“Happiness is a choice; not a result. Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy.” – Ralph Marston
Are you really happy or are you just really comfortable?
I heard this question in a workshop a while ago and it struck a chord with me.
I had a pretty atypical upbringing.
Due to my father's work, and much to the displeasure of my mother, we uprooted from Taiwan when I was two and moved to America to start anew. "In America, our children will have access to better education", my father would say. The American Dream!
Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, but I can barely recall much else from my childhood. When I was twelve, my father passed away from suicide and when he passed, our little family plunged into chaos. My mother, who could not speak English and never wanted to move to America in the first place, was now stuck in a country without family nearby to help her care for two young children. My mother, who relied on my father to earn a living and take care of all the finances, had to start by learning how to write a check. Everyone urged my mother to return to Taiwan where her family and friends could offer support, where the language barrier was not an issue, and everything was familiar and safe.
How my mother found the courage and determination to keep the promise she made to my father, I will probably never be able to completely comprehend. But even as her world shattered and the ground beneath her continued to crumble, she endured.
Whenever I thought about how my mother had to consciously and actively choose every day to stay in America for my brother and me, I would tell myself, "No, I have more than enough so I have no right to want more."
Sometime during high school, I started to realize that I was not the same as the other girls I knew. And for most of my youth, I would continue to carry the shame, guilt, and fear of being different. I found myself in a confining and suffocating space. If I came out, I'd risk drawing attention, getting kicked out, losing my friends, hurting my family, and most of all, hurting my mother. "I'm okay staying in here. I'm okay not having a place where I belong. I'm comfortable where I am."
Years later when I got into my first serious same-sex relationship, my ex was very secretive about our relationship and insisted on her heterosexuality. "If you insist on living together, it'll have to be once our parents pass away. But even then, this is Japan so we'll still tell everyone that we're roommates so make sure you buy your own bed," she would jokingly tell me every time I got carried away thinking about our future. I'd laugh and immediately tell myself that she was going above and beyond her straight-ness to be with me. Who was I to ask for more? "Sure, I'm comfortable with that idea."
Coming out to my mother was a purely unplanned accident. I had not intended to do so at that time, especially not in the way that I had done it (as you'd recall in my previous post). But I think it was at that moment that the illusion of being "comfortable" began to crack. I was still with my ex at the time and somewhere in that coming-out conversation with my mother, she asked a very interesting question that I still ponder about to this day.
"Why are you crying so much if you say you're as happy as you are?"
Each tear carried an array of complicated emotions. Most were from the release of fear, shame, and self-hate, some were from the guilt of how much I knew this news was hurting her, but I also believe that a sprinkle of them was from the realization that I wasn't really happy in my relationship.
It wasn't until I met my current partner that I fully came to realize that most of my life had been spent in a perpetual cycle of lies I told myself.
I was afraid to ask for more because I felt undeserving and greedy. I told myself that I had been given so much already in life; so much love, safety, and companionship that asking for more would simply be selfish and shameless.
But the truth is...I wanted more.
I had always craved for more.
I didn't just want to be comfortable.
I wanted to live a happy life.
Even if that meant... discomfort.
Even if that meant... taking risks.
::: There comes a day when "comfortable" is no longer enough:::
And when that day finally comes, you'll realize, like I did, that you were never truly
That's when you have to make a choice. The choice to change, to move purposefully into discomfort, to put yourself at perceived risks for the promise of better days. Because the truth is, staying comfortable will never get you to the better days you desire.
You deserve more. We all deserve more. It is not selfish, it is not greedy. It is our right as human beings to be happy and to have the life that we desire.
What choices are you making for your happiness?