When I Grow Up I Want to be Happy


After a heartfelt discussion with a friend about what I wanted to do for the third act of my life, she emailed me the next morning and in all seriousness asked what I want to be when I grow up.

The question took me by surprise. What do I want to be when I grow up? The first thing that popped into my mind was: when I grow up I want to be happy. No sooner were those words out than my inner critic appeared rolling her eyes: oh for goodness sake, could you sound more infantile? I admit I winced a bit. But then I thought, hold on – what am I really saying here?

Unsure of where this was going, I decided to record my thoughts anyway. I allowed my fingers to fly across my keyboard and wrote without editing my mind.  As I free associated words and thoughts, an exercise, which started as a game, I realized some profound insights.

To begin with, I recognized the extent to which I believe that being happy means being cheerful. However, because I am not always “up” or “cheerful”, I saw myself as unhappy.

I didn’t consciously think about happiness in such black and white terms.  However, when presented with the question of what I wanted to do–I answered–to be happy. That was an amazing answer because I actually didn’t see myself as unhappy

As I examined what happiness really meant to me, I recognized that what I was craving is feeling at peace with myself.  Big revelation! Who doesn’t?

Nonetheless, I sat back down at my computer determined to follow the exercise through to the end. Whatever that meant. God knows, I have no intention of climbing some mountaintop and sitting cross-legged chanting for the rest of my life.

Once I hushed my inner critic it was amazing how simple the answers were.  For me being at peace is about remembering to value who I am today, how I got here and where I want to go. In other words, rather than trying to fix what I think is wrong with me – which I do more often than I care to admit – be a little kinder and appreciate the road it took to get to where I am in my life.

A good example of that is: by working out consistently in the last three years I am now able to have a physically active life, again.  I have strengthened my back; I no longer walk crookedly or swallow anti-inflammatory pills like candy.  That might sound banal but what a relief it is that I no longer have to find the closest parking spot to the front door. And I can go on hikes!

But peace and happiness is not just about looking backwards, it’s also about looking forward.  One of the things I am working on is to stop using fear as my excuse to not move forward. So I wrote this article and submitted it. I got over my fear of what people will think and took a chance. That in itself makes me feel more at peace.

Noticing all those little things add up. It’s easy to dismiss our personal triumphs as inconsequential, but if we don’t give ourselves the kudos we deserve who will?

Being happy and peaceful when I grow up is a work in progress.

When I grow up I want to be an adult who seriously loves life and appreciates who she is.