“If we can train our minds to parent ourselves, offering alternative things to focus on (a blessing instead of a perceived lack), not only will we feel better, almost instantaneously, but our blessings will also multiply.” – Yaya DaCosta, Instagram



It all started with this:


It was a text from Derrick, or Derrick’s girlfriend rather, revealing the man I’d been dating was actually named Calvin and was cheating on his girlfriend with me.


When I received this news, I had just finished the season one finale of Parks and Recreation on Netflix (yes, I know — I’m super late). Surprise kicked like a fist of air balling in the center of my throat. As I lay staring at the message, seeing words but not making meaning, I read and re-read and re-read again, as if my heartbreak would disable itself with each iteration.


It didn’t help that that day was also the anniversary of the worst day of my life. May 28, 2015 marked three years since my 18-year-old brother died tragically during a swim in a river in our hometown. The day was almost over — I’d almost made it through and had been doing okay…until I wasn’t.


After Trevor’s death, I stopped trying to make sense of the world or attach meaning to every loop and twist the universe thrust upon my life. But that day, I lay across the bed obstructed by disbelief. The moment stood empty as air from my fan tumbled in billowing waves across my body, my fingers looped loosely around the phone about to peel from my grasp. Someone I trusted, began to care for, divulged dreams to and wished away fears beside had been deliberately hurtful — to me, to her, to others (yes, there were others).


As my thoughts crept into darkness, I allowed my happiness to break at the hands of someone with no intention of fostering its longevity. Only after reigning in the balloon of grief and shock did I understand that it wasn’t about Derrick or Calvin or the universe. It was about me and my ability to control my own happiness — what I do, what I feel, where I go, who I’m with, how I respond to others and place myself in their presence.


A very wise friend taught me a lesson about happiness, and in the aftermath of my moment of darkness, I reflected on its truth. We, as humans, interact for a variety of reasons: to forge friendships, to experience romance, to exchange ideas, to seek validation and to fortify our own sense of self-worth. When we engage with others, we don’t know what is on the other side until after. Thus, meeting an interaction with preconceived expectations of others often leads to disappointment or misunderstanding. Because we can’t expect others to fill a need or a void that we can’t fulfill ourselves. That insistence repels the responsibility of constructing happiness away from us and pressures others to do the heavy-lifting.


In response to disappointment, instead of being angry, hurt or jealous of others we should wish them well. In doing so, that catapults outward feelings of bitterness or resentment and we begin to heal, internalizing the positivity we push out to the world.


Happiness is not, I have come to believe, directly related to the fruition of our expectations. Relating the two deludes our ability to see what we have, what we want and what we truly enjoy. Happiness is, rather, our story of existence. It’s a path we forge internally through daily affirmations of our amazingness and by independently feeding the desires of our souls.


Happiness can neither be created nor sustained by anyone other than ourselves. For me, it’s being untethered to doubt and fear; watching the night roll by under a canopy of hanging stars; showering my eyes with new visions and worlds unseen; wearing the exuberance of my spirit with pride and honor and somersaulting into the unknown with time bending forward, syncing vertebrae by vertebrae, arching to my mold.


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