I was sitting in my grandmother’s home with several extended family members, the same way I have done countless times growing up. Aunts, uncles, cousins, spread out in every room chatting, eating, and playing board games. For 18 years, this is how the family does gatherings. Lots of food and a little chitchat.
Since my parents and I live a few states away, every visit includes family members requesting an update on my life. All with genuine intentions, good hearts, and true interest. But as the years went by and I grew older, more independent, more adult, I felt the pressure to defend my life choices and decisions to the people who I thought were traditionally supposed to support me unconditionally.
When it came to deciding which major to concentrate on in college: What job are you going to get with that? Or the jobs I was interested in having: How much money does that earn and can you make a living off of doing that? At times when I didn’t have an answer to any of their questions, I felt as if I was receiving the “unimpressed look” in return for being honest.
I always felt like the black sheep of the family because I didn’t have a boyfriend, a career, or a life plan to get either one.
At this most recent family gathering, I was asked the same questions by nearly every aunt or uncle:
What are you doing for a job?
I work in admissions at a hospital.
Do you enjoy that?
Yes, I really do. I enjoy getting the personal time with lots of different kinds of people.
Is there any room for advancement?
By the time I had answered all three questions to several relatives I felt myself become slightly annoyed and borderline angry. So, in the living room in front of all of them, I answered the last question differently…
“No, there isn’t room for advancement. And honestly, I don’t need there to be. I love what I do. And moving up would take me away from a lot of patient interaction, which is my favorite part of the job. I have a good life. I have a dog that I am training, a full time job, and a paycheck that covers my bills at the end of the month. I have everything I need, so why should I have to worry about wanting more?”
I spent most of last year dedicated to being a better me. I buckled down and focused on self-improvement, the balance of grit and grace, conquering having more faith than fear, and doing a lot more living. The art of contentment was something that I focused a lot on because I had always felt my self-worth was defined by the things that I lacked: beauty, wealth, a life partner, a career.
The question: When would I ever be enough?
The answer: When I decide that I already am.
Constantly wanting more—craving more attention, more time, more money, a better career, a better relationship, a better wardrobe, better electronics, a better car—becomes an addiction. And if you’re interested in healthy relationships with others, it’s toxic to be around someone who is never satisfied in life and can be argued as disrespectful or insensitive to those who have a lot less.
I have to step back and evaluate what I want now. Is it a healthy desire, one that will aide in making me a better person or is it something I want out of selfishness and greed?
Contentment is a mood, not a destination.
Like being hungry or sad, it’s not a permanent feeling but a temporary emotion. You don’t get to this place called “Contentment” and fill out a change of address card. It’s in the choices you are faced with daily; the decision of whether or not to believe you already have everything you truly need in life.
Life has been so much better for me when I made peace with not being able to get what I wanted. I have been less jealous of what other people have, less frustrated by other people’s behaviors that disappoint me, and less pressured to be someone I’m not meant to be.
That being said, the challenge is a balancing act between being content and becoming complacent. I still have to put in the work, the time, and the discipline to become a woman I am proud to be. I can’t ignore the responsibility to cultivate a healthy lifestyle for my mind, for my body, and for my soul. If my desire is to be in good health, I can’t be content to sit on the couch every day and eat junk food instead of working out.
I’m not going to wake up tomorrow morning and have the life I always wanted because I decided to be content today. The happiness and healthy pride comes when I’ve put in the effort, when I have been dedicated to a goal, when I have chased my passions with everything I had and then went one step further. Where I am content is in my refusal to become complacent. I am enough, but only because I am constantly fighting to be better.
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