Do you know that feeling you get when a realization hits you? When the solution to a question that’s haunted you for days, weeks – maybe even years – bubbles up from the deep and floats right in front of you, ripe for the picking? Well, the other day I finally got a moment like that, and it was around the issue of what truly makes me happy. The realization was a relief, too, because Jayme Soulati invited me quite a long time ago to write about happiness for her Happy Friday Series … and I didn’t know what to say until now.
But, it happened! I think I figured out my recipe for happiness.
I was talking on the phone with a friend about my summer. It was a lovely evening outside, but I was in my room on my bed and staring at the ceiling while chatting. I could have been talking on the phone while enjoying the weather from a park or the beach, but I wasn’t.
And all of a sudden I realized I was hiding inside, just waiting for tomorrow to start. I wasn’t really living.
I had recently started a phenomenal full-time internship (which I’m still enjoying) after transitioning from working a part time job as a concierge in a residential building on weekends and going to school full-time during the week. My new schedule blasted me into seventh heaven – I had weekends free again after two years! Hurrah! I expected feelings of freedom and a burgeoning new social life and boundless joy!
But I began to notice that I didn’t feel very different.
Now, I’m the kind of guy who likes to be active and do things out-and-about. I love hiking, biking, beaching, seeing shows, going to museums, and more. That’s one of the reasons I moved to San Francisco 10 years ago.
Introvert & Shy
But at my center, I am also an introvert – and yes, even shy. Extensive and prolonged interaction with people, especially new people, requires me to expend a lot of energy, and I have to recharge afterward.
So you can imagine that three eight-hour shifts of contractual obligation to smile, greet and be bubbly at my part-time job every weekend really wore me out. I left work every Saturday, Sunday and Monday and came directly home, made dinner and stared at some sort of mindless entertainment before passing out way too early so I could wake up equally as early to smile and be present for people all the next day.
Rinse and repeat, then school all week. Weekdays were spent attending lectures and doing homework. It was very much a routine, and there wasn’t really any time for doing the things I loved like getting out and enjoying the city I pay so much to live in. I was blessed with great opportunities to make it through school, but I wasn’t very happy.
I began to notice that even with evenings and weekends free on my new internship schedule, I was still operating as if I was
overextended – hoarding quiet time like it was the scarcest resource in the universe. I was hiding from the world to recharge. And the flip side of introverted self-care for me is that too much time alone leaves me feeling bored — and maybe even a little lonely.
So I found myself under-stimulated, bored and still unhappy.
Happiness Is A Balance
And that’s when it hit me – I realized that my happiness arises out of a balance of routine and adventure.
Doing the same old thing day in and day out makes me long for freedom or unstructured down-time. But then again, after too much time being totally free, I find myself mired in decision paralysis and unable to figure out anything to do other than vegetate in bed staring at the ceiling. And mind you I live in San Francisco – there is never a shortage of things to do here.
So this is what I think — happiness comes from a balance of the old and the new. The ratio of adventure-to-routine differs for everyone, but I definitely think that too much of either is a recipe for unhappiness.
I have made a pact with myself to do something new at least once a week, and it’s working out nicely! I’ve gone to the beach, the movies, and networking events. I know that I can embrace routine, and as an introvert part of that routine must include hiding and recharging sometimes, but if I want to be truly happy, I have to come out of my shell and explore the world, too.
How do you find a balance between routine and adventure? Do you find they might be factors in your happiness?
About The Author
Dwayne Alicie lives in San Francisco and is wrapping up his undergraduate degree in marketing from San Francisco State University at the end of 2013. He tweets and blogs when he’s not studying, interning at Concur Technologies or hiding in his room imagining he is a pop star.