Updated: Aug 21
I thought my happiness would be found in America, the land of the free. With a sprint in my step and hope in my eyes, I bid Trinidad and Tobago farewell and made my way to America. I thought for sure that this momentous move to America would solidify my happily, ever after. It turns out that I was wrong.
My idea of what happily, ever after came from what I saw in the movies and what I witnessed every day. Growing up in Trinidad, I saw how hard people worked to make money to achieve what they thought would lead to their happiness. People would say that those with money were happy because they could buy whatever they wanted. My own parents left my siblings and I at a very young age to migrate to America. They left us in pursuit of making more money so that we could have more stuff. I remember how my siblings and I longed to have our parents, but they were not there. We did not get the opportunity to experience those priceless moments that other kids shared with their parents. The sad thing is that my mother was absent from every graduation that I ever had. What I remember most, is not what they bought me but the moments that I shared with them and the memories we made.
I discovered that happiness is not a destination but a journey. It is a journey of a billion moments that we get to experience, and we get to choose whether it will be happy or sad. There is nothing magical about happiness as is normally portrayed in the movies. The marriage, the children, the promotion, the big house, and car does not equate to happily, ever after. Our happily ever after story is not found in what we get but rather in who we become along the journey. My migration to America did not bring the happiness that I thought.
My stepmother disliked me, and my dad allowed her to mistreat my brother and me. Despite that, I was determined to be successful so that I could be happy. I graduated college at the top of my class, I then attended one of the top law schools in the country, I received accolades and recognition, but I still did not feel happy. I was busy trying to pursue material possessions because I was convinced that would take me to my happily, ever after. I was not enjoying the journey but painfully going through life expecting that it would take me to happiness. I neglected important relationships, failed to make meaningful connections with others, and was often ungrateful for the things that I had. My mouth was full of complaints and my internal dialogue was flawed. I thought that my happiness would come one day when…
But it all changed for me when I realized that I did not like who I was becoming in my pursuit of materialism and that I was repeating a cycle that I knew was not working. I decided to go against the grain and focus not on success but on creating a life rich in meaning. I knew that to have a meaningful life meant that I needed to make people a priority. I started looking for ways to do good for others. I also decided to be thankful and to have a mouth full of praise instead of complaints. In addition, I decided to change my internal dialogue from I would be happy when to I choose to be happy now. I stopped comparing myself to others and I started to see all the good that was happening all around me that I failed to see before when I was chasing success. I am here today to tell you that these small things made a big impact on my life. We can all achieve happiness by making these small tweaks to our lives.
With all that is happening in our world presently, what is clear is that happiness is about creating a life rich in meaning. A life that is not self-centered, but people-centered. It is in our ability to focus on others and to serve a higher purpose greater than that of ourselves which gives us the rewards of life. Happiness is not in what we get, but it is in who we become. I now know that my happily, ever after was not in a place but happiness is a journey. As we go through life, the question we should continuously ask ourselves is do I like the person I am becoming?