Over the last two and a half years, I have had two children, changed careers, and changed locations (twice). These two plus years have given me many of the happiest days of my life. I am literally living the stuff of my dreams: amazing husband, fabulous children, great job, expat lifestyle in fantastic European city. Still, I don't feel like I'm quite where I want to be. As I prepare to make yet another change in September to another new city and to a new position with my company, I've been doing an internal check. I've been thinking a lot about what makes me happy, what makes my family happy, and how to have a happy life. I have come to realize that as much as external change is important and rewarding, internal change is even more vital and exponentially harder.
If you are unhappy with your life, often changing an outward circumstance is a first step toward moving toward a better life. It seems insurmountable at first to do these things, like leaving an important relationship and dating someone new, or finding a new job, or moving to a new city. But with hard work and persistence, you can indeed make these kinds of changes. Accomplishing any one or all of those things feels drastically different (for a while), and can bring enormous happiness. That's where I found myself across the last few years.
At first, it feels like it is enough to change your outward circumstances, because life changes can bring great joy in and of themselves. But even when you accomplish major life changes like having a child after infertility or making a major career change or embarking on a new relationship, you still bring your old self with you. I guess I thought that making major life changes would inherently, sufficiently, and automatically change my "self" in ways that would leave me fully satisfied and content with life. But as they say, "old habits die hard." After much reflection, I've come to realize that in order for me to move forward toward an even happier life, to "live my best life possible" (to steal from Op.rah), I have to work to make internal changes, too. That kind of change does not just automatically happen on its own, no matter how many external circumstances you change.
For me, I have to learn to let go. I tend to want to change the world, and charge ahead toward that end. But the world doesn't necessarily want to be changed, and I'm not always capable of changing it on my own. That tension tends to bring about dissatisfaction for me. I need to learn to simply let that go. I'm not always going to be able to light a fire under listless, uninspired people. Doing the right thing doesn't always lead to the right result. Life isn't fair. Perseverating on these things, complaining about them, doesn't and can't change anything.
Looking back at the mistakes I have made in the last two years, looking at the things that have detracted from my happiness, I see in them old patterns. It's clearly time to change those patterns, to live my life in a slightly different way. It feels really hard. I literally need to change my "self" in some fundamental ways. But the outcome, I think, will be really healthy for me, and will result in an exponentially happier me. The biggest impetus for making these changes and for holding myself to making changes are the two little girls who have made me so happy in the last few years. I want to create a happy world for them at home. This big world is full of enough uncertainty and angst. The least I can do is give them a good start.