For more than 10 years, I lived in New York City, arguably one of the most exciting places in the world. Theater, bars, art, shopping, restaurants ... all mere steps from my front door. Yet my associations with New York are much different.
How To Discover The One Thing That Always Leads You To Happiness
Never once have I used the word exciting, because for me, the word didn’t fit.
I knew within a year of living in the city that it wasn’t right for me. I was living by myself for the first time in a studio on the Upper West Side, working in my first sales job, determined to take the publishing industry by storm and live the perfect, glamorous Manhattan life I had imagined for myself.
I understood that I didn’t hold this city in the same regard as most of my friends, but I figured this would eventually change. Eventually, I'd discover what made this place and this life so exciting.
Instead, it continued to elude me.
So I ignored my instincts and took cues from my friends, who seemed to easily find thrills in New York. I went to the newest restaurants with my foodie friends and pretended to be dazzled by culinary concoctions I didn't understand and could not pronounce. I shopped with my fashionista friends, buying clothing I couldn’t afford and collecting designer accessories the way some people collect stamps. I happy-houred and pub-crawled and wine-tasted with my nightlife-loving friends, feigning interest in the late nights and the crazy stories they produced, pretending I belonged.
I ended up completely broke, and totally broken down. Following others' excitement left me with $20,000 of debt and an emptiness that no amount of exotic sushi or Chanel or VIP parties could fill.
I chased happiness, running after it like I'd run after a cab in a rainstorm, wishing desperately that I could catch it. But of course, it always escaped me.
How can you discover excitement when you’ve forgotten what excites you?
You start to listen. You start to pay attention. You start to trust yourself.
Things began to change when I finally acknowledged what I really wanted for myself and moved across the country to Los Angeles. It felt right, immediately, in a way that New York never did. Slowly, gradually, I started re-discovering the things that excited me: Yoga, reading on the beach, outdoor concerts, sunsets over the ocean, writing.
This time, I didn’t follow my friends into hikes I didn’t enjoy, or force myself to eat avocado on everything like so many Angelenos. This time, I tried new things, listened to my gut about what made me happy, and tossed the rest.
And I get it now. I found my excitement. I found my happiness. Every single day that I wake up in Santa Monica, regardless of my mood, or the often thick summer marine layer, or anything else going on in my life, I am excited and happy to live here. I am where I am meant to be.
Following my excitement simply meant listening to, and following, my heart. Following my heart meant finding real happiness.