November 10, 2016

Happiness Is a State of Mind

Since graduating from college, I've called "home" to a respectable variety of places. My favorite by far, though, has been the cities.

First, there was Chicago, where every Sunday I'd pick up quarters to use in the community washing machine and walk two city blocks to get groceries from Trader Joe's. And then there was Washington, DC, where I'd get lunch from the food trucks in Farragut Square and eat it across the street from the picketers at the White House.

Now, I live in southwest Florida, where no one pickets and I have my own washing machine.

But while you'd think these things would've made this move easy, the transition to southwest Florida may have been the hardest one yet.

You see, since college, I've decided that I'm a "city person." As in, I like living in downtown apartments with four bars within half a mile. I like taking the subway to work and watching St. Patrick's Day parades from my apartment window. I like having brunch joints and used bookstores and yoga studios all on my street.

I loved Chicago and DC because they were rarely ever predictable and definitely never boring.

But a city is the exact opposite of where I live now. Where I live now, there's a 6 PM rush at Carrabba's before everyone heads home to turn in. Public transportation consists of two Uber drivers and their minivans, and the only thing I can see from my window is hole 9 of the community golf course. My neighbors are retirees from up north, who come down every winter to congregate in driveways and gossip at the community pool. Every day is predictable because that's the way people here want it.

It's a much, much slower, quieter way of life in southwest Florida, one that I still don't think I'm used to.

But to be honest, I've never given southwest Florida much of a chance. Instead, I've spent most of my mental energy comparing it to Chicago and DC, a match-up I had determined Florida would lose from the start. I mean, I am a city person in a very un-city place. How could I possibly be happy with my living situation when I'm a zebra squished in a fish tank?

And the answer to that question is that I couldn't—it was just not possible for me to be happy.

But it's not because of what was around me—it's because of what was in my own head.

You see, it's like Dale Carnegie (and every fortune cookie writer ever) has said: It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.

Basically, I can decide my situation is great or it is horrible, that I am happy or I am not. Either way, I'll be right.

So recently, I've been working on changing my state of mind. I've been focusing on noticing—and enjoying—the great things about southwest Florida instead of what it lacks. I'm focusing on the fact that I live in a place that is warm and colorful, even in November.

And sure, there are a lot of old people here—but where there are old people, farmer's markets are sure to follow. And where there are farmer's markets, there are fresh vegetables, homemade sweet tea, and pineapples just waiting to be photographed.

And if a blogger can't appreciate a place like that, well, is she really even a blogger at all?