It’s 2016. This is just a little bit wild to me; when you’re a little kid, you never really sit and think about the years you’ll be alive in, only the age you’ll be when you get there. But I’m alive and it’s the two thousand and sixteenth year of semi-well-documented history and I am really, really happy.
Before you keep reading, go take a moment to listen to classic Florence + The Machine: “Dog Days.”
The thing that always struck me about this song is that the protagonist is running from happiness – when she gets it, it’s because it hits her, even though she’s been hiding. This speaks a whole lot to me. I’m a firm believer that most of happiness – or any emotion, really – is rooted in the way you want yourself to feel. You can influence your feelings by choosing which ones to foster and which ones to ignore. This is how some people manage to find the best in any situation, and also why others can only speak of the negatives. And as is the way in all things, practice can make your behaviors and thought patterns permanent, be they good or bad.
Now, I could list a slew of studies and empirical research that back up what I just said, but today I’m going to ignore that side of my brain and instead focus on why I find “Dog Days” so relatable right now, and what that means for the New Year of 2016.
I have spent a lot of time in the past two years choosing to be unhappy.
This isn’t to say events haven’t occurred that deserved my sadness. This also isn’t meant to disregard the fact that emotions have a chemical basis, and all the willpower in the world can’t completely eradicate the effects of these chemicals on your overall brain chemistry. But I have let things I should have ignored blow themselves out of proportion, I have spent time worrying instead of acting, and I have dismissed the fact that I’m a healthy twenty-something with the potential for years and years of life ahead of me.
But in order to shift from the negative pattern of behavior to a more positive one, I had to work really really hard. More than that, I had to find new things that captured my attention, that gave me life, that fulfilled me on more than just a superficial level. I’ve tried and discarded so many different mindsets over the past year that I wasn’t sure I was ever going to figure out what I needed out of life.
Finally it just hit me – I needed the same thing I had wanted all along. The very thing I was trying to do by restarting this blog. I needed to write. I needed to suck in all the complaints I had and instead funnel all my time and mental energy into creating a story populated by characters I knew inside and out. I needed to use this amazing form of creative expression to keep me from the doldrums I so frequently lingered in.
More important than the way writing brought new life to me, however, was the fact that starting a novel was my first step toward making choices that were for my own good, regardless of what others wanted from me.
More important than the writing itself was also the feeling I had when I finished my first novel, on Christmas Eve. I had friends that had supported me along the way and who were ecstatic for me, but my primary cheerleader throughout the whole experience was myself. And because I was spending so much time being my own cheerleader in one part of my life, suddenly that incessant positive voice was spreading to the rest of my life as well. Instead of stewing on problems, that inner voice wanted me to find a solution, lickety-split.
(This is the part where my mother would probably add, “I told you so.”)
I could parse this out and tie it back into the research related to emotional growth, but I’ll save that for my memoirs and instead draw it back to “Dog Days.” I relate to that song so much right now. In a lot of ways, I feel like happiness jumped suddenly back into my life. But while I love the emotion of the song, it would be a discredit to the mental gymnastics I’ve put myself through to give “chance” or the “universe” a commendation for how I feel right now. I am happy because I am doing what I love, and because I continuously choose to make the best out of my situation.
And let’s not forget that I am pretty damn blessed. That’s another thing I shouldn’t take for granted.
Of course, all of this has been a dramatic lead in to what many participate in every January: the development of resolutions for the New Year. I’m not a frequent participator in this tradition (I’ve always thought if you want to change your life you should just go for it, re: everything I just said in this post), but I want to share the plans I have for myself in the coming months. They aren’t resolutions, they’re the steps I need to take to keep following the path I’ve chosen in the best possible way. Let’s get to it:
In 2016, I want to
Live out this music video.
Save more and spend less.
Travel more, both within America and outside.
Accumulate memories, not possessions.
Save up for one of these jackets.
Learn to speak Spanish.
Be kind to myself.
Better discern what I need to remove from my life.
& then remove those things.
Cuddle with my cats & drink tea.
Write. Edit. Create.
Fill my house with more of these wine-induced masterpieces: