How I Learned to Determine My Own Happiness

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The darkness settled onto the city for the next 12 hours, interrupted by streetlights, traffic signals and car headlights. I bundled my upper body in an oversized sweatshirt plastered with “George Washington Field Hockey.” The sleeves wrapped my palms, exposing my curled fingers. Kanye West yelled my ears, but I didn’t listen.

I ran. The raw night air stung my sinuses and my lungs. Although it was 20 degrees, my body, my heart and my soul felt warm, intoxicated by the battle between the struggle of the run and the urge to keep running. I felt the physical pain of pushing my body to a new speed. I wanted to conquer the climate and my mind, cluttered by friendships that seemed to bring more harm than good.

One friendship pulling me back from my run always came with the promise that it’d last the test of time. As time passed however, I felt my personality, dignity and identity slipping away. My friend demanded me to always have the energy to be there, even when I needed a shoulder to cry on. She demanded me to always say “yes” to her needs, even when I needed a friend. Even though she knew I was in pain, she wanted me to always listen, give and go along with it. By the end, I could only feel pure exhaustion.

I felt like a threaded blanket, so easily giving away threads, only to be left with holes that left me colder when I needed warmth. I gave so much of myself to these relationships that all the pieces of me were dispersed to people who walked away. Want to know what hurt most? I let it happen.

So then I just stopped.

I stopped giving everything of myself to others only to find myself left behind. Instead, I turned to myself to find out who I was and how to be someone I felt happy with, without relying on the opinions of others. I stopped giving others the right to determine my happiness.

And the realization that a fundamental technique of emotional survival means relying only on yourself might hurt. But knowing now that my only source of happiness comes from within me empowers me. As each moment of every day passes, I choose to be happy, or not. I decide to give someone else the power to determine my happiness. No matter what my friends, or my ex-friends, do, I will decide happiness.

So to those readers out there who feel tired of giving parts of yourself relationships only to find yourself hurt, just don’t. Realize that you have all the power. You hold all the power to decide how you feel. No one can make you feel weak, small, angry, disappointed or hopeless without your consent.

And honestly, you might get lonely. College life introduces the reality of people constantly entering and leaving your life. You’ll endure this throughout your entire adult life. Just know that your life will benefit from a few great people rather than an abundance of people that wear you down.

As my feet pounded the sidewalk, all the struggles in my life seemed so small. For some unknown reason, I felt with every fiber in me that I could tackle the obstacles that lie ahead. I confidently believed that I had more power than ever before. Beyond that, I had the power to create happiness for myself instead of relying on others to give it to me. I realized that I am the only one that has the ability to create my own energy, motivation and happiness.

Despite the cold temperatures, beads of sweat slipped down my temple. My legs screamed at me. My heart hurt, pounded and reminded me that I am alive.

And that was the beauty of this moment: the fact that I am so utterly alive. It reminded me that I was not just an entity to be used by others, but a human being with the right and the responsibility to create my own happiness.

Jessica Jordano is a sophomore at George Washington University studying Journalism and Economics. She’s a chocolate enthusiast, avid reader and aspiring fashion journalist. At parties, you can find her near the cookies.

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