Ever since Chris started graduate school at Yale, I’ve had this sticker on the back of my car. It’s a simple sticker that says, “Yale University.” At first, it was a badge of honor because I thought it was so cool to actually know someone who went to Yale. After the novelty of the school wore off, I kept it on my car because I was so proud of Chris for what he had accomplished. When he graduated and started working in New York, we kept our connection to Yale through my job there, and that sticker was no longer a symbol of Chris, but of my own ties to Yale. When we moved to Florida, I debated about taking the sticker off, but decided to leave it on for nostalgic reasons. Every time I backed my car up, I’d see that sticker in my rearview mirror and I would remember that wonderfully happy time in our lives.
I took the sticker off this weekend.
Looking in that rearview mirror every day kept me in the past. Every time I looked at that sticker, it was because I was backing up. Sometimes it was backing up my car, and sometimes it was backing up emotionally. I’d look at that sticker and think about all the things I didn’t have in my life anymore. The people who we came to love at Yale, the house that became our first home, the jobs that started out our career paths, the seasons that gave us so much happiness…all of it. Every time I saw that sticker in my rearview mirror as I backed up, I’d mentally and emotionally back up a little bit, too.
This week, I was backing my car out of my parking spot at school after a particularly rewarding day of teaching that made me both proud and happy to be a teacher. I glanced at the sticker and thought to myself, “Oh! That’s still on there?” I couldn’t remember the last time I had noticed it. Probably not for months. “I should probably take that off,” I thought.
Just like that. I should just take it off.
In the past year, we have been establishing ourselves where we wanted to be in Orlando. We’ve built a life that not only satisfies me the way that our life in Connecticut had, but goes beyond that and makes me feel complete and whole. I can’t imagine my life being anywhere but here. I know where my kids are going to go to school in a couple years. I wake up every morning and drive to a job that fulfills me in ways I didn’t even know needed fulfilling. I come home to a family that is funny and happy and energetic and exhausting and constantly keeping me on my toes. I lay down at night beside the one person in the whole entire world that could give me this life. I can honestly say that I have never been this happy in my life.
You should see my house right now. It is a disaster zone. (I say that like that’s a change from the normal, every day state of my house…) But you know what I did today? I went on a glass bottom boat tour with my mom, my best friend, my grandma, and my two kids. We came home to the hustle of bath times and bedtimes and Sunday evening chores to get ready for the week. And as I sit here now, my house is finally quiet and the rush of the day is calm and if I had to give one word to my day after all that chaos it would be “happiness.” Just pure happiness. Happiness that I got to spend the day with three generations of women, all who have inspired me in ways I don’t even think they know. Happiness even though the kids were tired and grumpy when we got home and fought bedtime hard core. Happiness even though I got absolutely nothing done that I needed to for this upcoming week. Happiness even when I’m exhausted and feel like I need another weekend to recover from this weekend. It is all just happiness to me.
Running has been an unexpected joy in my life, but I think it is really the sign of something much deeper happening to me right now. With every step I run, with each early morning I rise, with each mile I clock, I am doing something that brings me happiness. For a long time, happiness was situational for me. I was happy when things were happy around me. But something in the past four or five months has shown me how to live in a state of happiness, even during times that may not necessarily be happy. On work days when I feel ineffective in the classroom, I still feel happy in my career. On days when dinner is late to the table and kids are crying and dogs are barking and Chris texts to say he hasn’t even left the office yet, I still feel happy. I feel other things that sometimes dull that happiness – frustration or exhaustion or anger – but at the end of each day, there is always happiness.
Deep, deep down in my soul there is happiness now.
Turns out, I don’t need to be constantly reminded about specific times in my life that have made me happy. I don’t need a sticker in my rearview mirror to remind me of happy days. That happiness is inside me. It goes with me. It’s there on good days and on bad days and every day in between. And when it is that prevalent in my life, when I don’t need reminders or moments that show me how happy I am, when it just comes that naturally from inside, then it’s time to take down that sticker.