If You’re Happy And You Know It

A few years ago, someone asked me if I was happy. It was a simple question that should have required a simple answer.

Since kindergarten, we are all asked the same thing. We’re told that if we are happy and we know it, we should clap our hands. All the kids in the class would clap. There were no children, no matter how bad their home lives were, sitting on their hands and crying. From that young age, we learn to smile like we mean it and fake it until we make it. Questions of personal happiness are more for us to ponder on our own. They’re not for public consumption.

So, when I was asked about my personal happiness as an adult without musical accompaniment, I wasn’t able to spout out my preprogrammed response. Instead, I launched into some stumbling explanation about how if my kids were happy, I was happy. I filled the air with words and sounds to distract from the fact that this question had thrown me off tremendously. I tried to hide the fact that, in real-time, I was coming to a scary discovery.

I wasn’t happy.

While the question was simple, the reason for my confusion wasn’t as easy to understand. It was about one thing, everything, and nothing at the same time. Situations could be hard and stressful things could be pointed to. However, it wasn’t just about situations or things. A lot of it was visceral. A lot of it came from me.

My life wasn’t what I wanted it to be and the way I spoke to myself was even worse. Nearly every move I made was chastised by an internal voice. It could be brutal. If someone else had been talking to me that way, it would have sent me into battle mode

The battle, though, was internal. Something was off and I needed to fix it. I went out and started to do just that.


Life changes were already underway, and I decided to find my way, as best I could. While certain aspects of my existence were fine, others weren’t. So, I changed them.

For those reading this, that might sound like the end of the story. After all, adjusting your circumstances can be an incredible undertaking. It’s about breaking out of comfort zones and discovering a new place in the world. Our circumstances make us who we are and troubles are usually environmental. At least that’s what we tell ourselves.

Truth be told? Fixing those initial circumstances was the easy part. Most of the problems I dealt with were simple to spot. It was like having a room in your house that’s filled with garbage. You know it’s there. You know it gives you anxiety. You know you have to clean it. By the time you do, you feel better about that room’s place in your home.

So, I cleaned my room. I moved forward and thought I found my happiness…although I didn’t. I just found other rooms to fill with different garbage.

Sometimes, we think we’re making massive changes for the better when, in reality, we’re just making massive changes. We’re not moving forward but moving sideways. In some cases, we’re even moving backward. However, in those times of internal struggle, any movement feels like positive progress.

I tried to convince myself I was happy. My outward appearance gave the impression I was. People thought I was better than I ever was.

I wasn’t.

Again, the environment wasn’t right and I still wasn’t the person I thought I should be. I hadn’t found happiness, but comfort in familiarity. While that might sound nice, it’s not the kind of comfort most people long for. If you spend your whole life sleeping on a bed of 1000 spikes, finding a bed of 500 spikes seems like an upgrade. It might be true, but it’s still not where you should lay your head.

My brain continued to speak to me the same way too. My words, still fueled by words from others, all cut deep and shaped my outlook on the world. I didn’t look forward to anything. Rather, I was just pushing through life and going through the same motions. At times, I wondered how I wound up in such a familiar state of mind.

The changes that I went on to make were initially thrust upon me. Employment changes, a dead car, and the need to fix things on my own all fell at my feet. I had to make a plan that would pull me out of the hole I was in. I needed to fix many things, both personally and professionally, about my world. That’s what I did.

need love

Once removed from the sideways situations, shattered support systems, and broken paths to peace, a funny thing happened. The voice I used to speak to myself changed.

Maybe I needed to show my internal voice that no problem was insurmountable. Maybe I just needed to show myself that I was willing to walk away from comfortable familiarity in order to protect myself. The inner child inside me had never had an adult to look out for him. Now he did. It was me. I was that adult.

Perhaps the biggest part of this change is that it didn’t involve anyone else. No one “saved” me. No one else deserved credit and no one else deserved blame. Being the best version of me was about me. It always had been. I finally learned that.

My greatest stories aren’t written yet. I still haven’t found all the people who will love me and all the people I will love. Neither have you. Knowing these things has altered my entire outlook and changed how I see the world. For the first time in forever, I have genuine hope for a future that I have wanted my entire life. Anything is possible and I couldn’t be more excited.

Am I happy? Yes. No paragraph break. No pause. No long drawn-out explanation. I see it in how I treat myself and others. I’m happy and I know it. I want everyone to hear me clapping.



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