Searching for happiness

Written by Katharine

“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort.  You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it.” – Eat, Pray, Love

What exactly is happiness?  How do you know when you find it?  Is it a constant euphoric feeling?  Are we ever truly happy?

I’ve been fighting depression since I was 20 years old.  I chose against antidepressants because I was afraid I would get addicted to them.  So instead, I chose alcohol.  I went through a rough phase with it shortly after my mother passed away.  I drank.  A lot.  My senior year of college I drank every night.  Every. Single. Night.  Some nights I would drink myself to sleep just to drown the pain.

For the first two years I lived in Philadelphia, I hoovered that fine line of alcoholism.  I knew things were really bad when I gave myself alcohol poisoning one night.  I mean, it wasn’t on purpose.  I was out with a friend on a Friday afternoon.  It started out as an innocent happy hour.  We would catch up over a few drinks, maybe get some dinner, and then go our separate ways.  Instead, we chose to go all out, balls to the wall, and drink hardcore on a Friday night.  I drank to numb the emotional pain that night, and I paid for it later on.

Over the last year, I’ve worked really hard to turn myself around.  I saw a therapist to work through my emotional pain, and I’ve curbed my alcohol intake dramatically.  Well, minus the bender on New Year’s Eve and Las Vegas in February for a hockey tournament.  Those don’t count.

Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to answer the tough questions about why I’m struggling emotionally and the real reasons I moved out of the States.

I thought moving out of the States and reclaiming my life would fix my problems with depression and unhappiness.  I mean, I have the freedom to travel the world and do whatever I want.  Most people don’t ever get a chance like this in their lifetime.

So, why did I move abroad?  I don’t know.  I had just lost my job and needed a temporary fix.  I felt like I failed at life in the States.  I was tired of the American dating scene.  I needed to do something bold and gutsy to feel something other than pain.  Truth is, I can’t explain it.  People constantly ask me why I did it and I don’t have just one answer for them.  I was just sick of living every day the same way and feeling inadequate.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat Pray Love:

Virgina Woolf wrote, ‘Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword.’  On one side of that sword there lies convention and tradition and order, where ‘all is correct.’  But on the other side of that sword, if you’re crazy enough to cross it and choose a life that does not follow convention, ‘all is confusion.  Nothing follows a regular course.’

I choose confusion.

I always thought happiness was found by living the traditional lifestyle.  I thought if I followed the trend of school-work-marriage-babies that I would be genuinely happy.  But somewhere between alcohol and depression, I realized that my life isn’t supposed to be traditional.  I’m not made to follow that trend.

I was made to stand out from the crowd.  I was made to be one of those people who refused to settle for a measly job and an unsatisfying relationship.  I was made to reclaim a life full of passion, intention, and happiness.  I just hope that someday I can find what I’m looking for.

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