motivation

Look for the Happy Middles

The other day I was listening to a podcast that discussed the cliché: happiness is a journey, not a destination. It got me thinking about movies and books and their tendency to have “happy endings”—a direct contradiction of this cliché.

Oftentimes we are given a main character, and a single obstacle, choice, or relationship that is holding them back. We follow their journey to make things right, sometimes laughing or crying along the way, and then we listen to the music swell, and watch them (sometimes) metaphorically ride off into the sunset, satisfied, accomplished and happy. The screen fades to black and we sit in the goodness of the ending, holding onto it for as long as we can, feeling hopeful and inspired that our own happy ending is on its way.

I have seen this my entire life.

In high school, I watched romantic comedies every single night. They were literally the last thing I thought about before I fell asleep. As a result, I believed that while life was an obstacle course with twists and turns, tears and pain, it always had a happy ending—a place where you would be free from those things.

I believed that about finishing college; about having a lavish and successful career; about falling in love, getting married and having kids; about getting in shape, being skinny, having straight teeth, clear skin and self-confidence. Once I had what I wanted, I thought, then everything would be fine. I wouldn’t have bad days. I wouldn’t feel sad. I wouldn’t feel pain, be scared or get lonely.

But the truth is, there is no such thing as happy endings—at least not in the middle of your life. There are openings and closings of chapters. Beginnings and endings to seasons. Reset buttons, changes of direction, path defining questions and answers. But there is no mid-life finish-line or series finale sunset that you walk towards, leaving behind everything hard or painful, to live our the rest of your days in blissful, unbreakable happiness.

And that’s good.

Because then what would we do? Stop learning? Stop growing? Stop creating?

Imagine how much unhappier a place the world would be if we all stopped searching for and creating new kinds of happiness.

This is why I think we have to stop looking for happy endings and start appreciating the happy middles.

Happy middles (n): happy moments that happen in the great, vast middle of your life. (i.e., the accomplishments, inspiration, wonder, love, friendship, joy, kindness, compassion, etc. that make days better. That make happiness feel a place you’ve been and will be again soon.)

Happy endings in movies are actually happy middles. (Or, depending on the movie, maybe sad middles, hard middles, devastating middles.) They are moments that would stand out in the lives of those characters as they moved fictionally forward. They showcase moments and experiences we’ve had in our own lives, that prepare us for what is ahead—whether good or bad.

Happy middles don’t have to be big. They don’t have to be dramatic or grandiose or come with a pay raise, trophy, or engagement ring. Happy middles can be slow, consistent, and simple. They can be obvious or undetectable. They can be absolutely anything at all.

If happiness is a journey, happy middles are the pit stops. The points of interest. The places where you refuel and refresh before getting back on the road.

So if you’re going through a tough season, keep going, there’s a happy middle waiting for you right around the corner.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, bogged down, and/or discouraged with where you are in your life compared to where those around you seem to be, take heart in knowing that we are all in the middle. No one has it all figured out, no one has crossed that fictional finish-line where everything becomes perfect or easy. We are all on our own path, finding our own happy middles, and your next one might be right in front of you!

All that being said, I can’t and won’t stand here and say that I don’t love me a cute, romantic, emotional, happy ending, because I do and always will. But the way I see it, I’ve got a lot of life left to live, so I’m keeping my eyes on the middle(s) and all the goodness they have to offer.  Here’s hoping one is just up ahead.

Just What I Needed

Last year, right after I turned 30, I was at the dentist.

Having just finished a cleaning, I was sat up straight in the chair, my ponytail flattened and messy, and my eyes—which I close during every appointment—still adjusting to the bright light of the room.   The dental hygienist was talking positively about my teeth, telling me I brushed well, could floss better, but had no cavities, and thus I felt like a successful adult.

She asked me how old I was, and her eyes lit up when I told her.

“I just turned 40,” she said, “and I’m looking forward to see what these next ten years bring me, but I couldn’t be more excited for you. My thirties were the best years of my life so far.”

I flinched at this.

For ten years people had said to me, “Your twenties are your best years! Don’t waste them!” over and over again, and I had spent night after night lying in bed, feeling guilty, wondering, “Am I wasting them?”

But the truth was, my twenties were hard. They were confusing and at times sad and heartbreaking and isolating and overall just one big WHAT AM I EVEN DOING?!

Part of me was relieved to hear that, in this humble woman’s opinion, I had another shot at “my best years.” But I also worried that the your-thirties-are-the-best-time-of-your-life crowd was about to come out of the woodworks, and I was going to spend another decade lying awake at night wondering why I can’t do anything right.

But then, as if she could see the curiosity (and perhaps fear) wash over me, she turned towards me—or rather, wheeled her dentist stool in front of me—and elaborated.

She told me her thirties were good to her because she felt she was finally good to herself. She said everyone talks about the “carefree fun” of your twenties, but no one talks about the self-acceptance and understanding that can come in your thirties.

She said I would finally start to see myself and, in turn, stop hearing everyone else.

“Their opinions will matter less, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away. That doesn’t mean you won’t care what other people think, but you will start to get a feeling of what feels right to you. And even though it might not be what everyone else is doing or what is ‘cool’ or ‘right’ or ‘normal’, you begin to appreciate what is honest to you more than striving for everyone else’s acceptance and affection.”

I have thought about this conversation often. It has comforted me on hard days, encouraged me on good days, and given me an underlying sense of peace that reminds me to relax and settle in for the ride.

Let’s be honest, there is no set standard for “the best years of your life.” There is no reason it has to be your 20’s, 30’s or 40’s. There is no reason they have to come in ten-year increments or happen in succession. Your best days and best years are defined by you and you alone.

So let’s take each day as it comes. Take each decade as it comes. Live honestly—even if that means making mistakes—and find your way forward. Let’s get excited about what’s ahead and appreciate what we’ve learned so far.  

And never be afraid to encourage someone—even if they’re at the dentist. You never know how bad they might need it.

It’s My First Try

It goes without saying that we face a lot of pressure every day. Pressure to do or say the right thing. Pressure to look a certain way or be interested or educated in certain things. Pressure to be in the same stage of life as our friends or to forego our comfort level in order to satisfy the expectations of others. Pressure to be in control or have everything figured out.

I know I am constantly looking over my shoulder, wondering who might be pointing out everything I’m doing wrong or everything I could be doing better. I care a lot about what other people think, and I often worry that if I let them down or don’t live up to an expectation they might have in their head, I’ll get left behind.

Oftentimes before I go to sleep, I’ll go over conversations or interactions I had—sometimes that day, sometimes 15 years ago—and wonder what I could have done differently. How I could have gotten a bigger laugh or how I could have been more impressive or more interesting. I criticize the things I feel I got wrong and I agonize over the things I’m sure people are judging me for.

I put myself in last place, pointing out all the ways in which I’m behind or worse or failing, desperately wondering how I can catch up—to friends, family and complete strangers—and I grow tired and frustrated when I don’t see any progress.

Recently however, I have been trying to focus on a new mantra.

You know that old cliché about how we’re all running our own race? Well, what I’m trying to remember is that we’re all running our own race for the first time. In other words, this is everyone’s first try.

This life, this day, each and every second, is new to all of us. We don’t know what’s going to happen. We have no idea what to expect. And there is no do over button. We all get one shot at each day and some of them are going to be bad. Some moments are going to make us feel like we want to crawl into a hole. Some mornings are going to go completely wrong and some nights will end with us in tears. And even though it might seem like everyone around us is doing this life thing way better than us. Like they were given the cheat codes or the answer key, or were simply born better prepared to seize the day, we are all in fact on our first try.

This is my first try at being me. This is my first try at being 30. This is my first try at today.

And while it might not be perfect—in fact I can almost guarantee it won’t be—it will be something.

It will teach me something.

It will show me something.

It will lead me somewhere—even if I don’t know it yet.

And at the end of the day, I’ll just be glad I got the opportunity to try. And tomorrow, I’ll try again.

Zion & the 15 Freeway

Great news! If you’re reading this, it means I made it home.

Why is this great news? Well, because as I write this, it seems doubtful.

At this very moment in time, I’m sitting on the 15 freeway, with my sister behind the wheel, heading home from a wonderful weekend spent in Southern Utah.

As routes home go, there aren’t many options to Southern California from that direction, which means we have no choice but to drive through the Sunday Las Vegas traffic—on a two lane highway that has now come to a complete stop.

To give you the whole picture, I drove the first three hours, driving approximately 200 miles, and it has since been two hours of my sister driving, and we’ve gone about 20 miles. We still have 4 hours to go. So things are pretty bleak.

On the bright side, I’ve had time to reflect on our trip. Sitting still and looking out at the desert will do that to you. And right off the bat, I have this feeling of disbelief, of doubt that I had just come from here:

That this morning my alarm went off at 6:00 am so we could take an early a shuttle into Zion National Park to climb Angel’s Landing.

That a handful of hours ago I had my hiking boots on, taking deep breaths and choosing careful steps as I held on to a chain that lined that trail near the top, as it narrowed and got more dangerous, and then I summited and got to look out at this:

And now I’m here. On the freeway. Crawling.

But then I look at the cars around me—and oh, there are so many of them—and I can’t help but feel the same way I did looking at all the people walking up the trails beside me. Whether they were going up or coming down, having just finished, just started, or reconsidering going all the way to the top, they were all carrying their own story, and their own motivations for doing this hike, on this Sunday, at this point in their lives.

Sitting in traffic, it’s easy to forget that everyone around you is trying to get somewhere—maybe home—just like you. And they’re all carrying a story or a handful or worries or a reason that they have to be sitting in this traffic, at this time, on this day.

Now, I’m not trying to make traffic sound like this deep, magical place. I’ll be the first to say that on most days, everyone preventing me from driving my desired speed is in my way and ruining my life. But having spent the weekend exploring a National park—that was full of people from all over the world, hiking, biking, camping and taking pictures of everything, knowing they’d never quite be able to do it justice, but wanting to try their best so that they could remember this, or at least prove that they were here, that this trip, this place, was real, and the world was a little bigger and a little better than it had been before they came here—I’m having one of those moments when you look at the world a little differently. When you remember that we’re all out here trying our best, trying to live our lives right and to enjoy them while we’re lucky enough to live them.

I may be stuck on the freeway but so are a lot of other people. And we’re all hoping it will clear up soon. Because it’s Sunday, and I know I like being home on Sunday nights. I like to settle in and prepare for a new week that might offer a whole new adventure. So I’ll be patient. I’ll look at my pictures from this weekend, be grateful that I got to experience it, and, after a little while, I’ll be home. And I hope everyone else will too. And maybe one day we’ll see each other on the trails, or in some other part of the world that we can’t believe is real, that we can’t believe we are lucky enough to see, and that we would sit in traffic over and over again to be able to experience.

31 Good Things that Happened in March

Hello and welcome back to another edition of All the Good Things, a monthly series where I highlight all the good things (get it?) that happen in each 30-day (or so) span. I hope it can be a reminder that amongst all the well known bad, there is a lot of undercover good happening in our world.

Let’s dive right in.


1) This couple made a spinoff of a typical gender reveal video to announce they adopted their 12 year old foster daughter

2) This dog got a new friend and a new home

3) This boy showed his brother a breathing technique to help him relax

4) Hershey announced they will release all peanut butter Reese’s in April

5) This man’s Jenga move:

6) And this man’s bowling shot:

7) This man looked after abandoned cats in Japan’s nuclear zone

8) This man with autism wrote a letter to his future employers and the job offers came pouring in

9) This baby gave some sass

10) This trained singer taught metal bands how to scream

11) This Canadian couple handed out thank you cards to truck drivers

12) This important proposal:

13) This man created incredible balloon animals

14) This veteran was able to leave his house for the first time in two years

15) This good advice

16) This teacher tracked down old students to return their childhood diaries

17) These retirees shared wisdom with younger generations

18) This police officer saved a dog from a house fire

19) These two big achievements

20) This man received a kidney from his longtime handyman

21) This moving company collected and donated food that would have otherwise been thrown away

22) This horse comforted cancer patients

23) These twins pulled an all nighter

24) This article showcased drawings of what people thought the future would look like

25) The US Fish & Wildlife Service reported that the bald eagle population has quadrupled in the last decade

26) Rivers kept his big secret

27) This man shared incredible drone footage of a volcano erupting in Iceland

28) These teenagers rebuilt a veteran’s home

29) This girl remembered

30) This couple recreated their wedding photo 50 years later

31) And finally, this airline employee went the extra mile to return a young boy’s toy


Wanna know the best part? There is SO much I didn’t include.

I can’t wait to see what March brings!

You can view the last edition of this series here.

A Five Senses Check-In

Back in October I wrote this post—inspired by The Next Right Thing podcast—that was all about connecting to your senses in order to find some peace amongst the fear of the future and chaos of the present.  

Right now, I have a lot of moving pieces in my life, a lot of things that I don’t feel like I have control over and that are changing. As a result, I have been pouring myself into projects, exercise, and goal setting in order to combat the corresponding anxiety. Yesterday, after getting home from work a little earlier than usual, and with the sun out and the weather an incredible 75 degrees outside, I found myself debating over how I could be productive. Should I go for a run, a walk, a hike, do yoga, do work, write, clean, read, pray? What could I do to make myself feel good, or better, or at the very least, calm.

After a while, I decided to do a little yoga, even though I spent the first few minutes frustrated and unwilling to participate. I pretended to relax until I actually relaxed. Then, I sat down on my bed and tried to map out my plan for the rest of my evening—instantly going back to that place of demanded productivity.  My mind was racing and I felt like I was wasting time. But then, I felt the breeze come through my bedroom window. And then I noticed that the sun had turned golden with the evening and there were birds chirping outside. And then I thought back to that post, and I thought it was a fitting time to shift my focus back to the present—“to what is rather than what we are afraid could be.”

Here’s what I wrote down:

Five things I can see

  1. The golden hour sunlight shining through the window
  2. The flickering shadows casted on my bed, my floor and my wall from my blinds
  3. A branch of the palm tree in my backyard swaying in the breeze
  4. The collage on my wall that I made to inspire me whenever I look at it
  5. My newly painted pink toenails

Four things I can hear

  1. The bells of the church down the road that mark the start of every hour
  2. Birds chirping—a reminder that spring is so close!
  3. Neighbors chatting and laughing
  4. A UPS truck driving in the distance

–Three things I can feel

  1. The evening breeze that is cool but no longer cold
  2. The soft comforter that sits on top of my bed
  3. Hunger. The excited kind of hunger you feel when you know what you’re making for dinner and you can’t wait to have it. Looking at you Naan pizza.  

–Two things I can smell

  1. The laundry detergent I used to clean the cozy sweatshirt I’m wearing
  2. Fresh air from my open window

–One thing you can taste

  1. Cold water

There are a lot of things that we can’t control, but there are also a lot of moments that we can choose not to let control us. As it turned out, there were plenty of good things to find on what tried to become a very stressful afternoon. And while I can’t guarantee that anxiety won’t sneak its way back into my shoulders, as I sat there, allowing myself to feel the breeze, to listen to the family next door joke and laugh, and to watch the sun turn gold, I knew everything was going to be okay, and that I could take a deep breath and relax.

I Want the “More”

This past weekend I finished reading The Midnight Library which is a book about regrets. It follows Nora, a girl who is so consumed in regret and despair that she decides to end her life, only to wake up in a state of in-between called “the midnight library” where there are shelves full of books that each tell the story of a different life she could have lived if she made different choices.

This concept was fascinating to me, and instantly inspiring as I am someone who often finds myself wondering “what if _____?” I sat up wondering what my own “midnight library” would look like and what it would teach me; what different decisions could have led to different lives, and what questions could be answered by finally knowing if I made “the right” decision.

I loved reading Nora’s story and how she was able to uncover and disprove some of these regrets she’d been holding on to for so long, but I also found myself wildly jealous. Because the not knowing, the wondering and the regretting about the past can take all the fun out of the present. And sometimes when my present is sad or lonely or just hurts, I turn to those ponderings and regrets, believing that if I had done something differently, I wouldn’t have to be here, in the hurt.

But then I wonder, what am I really asking for? Am I asking for a life without hurt? Am I asking for a life where I never have to feel any pain or experience any loss or wonder about any fork in the road? Because while that sounds cozy and fun compared to all of this, it also sounds naïve and fake. It sounds like a life where I never learn anything, never overcome anything and thus never become more than I thought I could be. On the surface it sounds like a happy life, but it also sounds like a life where I would never really understand or appreciate what happy is.

We all go through bad things, we all experience hard chapters, we all have moments when we wonder why. And I wish there was a place to go and get all of the answers. A place like the midnight library where you could look at all the other outcomes of a situation and understand why that was the best one. Not for the best, most perfect life, but for the life that allows you access to becoming who you were made to be.

I don’t have all the answers—about anything really. And there are many parts of my life that I don’t understand or that I will always wonder what if. But then there are parts of my life that I catch myself saying how? How did I get to this wonderful place? How am I so lucky to experience this wonderful moment? And that is when I have to remember that it was all the moments that led up to this that got me here. It is all the good, all the bad, all the what if’s and regrets that still linger. They all make me me and they make my life my life. They are what have built me and will continue to build me as I continue to build this life. And while I’m scared for what’s ahead, scared of what might happen or what might not happen, I’m excited for it all because it will make me more. And at the end of the day, that’s all I really want—to discover all the more this life has for me, and that I have to offer the world.   

Peanut Butter: What I Know For Sure

A while back I heard Oprah say that the most important question she’s ever been asked is “what do you know for sure?” She wrote an entire book about the question and of the lessons she holds dear, and even though I haven’t read it, I have felt this question on my heart lately.

It goes without saying that there is a lot going on. A lot that I don’t have control over, that I can’t change, and that I (or anyone, really) can see the end of any time soon. As a result, I’ve been in hyperactive productivity mode, trying to find things that I can do. Ways I can help. Things I can enjoy, pursue and try. And though I have found some good—and even great—things, hobbies, and people in this process, I have also found a lot of stress, a lot of moments spent sitting frozen, unsure if I’ve overexerted myself, and a lot of wondering where to start or what to do next.  

My whole life I’ve wanted to feel “sure.” To know that I’m making the right choice or to have clarity of why making the wrong choice taught me a valuable lesson. I’ve wanted to know that I’m doing a good job, or at least doing my best, and that I can be sure my family is proud of me, my friends, acquaintances, (and honestly, complete strangers) like me, and that I am doing everything I can to have a bright, successful future and a long, meaningful life.  But the more I’ve tried to be sure about these things, the more I’ve found myself insecure about them. I let bad days derail my confidence and allow myself to overthink my way to believing that I’m doing absolutely everything wrong.

This is why I find comfort in this question. Because it doesn’t ask me to know everything about everyone from every single part of my life. It doesn’t ask me to know why or when or how I got to where I am or what I’m going to do next. It simply asks me what I know for sure—about anything.

Not what you think about what I know. But what I know.

For example, I hate peanut butter. I know this for sure. I’ve hated it my entire life. So when I’m trying to make a decision about what healthy, make ahead breakfast to try, or which yummy potluck dessert to bring, or what flavor ice cream to order, I know for sure I don’t have to consider any of the options with peanut butter. And that doesn’t make me uncool or uncultured or unworthy of anything or anyone—it just means I don’t like peanut butter.  

This is a silly example, but I can think of far sillier things that have kept me up at night in an overthink-tank. Things that I agonized over in the fear of not being cool, of being rejected, or of being noticeably “different.” Things that I was sure had to be right or perfect in order for them to matter.

My brain loves to spin around and around in circles, and when I feel like there are a lot of things I can’t control, it loves to panic, turn to impulse and, at times, shut down. So I’m trying to hold tight to this question. What do I know for sure? What truths can set me free from some of the spiraling?

For today, I know for sure that I’m posting this blog. I don’t know if you’ll like it, I don’t know if it will resonate with you, I don’t know if it will be the best or worst post I’ve ever made, I don’t know if I’ll remember it, look back on it, or forget about it in a matter of months. I don’t know if I’ll write on this blog forever, if I’ll ever write a book, get paid to write, or write something that changes the world. What I know for sure is that I am posting this. And that I like posting on my blog. And I like writing. And I hate peanut butter. And that’s a start.

Believe in the Slow Magic

At the beginning of this year, I saw a newsletter from Hannah Brencher that introduced 2021 as “the year of slow magic.” I was immediately drawn to the term “slow magic”, loving the idea that we are consistently in the midst of a slow but meaningful build up to something great. Something that is better than all of the quick fixes we might look for in a pinch.

In thinking about this, I remembered a video I saw last year that showed a time lapse of house plants moving throughout the day. Based on my personal experience with houseplants, I was under the assumption that they do little besides quickly and efficiently die. And while I know this change—or perhaps this murder—occurs inside each and every day, it is hard to see it as it’s happening.

The same can be said about the things we struggle with in our daily lives. So often we wait for change, hoping and expecting it to arrive overnight and yet each day it would seem no progress has been made.

It’s hard to believe in the slow magic. It’s hard to have faith that good things are working behind the scenes and that change is happening little by little. But it is. It always is. And that doesn’t mean to stop trying new things, to stop pursuing new paths, or to give up entirely and let the slow magic do all the work. It simply reminds us to believe in what lies ahead. To find hope in the successes that are happening behind the failures. And to look forward to the good that is coming your way, that is stirring inside you right now, even when you can’t feel it yet.

So believe in that slow magic. Even in times like this. Even in moments that are tough. Even when it feels like there’s nothing left to believe in.

Things are always moving. Change is always happening. Magic is always at work.

Elton John’s Only Question Worth Asking

I recently read Elton John’s book Me, and it was a wild ride.

I’d highly recommend reading it in any way you prefer, but I’d especially recommend the audiobook as it was a fantastic listen that featured both Elton John himself, and Taron Egerton, who played Elton John in the biopic Rocketman.

One thing that has particularly stuck with me in the days and weeks after finishing the book is the very last sentence of the epilogue. After telling the incredible story of his life that is full of very high highs and very low lows, Elton John speaks wisely about the hard fact that all he’d gone through—even the things he regrets—got him where he is today. And while he’s wondered whether or not he’d go back and change things if he could, he says, “there’s really no point in asking, ‘what if?’ The only question worth asking is, ‘what’s next?’”

I know I live in the what if far too often—even when I’m not aware I’m doing it. There are things I regret, things I wish I could change, conversations I wish went differently, moments that still make me sad, mad, and embarrassed. But the fact of the matter is, all of those things made (and make) me who I am. They are the reasons the people in my life love me, and the reasons I’m learning to love myself.  They are what will make my life my life.

So let’s stop asking what if and start getting excited for what’s next. Let’s look forward to the possibility that comes with growth, for the understanding that comes with failure, and for the levity and humor that (eventually) come with embarrassment. Let’s look forward and stop looking back.