Photo courtesy of Allison Cooper

What Turning 32 Has Taught Me About Happiness

This month, I turned 32. I think in most cases, with age comes wisdom and I’ve learned a lot during these 32 years I’ve been on Earth. I’ve become a mom, a wife, and a business owner, and have learned to balance all of those thing while still being true to myself - most of the time. But my 32nd year has also brought on some pretty big changes for our family and I’ve almost had to learn what it means to be truly happy all over again, in a way.

Backing up a little bit here, my family and I have been desperate to get out of New York City, where we had lived for almost six years. Our lease was coming to an end and we were fighting with time to find something we loved at a price we could afford and the clock ran out. Since my husband would be away at a scheduled military training this fall, we packed our apartment into a storage unit and I’m now living with my parents in the suburbs with our kids until my husband's training is over. Then we’re making an even bigger move to another state that we have been dreaming of living in for years.

Sometimes life means taking risks and having adventures and we certainly did that this year.

Photo courtesy of Allison Cooper

I knew that the time apart would be difficult, but there ended up being some even bigger hurdles thrown our way like complete toddler sleep regression (I became a walking mombie every single day) and major struggles with our son in school. It all really weighed heavy on me and still does. My everyday is now filled new new routines, a completely new normal and me rolling with the punches, never really knowing what to expect.

I’ve learned how resilient I am and how strong I am to push through all of these challenges without my husband by my side. But happy? I could sense that feeling drifting away.

There’s no switch that allows me to turn happiness on inside my head.

As human beings we are always always absorbing and learning new things. It’s important to remember that. Just because we become adults and manage kids and bank accounts and don’t attend school anymore, it doesn’t mean that the learning moments have stopped. In fact, I think they are even more impactful in our everyday lives now than ever. I am still learning. You are still learning. It’s never-ending.

Then one day, a surprising thing happened that really opened my adult eyes to a really basic lesson.

It was my mom’s birthday and my younger sister was over and we were all chasing my toddler around so that I could meet a deadline that was thrown my way unexpectedly. As I was filing that article, I overheard them making lunch plans in the kitchen to meet up with my aunts and cousins for a little birthday celebration. The thing was that they didn’t include me.

I know it wasn’t intentional. They all knew I was working and that I needed to get my daughter down for a nap and wouldn’t have a babysitter to be here so that I could join them. But I wasn’t included at all and it stung so much.

Photo courtesy of Allison Cooper

Maybe I was being extra emotional because I was sleep deprived and on my period, but I cried a river because I had never felt so excluded in my life. It hurt and I’ve moved on, but later that day I was outside playing with my daughter as she pedaled up and down the street in her new Paw Patrol tricycle and it hit me: I has been basing my happiness on my daily circumstances instead of feeling it on the inside. It’s not anyone’s job to always make me happy — it’s my choice to be choosing joy...or not.

Turning 32 taught me that I’m going to hit a lot of roadblocks in life. Not every day is going to be the same. But my happiness can’t be determined based on how many times I was up last night with my toddler or how many phone calls I got about my son at school. It was a choice. It was something that I needed to wake up and choose each morning.

However, it’s not always an easy choice to make.

There’s no switch that allows me to turn happiness on inside my head, and some days I am too overwhelmed to even think about it. That’s life though.

There have been so many times whenever I was feeling productive and getting things accomplished during naptime when an email would pop up from my son’s teachers about him being behind on homework or whatever the daily issues was — and it’s enough to make me crumble. In those moments I just want to throw in the towel, grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and turn on Bravo. And sometimes, I think that’s totally okay. But make a promise to yourself now to not let a bad moment steal your happiness. We have one life to live and it’s so much easier whenever you’re smiling.