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On Happiness and Feeling Great About Your Life.

Inspired by Luna is now one year old. At the same time, I'm also a year older and hopefully a little bit wiser as well - it was my birthday yesterday. This past year has been full of change - big things and smaller ones, happy times and sad moments - buying our apartment and moving in, publishing my first knitting patterns, loneliness when my only good friend moved away and making new acquaintances, climbing the Great Wall in China and traveling to Greece, Turkey and Netherlands, having a hard past month or so with overwhelming fatigue... But at the end I feel like I'm much stronger and probably the most content with my life I've ever been. This is going to be a long post so please bear with me.

I've always suffered from a low self-esteem, comparing myself to others and always feeling I'm not enough. I come from a family where everyone is highly educated with university degrees and after graduating from high school I too went on to study physics. I guess I never really questioned what I wanted to do but went with what I thought was expected of me. A few years into my studies I decided to drop out and try something else so I changed schools and started to study furniture conservation. I've never regretted the decision, but still there was a small voice in the back of my head telling me I'm under-achieving. My family keeps pressuring me to study more, to get a university diploma, to become a lawyer, an engineer, whatever and my dad doesn't seem to understand how I can manage with such a small salary (it's not that small although considerably less than his). I don't want to study more and I'm doing just fine regarding money. And even though I was happy about the choices I made I still often felt like a failure.
I've been thinking about my life a lot during the past year trying to figure out what I would do differently if I had the change and what I would like to achieve to feel happy. And the rather surprising conclusion was that I'm actually happy right now. I married the love of my life, my best friend and the greatest man ever a little over a year ago. We bought a beautiful apartment where we really feel at home. I have not one but two professions that I love (furniture conservation and Zumba instruction). We have enough money to buy the things we need and even most of the things we want, and still have enough to travel abroad a few times a year. I don't believe I would be any happier living in a bigger house, driving a flashier car, carrying a more expensive designer handbag, and working in a stressful environment of a busy business office. Those are just external and superficial things, but being happy and content is something that has to come from within.

I read an interesting article about the modern day people and the way our outlook on life has changed in the past few years. We seem to have lost our ability to see the beauty in the mundane, everyday life. Instead we strive to be special, to live a high life, to go on superfluous holidays, to have lavish homes and interesting lifestyles. The rise of the "because I'm worth it" culture.  Which is necessarily not a bad thing if it makes us strive harder to realize our dreams and be the best version of ourselves. BUT... We see glossy magazine shoots, blogs and Instagram photos of perfectly styled people with seemingly perfect homes and dinners styled to the last inch on daily basis and start to feel inadequate when our lives don't match that. It is nice to look good, to have an outfit we feel great wearing, to travel to new places and buy a new pair of shoes you feel like showing to the whole world. But the best moments in our lives are usually the little things: a smile, a hug, a bird singing, the first warm rays of sunshine after the long winter, a friend laughing with you, the smell of a really good cup of coffee, hearing and saying "I love you". The things you can't take a photo of because you only can feel them.

When I was attending the seminar in Amsterdam a few weeks ago there was a thing someone said that really made me think. He was a conservator in Rijksmuseum and told us about a time he met with a business owner (he told the name of the firm the man owned, it was a well-know company but the name has slipped me) whose passion was collecting antiques. The businessman had said to the conservator: "You know, I'm really envious of you." And the conservator was thinking "did I hear right? Why does he envy me? He has everything!" So the businessman continued: "Obviously, I have everything, but I can never do the work you do." And the conservator had thought about it and come to the conclusion that he was right. Not many people get to do the work we do. And he said also that he has never met a conservator who was unhappy in their line of work in the same way many business people are. That's actually true. Like everyone else I dream of winning the lottery but unlike many, if I did, I wouldn't quit my job. I love it so much. I probably wouldn't work full time anymore, but I would like to keep on doing it.

A few days ago I was having coffee with someone I know and whose lifestyle I've been envious of for a while now. She seems to have it all: the clothes, the designer shoes, the traveling, the places she visits, the people she has met, the parties she's attending and the champagne she drinks. Hearing her update the things that have happened in her life since we last spoke made me question my envy and jealousy: all she did was complain about everything. There was nothing she seemed to be happy about. She complained about her relationship, about her work, about her living situation - there were all these things she wanted to be differently. I told her things about my own life and that's when it finally hit me. She doesn't have it all, I do. I may have less than her, but I have all the things I need whereas she has so much more but nothing that she wants.

I started writing this blog on the eve of my 30th birthday. I didn't really have any age related crisis but I still wanted to reflect on my life and think about the direction I was going and whether I wanted to change the course of it. During the past year I've been trying to braver, do the things I want to do instead of what I believe others want me to do and stop worrying about what everybody else is thinking. I've been trying to dedicate more time to the things I love the most and leave out other stuff that doesn't make me happy (if only I could hire someone to do the household chores!). I've tried to keep more contact with the people who make me happy and less with the ones who bring me down.

I feel I'm really lucky and blessed to live the life I have. 

My guidelines to happiness and feeling great about your life:

  1. Be honest with yourself. Figure out what you want and especially WHY you want it. Is that really going to make you feel better about yourself or is it something everybody else is telling you to do? If it is something you really want, focus your energy on it and seek ways to make it happen. If it's not, forget it and move on; have the courage to say that it's not what you want in your life. Also try to figure out the real reasons that stop you from pursuing your dreams.
  2. Be brave. Do the things you want to do and love. Ignore negative comments. 
  3. Eat healthily, make sure you sleep enough, exercise. Take care of your well-being, it really makes all the difference.
  4. Feel good about the things you already have. Count your blessings. Look at all the good stuff you already have going for you: all the people you love, the things that are good about your work, your favorite things... Instead of thinking of all the things you don't have, take joy in the things you do. Stop for a while and see how far you have actually come.
  5. Do more of the things you love, cut down on everything negative. Enough said :)
  6. Be kind to yourself and treat yourself like your best friend. Be more compassionate with yourself. Remember to praise and thank yourself every now and then. It's not bragging if every once in a while you give yourself a pat on the back and say you've done a good job, you're great at this or that you look very beautiful today. Forgive yourself, let go of the things you have failed doing. Don't make the kind of remarks about your appearance, body or personality that you would make of your friends.
  7. Stop and enjoy the world around you. There is happiness and beauty all around us. Stop for a second and look around you. Even a rainy day can be beautiful.
  8. Laugh a lot. 
  9. Never stop learning. Read books, visit art galleries and museums, ask questions, try new hobbies and recipes, be curious.
(And every now and then treat and pamper yourself like you are the queen of everything.)


  1. I read your long post all the way to the end and it put a smile on my face :)

  2. A wonderful post. Thank you :-) deborah

  3. A very beautiful post ! And you'r right, nothing is more important than a fulfilled life...

  4. Happy birthday! Beautifully written post; I completely agree with you!!

    1. Thank you for the birthday wishes :) and I'm happy to hear you enjoyed this post.


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