What would make me happy?
A great job?
A hot boyfriend?
A fulfilling relationship?
A brand-new car?
Travel around the world?
Or just getting along better with myself?
What is happiness all about?
There’s no universally accepted definition of what happiness is. To some, it’s free, to others it may cost millions of pesos. Happiness comes in different forms.
My project for 2011 was to find its meaning, and I was convinced I knew exactly what I needed to achieve it.
I like making time frames, planning ahead and setting goals. I do this on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. I would list down the things that I need to do every day and I put a check mark on each once I’m done with it, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.
For 2011, I had a long list of expectations and goals, and little did I know that one would turn into an obsession…
I got obsessed with my American dream.
If only there are better career opportunities here in the Philippines for physical therapists, I would prefer to just stay and be with my family. To work there one has to go through a long, cumbersome process and to take the state board exam which is given only in the United States. A few nightmares we have to go through are: “credentialing” to make sure our education is equivalent to US standards; passing the English exam; and getting a US visa.
I had been working on this for quite some time, and I was hoping that I could make it happen in 2011. I said to myself that if I made it, I would be truly happy. I got close to achieving this goal, so close that I could almost taste it.
But life is truly unpredictable, there are certain things that are beyond our control. Some decisions are not ours to make.
Despite everything I did, I wasn’t able to leave. This made me feel so frustrated, I felt like the universe was treating me unfairly.
So the waiting game continues to this day.
It was March when I was told by my agency to wait for six more months. Six months felt like forever, I consoled myself by saying I’ll get by, I’ll just make the most during the “waiting period.” But six months turned to seven, then nine. To make a long story short, it has been approximately four years (and still counting) of waiting since I was told to wait for six more months.
The waiting game made me feel insane! I got feelings of anxiety and impatience. I blamed the universe for playing tricks on me. I felt like a lollipop has been dangled in front of me only to be cruelly taken away just as I reached out for it. I quietly prayed to God and asked for answers. “Lord I thought you want me to be happy, but why is this happening? But whatever it is, Lord, I trust you, I know you have better plans for me.”
After the phone call I had from my agency telling me about another “delay,” I wanted to cry, but my three-year-old niece gave me a tight warm hug which made me feel better.
During the waiting period, I did a lot of stuff just to keep my mind from my frustrations. I would offer to babysit my adorable niece and nephew at my brother’s new home (they recently moved to the Philippines from Singapore). I spent more time with my family. I also went back to the review center and met amazing people and new friends. I was able to enjoy running again and joined my brother and some friends in a couple of fun runs. I got into yoga and enjoyed it beyond my expectations. And I was able to do a lot of reading, caught up with my favorite TV programs and movies. I was able to play the guitar and sing again. I had more “me” time (thank you for the amazing online deals that I was able to get for myself and the pampering that I needed). I was able to sort out my cluttered thoughts, which enabled me to write this.
Year 2011 was all about waiting, and during this period, I realized that I found the happiness I have been looking for. My family, my friends, my newfound interests, the good weather, an appreciation from patients thanking me for somehow making them feel better are just some of the countless things that made me happy in the year past. I learned about faith-based optimism, to let go of expectations and my obsession about achieving a specific goal at a particular time. I also learned that it’s good to plan and to be optimistic about your plans, but no matter how hard a person plans something, if it is not the right time, it won’t happen.
I do have plans, but it is God’s plan that will prevail in the end. This waiting period has given me the opportunity to understand what I really want, and to realize that some dreams would not necessarily give me the happiness that I am looking for.
Like what most people say, a flower will grow and bloom on its own good time. There’s no need to give it a deadline. If it’s not growing as fast as we want to, we just have to trust Mother Nature. For a beautiful flower to bloom, it has to have enough water and sunlight. We can always trust a flower to bloom, but we cannot guarantee the precise moment when it will spread its petals. So is trusting God, He knows what is best for us, and we can always complement our hard work and determination with prayers.
Happiness is like a switch; when to turn it on or off is within our control, we just have to know where the switch is. It is something that we don’t wait to happen, it is something that we do. It doesn’t wait on time, it is not something that waits for the future. We just have to open up and let it in.
I celebrated New Year’s Eve with my loved ones and I can say that my search for happiness has been a real success. I am looking forward to more reasons to be happy in 2012. I will continue to pursue my dreams and finish what I have already started but this time, with a hopeful and happy heart because I believe that happiness leads to success, not the other way around. Success is the icing on the cake, the cherry on top of the ice cream, a bonus to my already awesome life.
Aina, 29, is a freelance physical therapist. She wrote this piece last New Year’s Eve, while looking back to year 2011.