world, no one hugs you when a project is done. I used to get tickets to sporting events, but now I get pictures of stick figures with the words “You are the bestest” written in every color crayon. Having the stark contrast of elementary by day and office by night has truly allowed me to put my past life and my future life side by side. The future is looking bright. Financial communications are essential to our economy, but they are not to my life. The urgency of deadlines and the high demands of clients are no longer the only way to earn an income. Missing a deadline was devastating, I haven’t missed one yet since I’ve been back, but my perspective on the end of the world has changed. If something doesn’t make it, it isn’t a great thing, but adjustments can be made and you can move forward. Kids make me laugh. Lawyers do not. Accountants do not. Morning warm ups, book talks, recess, and the science fair will always beat out work orders, filing deadlines, SEC regulations, and unwanted overtime.

Extra money and extra time spent with a few old friends will also be added to the list of positives. So, I may not have any pictures to post of anything cool I’ve done lately. I haven’t done much outside of my double life, but I’ve learned a lot about choosing your own happiness. There is always a choice. Nothing has to be done the way I am currently doing it. The chance to look at the old choice versus the new choice doesn‚Äôt come around everyday. I am grateful that the opportunity to see my past and future together, side by side, came around. The future looks good, and when I come out the other side I hope to go back to spending some more time with the people I love and adore.

English as a Second Language


Meet my students. They are eight adults from Congo who had lived in Houston all of two weeks when our class started. My friend Sarah has been teaching ESL classes on the side since June and had spoken of not much else since then. On the first day of my class I had a stack of books and posters. I put the posters up and made a few of my own. I passed out notebooks and textbooks and they all looked at me like I was insane. They had basic vocabulary and some had a little sentence structure, only one guy was capable of having a conversation with me. The one guy who could converse often translated for his classmates and they would all go, “OH!”

The first few weeks were a struggle. I was shocked at all they had come from and how they wound up in southwest Houston. I was surprised at how their children were put in regular education classes with the rest of the English speakers. I couldn’t believe that they would be getting food stamps, but hadn’t gotten them yet and didn’t have any money. The more I learned about these eight Congolese transplanted in Houston, the more blessed I felt. I felt overwhelmingly fortunate to live in a country that I would never be forced to leave and never be scared for my family’s safety. I have never worried about where my next meal would come from. I’ve never seen a refugee camp, let alone lived in one. They have overcome so much and they are so happy and grateful to be here and to be given the opportunity to raise their children in America. There were days where I felt immense pressure, if they were going to learn to make it here; I had to give them a foundation to our language and life they could build off of. I was ready to talk about nouns, verbs, and directionally how to explain to get somewhere. I was not prepared for questions like, “How much should I expect to make at an American job?” “Will that be enough to support my family?” “How much money do you need a month?” I never expected to have people bring me their children’s homework, so I could explain it to them, so they could explain it to their child.

My last class was the week before Christmas and we had a party. We presented their completion certificates, which should help them in their job searches. We ate pizza and cake and exchanged handmade Christmas cards. Sarah came, her class was next door, and one of my students got a hold of my camera and they dressed me up and brought me presents. Overall, it was very rewarding and great closure for me.

ESL Party Dec 09

Some people brought music from home. Some people danced. Some of us laughed hysterically.

ESL Party Dec 09

The wrap around my waist was a gift and the one on my head was for the sake of pictures according to my favorite gal. Some people laughed hysterically.

ESL Party Dec 09

My favorite gal. She gave me a plant. And an unexpected friendship. She often laughs hysterically.

ESL Party Dec 09

I was given a fertility statue hand carved from a refugee camp, it says so on the back. I love these women. The one on the left is a single lady with three kids, we danced to Beyonce’s Single Ladies together. The one on the right is the mother of four. She was always very concerned with getting her kiddos homework right. She has high hopes for them.

ESL Party Dec 09

This is Sarah and some wonderful women. I can’t thank Sarah enough for welcoming me into her world and for the phenomenal experience.

I am what I eat.

Last summer, JMO and I went to see Food, Inc. It was thought provoking and a conversation starter. We stopped eating meat for a few months (JMO lasted longer than I did) and we started eating a lot more fruits and vegetables. I think about what I put in my grocery cart more than I did before and I read the ingredients more. I can choose the option with half as many ingredients and I just feel better about it. For me, it is a psychological fix, I feel like I’m doing something to better myself and protect my body.

Lately, I have started to slack again. Working and and teaching a night class has made packing lunch and waiting to eat dinner at home difficult. The movie Food Matters came up on my Wowbrary list and I wanted to see if they had a different take. This film was geared a lot more toward the health aspect, it was about how vitamins can heal and we truly are what we eat.

I would highly recommend either or both of these movies. They make you think about what you put in your mouth. I struggle with eating right. I like cheeseburgers and pizza and giant burritos. I also like fruit and vegetables and the more I eat, the more I like. I don’t get that same feeling with cheeseburgers/pizza/burritos- the more I consume, the less I like.

Watching Food Matters has reminded me of my excitement to eat well when I first saw Food Inc. Please wish my luck on my journey to choose the right foods to put in my body!

They are letting me come back on Monday.

Tomorrow I start my second week as a Special Education Aide. It seems like my cubicle life was ages ago and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. I get to work with a resource teacher and learn from her (and she is pretty fabulous I must say). And let’s face it, if I had tried to be the teacher, since I have no experience I would more than likely fall flat on my face. This line of work has been more satisfying in one week than two years in corporate America were.

Things that rock:

1. Kids think I’m cool for some reason

2. I get to figure out simpler ways to show a child a lesson, one on one

3. I sit in on different grade levels, different subjects, I have an opportunity to witness teaching styles of many teachers with many subjcts

4. Packing a lunch. After eating “to go” orders for two year, having some cheese and crackers and a side of fruit makes me smile

5. Kids do what I say. Kids I don’t even know do what I say, BECAUSE I AM AN ADULT – who knew?

6. My school’s mascot is Sharks

7. Since I’m not actually the teacher (YET) I get to leave at 3:3o

P.S. A big THANKS to April and her mom for the glorious “connections”