I walked into the spiritualist’s apartment and felt immediately threatened. There wasn’t a lone gunman pointing his pistol at my head. There wasn’t a gang of homeboys making kissy faces at me or grunting while holding their crotch. That happened on the streets of Washington Heights, not here. Her space was supposed to be safe. Sacred. A place where neighborhood creatives got their zen on. Where they sought and found the answers to their trauma, pain and innermost fears. Only I didn’t want any part of it.
I felt threatened because I was in fact alone with her for the very first time since first meeting at an open mic. She wasn’t the aggressive type. But I thought her questions were.
“What makes you happy?”
Harmless to anyone who can answer. I honestly did not know what would make me happy and fill the void I often felt when alone with my thoughts. At 25 years old, I was stuck on being successful. On numbers. On how success equates to numbers. Lots of them. In my bank account. On my Google Analytics dashboard. The greater the numbers, the happier I thought I would be.
“I want to make more money doing what I love, but I can’t seem to get past a certain number of visitors on my website. I need those numbers to make a living off of my passion, which is writing and talking in media about romantic relationships.”
I stopped rambling and waited for her to say something. To do her spiritual gangsta ish and provide me with wisdom so I knew what to do next to launch my creative career. In a sense, to be happy. Instead, she questioned my very definition of happiness.
“Happiness isn’t about success or numbers. And success isn’t about numbers. If you love what you do and feel you are pursuing your God-given purpose, you should be happy knowing you’ve touched one person with your words.”
How dare she? I wanted to yell, curse and storm out. What I did was become defensive as I often do when confronted with the truth. To be happy, I needed to love my career and make money. How could I succeed without a following?
“You should be grateful if even one person finds your work and is loyal to it and what you hope to do.”
Oh hellz nah! Ya. No pude mas. I told her I was done with the session. Aggressively. As she got her zen on, I got my aggressive on, left her apartment and returned to the Concrete Jungle where the same brothers slouched, grabbed their crotches and made kissy faces. Nothing had changed outside just like nothing had changed with me internally. After that session and many moons later, I continued to strive for numbers. Now, I feel burnt out.
At 40, I have taken a step back, including a self-enforced Instagram hiatus, and I am redefining what success and happiness means to me.
What I have learned thus far is that…
…success is spending time with my son and fiance. Listening to them laugh as they play hide and seek in our tiny NY apartment.
…Success is receiving a message from a listener of my podcast expressing how much they appreciate how much I share of myself and my life with them.
…Success is enjoying the “thin places.” Birds chirping. Evan’s breath when he sleeps on me. The sun on my face.
…Success is taking life day by day, feeling grateful for another day and believing that God and Jesus are working hand in hand to guide me through this journey called life.
I did get my zen on after all. Only a decade plus later. I am no longer defensive (ok, maybe sometimes). I am no longer threatened. I am no longer terrified to be challenged.
It doesn’t matter when you get your happy on. As long as you come on, get happy…on your terms.