In Pursuit of Happiness

Photo credit: De’Ja K. Johnson

For several weeks now, I’ve been on a self-proclaimed quest to find happiness. I initially thought that if I changed career paths, then that would make me happy- to be in the field of media, getting to do what I want to do, at least sometimes, while gaining experience & learning first hand media production. Then I figured that what I wanted was to make more money- and so I thought a new job could offer that. Alas, I concluded that I just really wanted to be alone- to take some time for myself, away from everyone, to focus completely on me. So I took a hiatus from friends, social media, even from writing and making videos on YouTube.

This past weekend, I can truly say that I was the happiest that I’ve ever been in my entire life. Hands down. On Saturday, I graduated from college almost 15 years after receiving my high school diploma. And yes, congratulations are in order because I don’t look a day over 25, aside from the band of gray hairs that have assembled in my head.

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Me & Mr. Young Royalty before my graduation

Leading up to this important day, I had been super stressed. To the point that I seriously contemplated calling my doctor (For what? A psychiatric evaluation). I thought I was losing my mind or definitely on the verge of it. I was stressed about everything. I was stressed at work. I was stressed at home. I was stressed in my car. I was stressed at church! I was questioning the purpose of everyone and everything in life- & not just mine, but in life, in general. I thought, maybe I’ll just leave the country. Get away for a couple days. Belize, I decided, so I could sit on a beach and practice my Spanish with the locals. But I didn’t have time (or really, the money) to do that. Plus, finals were coming up and that 20-page research paper for my Capstone was kicking my ass. And added to my stress was the looming reality of having to present this information in 20-25 minute panel setting for which would determine whether I’d graduate or not.

Then there was Big. There’s always Big. While we haven’t spoken in months, I had a dream about him. And I started to wonder if he’d call for my graduation. Or even remember. Maybe he’d show up. Nah. He’d never do that, I was sure of that much, at least. But for a split second, I imagined having that moment when Carrie was with Aiden at his furniture gallery and Big showed up. God knows I shouldn’t be having these thoughts. I shouldn’t be thinking of him at all. Especially on my quest for happiness. Not when in the end, we determined that we were not making each other happy.

And then there’s Aiden. Sweet and patient, Aiden. A man who has been there the whole time, humbly waiting in the wings. The gentle answer to my unyielding prayer. A man of few words, (with me, he kinda has to be. In case you haven’t noticed, I talk enough for the both of us). I appreciate his quiet strength to stand beside me at center stage on the single most important day of my life. The man who infuses me with confidence just by looking at me in beautiful awe after I came out of the bathroom from getting dressed. Aiden, the man who, in a packed arena looked at me from yards away and made me feel like I was the only one in the room. The same man who takes my entire face in the palms of his hands, after I’ve washed off my makeup and says, “I forgot how beautiful you are” before he kisses me goodnight.

I woke up this morning still on a high. And I wanted to find out what made this weekend so incredible. I’m always in tune with my triggers when it comes to what makes me unhappy. This time, I wanted to flip the script and find out what my triggers are for my happiness. After all, that’s what we should really be focusing on, experts agree. When I thought about it, it was really a combination of just a few simple things that are actually within my reach.

Friday night, it rained. And I’ve always loved the rain, even during my bouts of self-diagnosed depression. Aiden and I had a suite at the Doubletree, simply to relax and watch the game. Saturday was a day of pampering to work out the ball of nerves that had taken residence in my shoulders, neck and back before my commencement ceremony. And at the top of the 3 o’clock hour, I walked alongside my peers into a jam packed arena, feeling like the 2017 NBA Champions (clears throat, Cleveland Cavaliers) as the crowd exploded into cheers and applause. Among the sea of people in the stands, the first face I saw was my very first true love. I looked into the crowd and immediately, I saw my daddy. And he spotted me back. And I could hear his heart beating with pride as he stood there with assurance, knowing that his baby girl was going to be okay. I saw my mother who’s had my back through every bad choice & crazy idea that I’ve ever had. And I saw my ex-step-mother #MamaDuece, sitting right beside them with one of the biggest smiles that I’ve seen her have in a long time. And my Sister, whom I affectionately refer to as “Sister” rather than her given name. This girl is my voice of reason and has talked me off the ledge many-a-day. And Aiden. My Aiden….

After the ceremony, we gathered at The White House (off McCain Blvd., not Pennsylvania Drive) for steak & libations, and boy, were the bubbles flowing. We laughed, we talked and we drank. Then, on Sunday, it was a day of celebration for Mother’s Day with both of my moms. And I ended the night with a paid commercial shoot for the Department of Parks & Tourism (and I think I may have scored some print work from it, too).

The whole weekend, I kept reflecting on the idea that, “I’m so incredibly happy.” As I’m discovering the secrets to my happiness, I’m learning that it’s really no secret at all. For me, I’m the absolute happiest when I have balance in my personal life and my professional life. Just last month, I was working 10, sometimes 12 hour days at the radio station, while holding down 12 hours during this final semester. At that point, I was tapped out, physically and emotionally drained. Focus-all the way out of focus. Not getting enough sleep. Not eating well. Skimping on yoga and any attempts to work out, for that matter. Even depriving Aiden of our partner cardio routines some nights.

This weekend, I moderately indulged in a little bit of everything: good food, work that I enjoy, new experiences, luxuriation & pampering, but most importantly, I surrounded myself with people that love me and truly give a fuck about me. People whose intentions I never have to question.

Another notable mention, for me anyway, is coping and learning to manage stressful situations. Inevitably, stress will come. The difference is how you react to it. Before I left my office one Friday, after an insanely intense week, I wrote a note for myself to read on Tuesday upon my return. “Dear Self,” I began. “Contrary to popular belief, happiness is a choice. Choose happiness, over fear, stress, frustration and circumstance,” I ended. That note is still on my desk. I read it daily, now, as an affirmation.

Photo credit: De’Ja K. Johnson

Happiness is a choice, after all. Every emotion that we feel is by our own election. Emotions are not to be confused by pain. Yes, pain is an emotion, however, pain has varying degrees. Pain in a physical sense is involuntary, but emotionally speaking, this is very much within our jurisdiction.

I’m also learning to seek out the quiet. Ironically enough, in the midst of tranquility, you’ll often find peace. At any given moment, I’m simultaneously thinking of 4 different ideas. That’s the blessing and the curse of being a writer. Sometimes, I have to quiet my mind. Yoga & meditation has helped me with this tremendously. And before you judge me…..ah hell, go right ahead. I won’t even try to stop you.

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Photo credit: De’Ja K. Johnson

Through this journey that I’ve started, I’ve found my happiness in the simplest places. Sometimes, it’s at my desk, while listening to Beyonce and having the sun shine directly on me in the morning. Or watching Cuidado con el angel & discovering that I’m actually following the storyline. Or anytime I’m near the water. Sometimes, it’s laying in my bed in complete & intentional silence. But mostly, it’s when I’m creating- whether it’s writing for Odyssey, acting gigs as extra work or editing for my YouTube channel. The process of bringing something from an idea in my head into a tangible body of work amazes me. I become so immersed in it that time escapes me. This is when I feel the closest to my true self & purpose.

Finally, I’m learning to be present in life- & present to life. To me, that means, really making every day have purpose. I know that I have to get up and go to work every day, but more than working, I want to work on being a better person and eliminate as much negativity around me as I can so that I can create a positive imprint on the world around me. Start back volunteering. And working out. And cooking more, eating out less. Making time to travel, (Belize, here I come). Making every day count. That’s the message. I believe that my happiness stemmed from a moment of purpose. I felt accomplished and I was blessed by the people who showed up to share in my moment. Moments matter.

So as long as I have a choice in these moments, I choose to create happiness. After all, that’s when I’m the happiest anyways. When I’m on purpose. Creating.

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Photo credit: De’Ja K. Johnson


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