I’ve been reading the book titled The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. When I first stumbled upon this book a few months ago, I’ll admit I was a little bit skeptical. I was kind of expecting it to be another self-help book full of overly optimistic pointers and so-called fool-proof lists to make me happier. What I’ve found, instead, is a book of one woman trying to understand just what happiness is by living her life intentionally. Part of this comes from her resolution to work on a different realm of her life each month of the year, gradually stacking the previous months resolution onto the next. Rubin’s monthly resolutions range from how she handles her energy levels, her attitude, her work, and even her play. And since reading the first half of the book, I’ve found myself living more intentionally, and you know what? I’m starting to see a noticeable difference in how happy I feel on a daily basis.
Living intentionally is something I’ve been trying to master for a few years now. When I first started college I decided that I wanted to spend my time well, making room for both work and play. I’ll admit that I don’t always make room for play, but I’m working on it. This last week especially, I’ve been focusing more on how I spend my time. I’m spending more time writing and reading. I’m getting errands done. I’m carefully planning out meals and setting aside time to exercise. I’m even setting aside time to just relax and watch reruns of my favorite sitcoms. Part of this comes from the fact that it’s summer and I have more time to spare, but part of it, I think, has come from reading this book and becoming more aware of what I spend my time on.
There is one thing that I’ve noticed, however, in the midst of all this intentional living. I might be getting more things done, but there’s something missing still: community. I’ve been yearning a sense of belonging that I didn’t even know I needed until I found a community on YouTube last summer and, later, the community I found while studying in Oxford. I might be an introvert and need my time alone, but I’m beginning to miss feeling like I’m a part of something bigger than myself.
Since leaving Oxford I’ve missed that sense of community. Sure, it’s still there in some sense. A lot of us still talk on Facebook and write letters back and forth. I just got back from a month-long trip with one of my friends from Oxford and along the way we spent time with three other members of the same program. It was great. Those relationships are still a huge part of my life, but those people aren’t down the hall anymore. The same goes for the YouTube community. I still hear from some of those friends once in a while, but we all lead busy lives and truth is I miss that sense of community we had when we were all making videos on a regular basis and having group Skype calls late into the night.
I’m happy. I’m happier than I was this last semester. I’m definitely happier than I was four or five years ago. And I’m sure a lot of that has to do with finally having a sense of purpose and calling. I know what I want to do with my life now, and that’s great. But maybe that isn’t enough. I know that’s not enough. When I first started this blog I wanted to use it as a way to figure out who I am and what I’m meant to do. I’ve found a few of those pieces this last year, and I’m so grateful for that. I’ve found that things like scholarship, YouTube, weight loss, and quiet moments alone are important pieces to who I am. But I’ve also found that those pieces make a lot more sense when I get to share them with other people that care about those pieces, too. I wasn’t expecting to find that, but I’m so glad I did.
Now all I need to do is figure out a way to be a part of a community. Whether that be in strengthening the relationships with old friends or finding new ones (or both), I’m not sure yet. All I know is that part of being happy, for me at least, is finding a balance between letting myself be an introvert and have mornings by myself in a coffee shop and giving myself time spent with others. I’ve got the coffee shop thing down, now I just need to work on the part where community comes in.
Question of the Day: What role does community play in your life and happiness? Do you seek out large groups of people, or maybe a small group of two or three other people that care about the same things you do? I’m trying to think of ways to recreate a sense of community in my life, and any tips or suggestions would be great!