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Finding Happiness

It was a Thursday night in July of 1996 when my quest for finding happiness began. I was sitting on the floor of my luxury apartment doing paperwork when it hit me that the path I was on was not the path for me.

I was twenty-five, wealthy (six figures in the bank) and had achieved every single material goal I ever wanted. I literally thought I had it all. My closets were filled with designer clothes and fancy shoes. My bathroom cabinets were filled with luxury cosmetics. Everything was great except for two things: I was miserable and I felt empty.

My childhood and teenage years were very tough and so I channeled all my pain into pursuing success. I thought, at the time, that if I achieved all my material goals, I would be in bliss. I worked very hard and was able to achieve every goal I set. But I started to notice that with each goal achieved, I was happy but it was temporary. I wanted ever lasting happiness and thought that the next goal would bring me that happiness. The irony is that with each goal achieved, I felt more and more miserable.

What made things even tougher was that to the outside world, I had it all so I could not express my pain to anyone out of fear that it would look like I was being ungrateful for my abundance. I was grateful but yet deep inside of me something just felt off.

The Start of My Journey to Happiness

So on that fateful July night, I decided that I would do whatever it would take to find happiness. The emptiness and the misery scared me and I did not want the rest of my life to be a continuation of that misery. Little did I know what life had in store for me.

A few months later, Buddhism entered my life and my world started to unravel. Discovering meditation was amazing and I felt that I had found the path that would help me to find what I was seeking. My hunch was correct because learning about meditation opened my eyes to a brand new way of looking at life.

I devoured spiritual books. I quit my job and started to travel the world. Within five years time, my luxury life was history. I no longer lived in a fancy apartment. My clothes and possessions were all donated. All I had was one suitcase with some clothes and some books along with a passport that proved I had circled the globe at least twice.

It was around this time that a wise monk crossed my path and gave me a chance to be initiated into one of the high Orders in India. I took the opportunity and fell in love with what I learned. My love for the teachings of Vedanta were so strong, I almost took final vows as a nun but decided not to because I was not ready to give up on the idea of sharing my life with a man. So I left the monastic path and re-entered the world. It was tough because the monastic world was just so beautiful and the modern world seemed to be full of pain. However, I continued on my quest for happiness.

A year later, I met my husband and that began the wonderful journey of marriage. I was still searching for happiness and one thing led to another and my husband and I found ourselves living in India for six months. It was one the best times of my life although it was a very emotional time for me because more and more of my family and friends were leaving my life.

When you go from being rich to being “poor”, not everyone gets that especially if you do it voluntarily. People think you are crazy and they think that eventually you will come to your senses. I apparently, to my friends and some relatives, did not come to my senses, so people started to leave and it was painful. My reputation was dragged through the mud. Numerous insults were hurled my way and even one uncle disowned me.

Despite the pain, I knew I was on the right path and was determined to find out all that I could about happiness. Once we were back home in America, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and we moved in with my parents so that I could take care of my mother during the last six months of her life.

I was by her side when she passed on and that was a huge teacher. It showed me that all we take with us when we go is how we lived our lives. All the material possessions stay behind. My mother’s passing just made me more determined to love life and to find happiness.

A Shift in Finding Happiness

In September of 2010, strange things began to happen and it all started with a question my husband asked me. We were talking about goals and I realized that I no longer had any. For a former “Type A” like myself, such a sentence is totally out of character. How can I not have goals? It was very weird to hear myself say those words.

Even though I am a very positive person, my immediate reaction was that I was on the verge of dying because how can you go through life without goals? Was something wrong with me?

To complicate matters, I found myself not enjoying the things I used to enjoy. I used to read spiritual books and found myself not really learning anything new in the books that I was reading. The books were great but it was like reading the same material over and over again. It was getting to be boring.

This only made me more concerned because for the last thirteen years, that is all that I read and loved. What was happening to me? I had no clue. All I knew is that I no longer felt the way that I used to feel and it scared me because it was so different. Blogging became boring because I had no desire to write about the same things that I used to write about because the subjects no longer interested me.

I was having a huge identity crisis but I had no idea why. All I knew was that I truly felt happy. There was no sense of longing for happiness and that one realization made me see that the quest I had been on since July of 1996 was finally over. You would think this would have made me even happier but all it did was scare me.

Why did it scare me? Well…when you spend every cent you have and so much time on a goal—Like finding happiness–you never really think about the time when you actually achieve that goal. In my quest for happiness, I never imagined what would happen if I found the answers that I was looking for because it seemed so far-fetched.

Even more interesting was the fact that happiness looked so different from what I thought it would look like. For example, I still have days where I am cranky and my ego is in full control of my senses. I have days where all I want to do is stay in bed and not deal with the world. I have days when I am so full of joy, I could explode from the immensity of it. I have days where I cry at the pain that I see. I have days where I wonder if my quest was worth it since I spent every cent I had.

Yet despite all of those days, deep in my heart I know what life is all about and that brings me peace. I no longer question what is the meaning and purpose of life. I know what my purpose as a human being is and I strive to meet that purpose every day. Some days I hit the mark and other days I don’t.

You see…you and I are here because sometime ago we forget who we truly are at our core. We get so caught up in the illusion of life, we forget our inherent Divinity. We all have the ability to have lives we love and to be happy; we just need to see the illusions for what they are.

Your worth as a human being has nothing to do with how much money you have or the degrees or any other material item you think you own. You don’t own anything except for how you live. When you pass on, the cars, the money and all the things you own will not go with you. They will stay behind.

Your worth is determined by one thing and one thing only: how much love have you given to life? Have you brought joy to others or just misery? I wish I could tell you that I have only brought joy to others but I have not. I have done things which have hurt people but I vowed to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. Sometimes it is easy and other times it is hard.

As I realized that my quest had come to an end, I did not know how to proceed with my life and so I took a three month hiatus from being online. It was very apparent that I could not write anything since a new writing voice was starting to emerge. It hit me that I needed to just be present in what was happening and just be.

For an active person like myself, standing still is like pulling teeth. I don’t love it but I knew that I needed to stand still in order to figure out what to do next. So I spent those three months reading, watching movies, traveling and a whole lot of introspection.

Clarity, At Last

By the end of December, a goal began to reveal itself and it was unlike any other goal I ever had. Most of us have goals that are rooted in personal gain. Our goals reflect our desires. The irony about life is that we focus so much on the end result, we lose sight of the fact that the journey is what matters.

Your experience of life is dependent on how you are present in life. Here in the West, we focus so much on doing that we neglect being. Being present in the moment is what determines your life. Are you present? Are you having fun being you? Do you love yourself?

If you are not having fun and if you don’t love yourself, then something has got to change. It is like the old Buddhist joke about a monk who passes away and discovers that the ancient text did not say celibate as he thought but rather it said celebrate.

So celebrate being you and being alive. Enjoy the journey. If you have goals, go for them but realize that the goals do not define who you are. How you go about your day says more about you than what you achieve. How you treat a stranger says more about you than how much money you have in the bank.

Where am I now in my life? Well…with all of these realizations, I decided to shut down my business because it no longer reflects the person that I am now. So I find myself starting a whole new phase and chapter in my journey (Hint: Think Simple Now will be my new home to document this journey).

A new writing voice is emerging as well which I am still honing. All I know is that I am happy and that I just want to do what I can to make other people realize how awesome they truly are. Finding happiness, in the end lead me to a place of service and shifting focus away from myself—for when we give, we truly receive. Amazing.

** What are some lessons you learned through your journey to Happiness?

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About the author

Nadia is the VP of Spirituality on Think Simple Now. Nadia has worn many hats in her short life. She used to be an image consultant, political campaign writer and attorney. Writing and photography are her passions. Through her writing, she intents to help people see how Divine they truly are.

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41 thoughts on Finding Happiness

  1. EmjAy

    Such an inspiring post! ;D I am 25 and dealing with the same scenario of finding my peace, happiness and myself. I wish I could be like you brave enough to get out, to express, and to be myself. . . Thanks!

  2. ar

    Somehow, I am so proud of you, Nadia. Openly recalling the life you left behind and that peace you have now, it will no doubt give a real picture to readers about how possible it is to be truly happy. A lot of people have drifted with strong tides of influence and then get carried to lonely, empty shores. But when one does know what matters most in his or her life, against all odds we’d see that person swimming against the current, or floating at some point while evaluating and gathering strength. I’d like to chronicle your journey ahead in hope to find more inspiring thoughts about life’s beauty. Keep it up, Nadia! Stay happy!

  3. Vic

    Really inspiring. I like (and admire!) your honesty. You know what you want and follow your dreams. I had one goal: to finished my PhD. Got my PhD two years ago, and now I feel so lost! I think now I know what I want: I want to be happy, and enjoy the little things of life. Also I want to learn from you. Thank you very much!

  4. Ama

    Hello Nadia,

    Thank you dearly for sharing this story with us. It fills me with hope that everyone’s path can change, no matter when, no matter what they did before.
    And reading other people coming to these realizations makes me feel less lonely in this world. Sometimes I doubt I am right. I wonder whether I am naive. But maybe not so much in the end.

    Thanks again. Take care. :)

  5. chris

    thanks for sharing your spiritual journey. it is amazing :) i’m doing a *Eat Pray Love* at the moment and fully agree with you – inner peace and simplicity are the essence of happiness. brightest blessings xx

  6. CC

    I though your post was heartfelt and you conveyed your experiences and quest like many of us to find that centered balance of being and happiness or satisfaction in life.

    I am also interested in hearing from those on journeys in this whose lives have not had the affluence of a six figure bank account balance – who search and find despite a safety net of finances (which are not necessarily better or worse – just a factor in differences of experiences). Also those who have sought this later in life – during or after raising children and finding — especially with all of the recent changes in in life– that there may have been a long-term 20+ year illusion.

  7. Thanks for the pic me up. I really needed this today. You are correct in many ways.

    I fell out with my flatmate (& best friend) last night because a problem I had. During our discussions I actually stated I wasn’t happy. I even said , every-time I achieve something it doesn’t make me as happy as I thought – Your right. Goals aren’t going to define me, the journey will.

    Thanks for your help. You earned a subscriber.

  8. Hira

    It felt good to read about your journey. It is true that all the material things in life doesn’t give you any happiness they only discharge you from your real purpose in life for which you were created by God. He has sent you for a mission, mission of humanity.

    Today the world is filled with desires and material possessions all of this is making us lose our purity. People have lost the pleasure of having a family around. We spent countless hours on a television program over stupid phones and gadgets.

    In the end i would genuinely wish after reading your writing that you had a chance to learn about Islam. U may have countless books on Buddhism and yoga stuff and what not. But why not invest your money for a book which is the message of God(Allah) himself. May God guide you to the right path and you finally search your soul in it. InshaAllah

  9. souman

    Well written,
    But in my opinion this is not really accurate. I do not know you personally but I believe that you certainly had the chance to go to a good college and have a family who was both supportive financially and mentally.
    For someone who is born with little and did not have the chance to go to college and who never earned a six figure salary this is simply impossible to think this way.
    Leaving a life of luxury and going around the world (need money for that) backpacking to find spirituality is easy when you know that you have everything waiting for you back home.
    For the one whose stomach is empty then the only matter is to find food to fill his stomach and maybe of his family too. What would be happiness for him? To simply have enough to live.
    This is just my opinion and observation of what I see everyday.

  10. A

    When I read your opening lines.. I connected so strongly to them that I knew immediately what your post was going to be about (in a good way :) ).. I’m 25, have had some great “successes” in my life, am decently well off (not rich!)- but till a few months ago; was confused and dejected/sad. It’s then I stumbled across Vedanta too. It’s brought me a great deal of peace and I can feel the buds of happiness (I’m still a long way off though). I just wanted to let you know that I’m so glad to see articles like yours on the internet and also that you can check out this site for very lucid lectures on Vedanta: I wish you the very best for the future.

  11. Amanda Matteson

    I have been leading myself down a very similar journey in creating a simplistic fulfilling life. There are so many emotions from every corner and seeing where you stood in the lives of people you once knew would almost be shocking if you had not already discovered something has to give!!! Living by the words you speak is the greatest reward and biggest comfort I have ever known. I did have one huge break and that is in repairing my marriage and discovering the best friend I didn’t even know I had, I am blessed having him by my side and will always value what it took to discover it!!!! Good luck and your story is nothing short of inspiring!

  12. Amanda Matteson

    I had to add a side note in regards to the comment from souman, I did in fact grow up in a financially troubled household, not knowing my own biological father, having the dad I knew and my mom separate at age 13. I never viewed what my family couldn’t give me financially or their personal matters as something that controlled my own chosen path. What I can tell you is by 18 I moved out without a high school education and without a drivers license, permit, or something as simple as a state Id. I started as seasonal help in a dept store during the holidays and grew from there, I did go and get my GED and my license and eventually a car. College was not an option because too pay rent I had to work however by my mid 20’s and throwing myself into a life I thought was all that was bliss I was not very far off from the 6 figure income myself, and what I will say is in order to really find a life of fulfillment the basic start is holding yourself accountable for the choices you make, good or bad. Pride comes from good choices and learning comes from bad ones. My parents were never responsible to make sure I had the college opportunity or make sure I had this “generic stability” people refer to, my parents no matter how broken people would view my home did the most remarkable thing they made sure I knew how to rely on myself and accept my choices and admitting negligence is how you don’t repeat mistakes of course they also taught me you may not always get it on the first try but failure only comes from giving up. My mom is one of the most dedicated, hard working, loyal, funny, intelligent, generous people I know and I thank her for the tools he gave me to pave my own road!

  13. Aza Garro

    Hi Tina,

    I really love your articles and I can relate with your stories. I am seeking articles about finding happiness in life and just read your post.

    I am 22 years, working overseas without my family and I am unhappy. Unlike any other people of my age who are going to parties, spending time with friends, I am here working far from my loved ones.

    You are really brave that you are able to risk everything.

    I can’t sleep until 3am because of too many things in my mind. I want to quit my job, but I can’t because of so much circumstances.I am actually at work now but I my mind is flying, I can’t think properly. I feel like quitting my job and rest for month (s) because I want to be find my true purpose and happiness in life. I want to be mentally peaceful, but someting else is stopping me–fear. I can’t afford to lose the things that I have worked for. I wanted to share my parents what I feel and what to do now, but I can’t afford to see them disappointed. Once I share, I know I will cry and I don’t want them to see me that way.

    Until now, I feel very empty and lost. I feel like leaving my present life and go back to my childhood and start all over again, but I don’t know where and how.

    I hope I can find my happiness too.

  14. Jade


    Thanks. These were some of my questions. You have hit the core. Thanks for helping with my journey for peace and happiness !!

    Much love to you.

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