Finding Happiness

July 12, 2011

I have always said my goal in life is to be happy.

But what does that look like? And is it even possible to be truly happy?


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Any time I am able to get out of Alaska for a while, I am always amazed at what I learn about myself, and this recent trip to Minnesota was no different.

I feel as though I know myself better, what I want out of life, and what makes me happy. 🙂

Before we proceed with my current reflections, let’s back up for some background knowledge about my time in Alaska.

As many of you know, I have not been happy living in Alaska. It has been very difficult for me, and I have desperately wanted to move for several years now.


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Here’s a timeline of my time in Alaska:

August 2007: Craig and I moved to Alaska. We had just gotten engaged in July and were going to spend 10 months living in Alaska. Craig was going to work, while I went to school. I would take undergraduate-level courses to fulfill prerequisites for physical therapy (pt) school. Then, depending upon where I got into pt school, we would move to that location come the summer.

During these months, I didn’t mind living in Alaska. Everything was new to me; I was living near the mountains, which is something I had always wanted to do; and I was preoccupied with planning our wedding.

Spring 2008: I had not been accepted into any pt schools. I was on a wait-list for one school (and did eventually get called up), but by then I knew I wouldn’t be going: it would have cost me $60,000 to go to 3 years of pt school and with Craig having a lot of student loans already, I didn’t want to accrue more debt for us. Plus, wherever we moved to, I knew Craig would have a hard time finding a job with very little job experience and the failing economy.

Since I knew I wouldn’t be going to pt school, the natural thing to do was to stay in Alaska. Craig had a job (it wasn’t a great job, but it was a job), and I was excited to see why Alaskans endured 9 months of crappy winter weather for their 3 months of summer “bliss” (which is negotiable depending upon who you ask).

June 2008: We got married, and I started working a desk job. I was a newly wed, we both had jobs, and things were going quite well.

(beginning of) October 2008: The snow started to fly, which made me a very unhappy camper.


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I have a hard time believing this was the only thing that caused me to dislike living in Alaska at this point in time. I think it was also a combination of a very crappy summer (read: lots of rain, cool temps (50s/low60s and only 3 days over 70*) and a job I wasn’t enjoying nor satisfied with anymore.

February 2009: I applied for a couple of jobs out of state, primarily in Portland, but the economy was SO competitive I didn’t stand a chance.

August 2009: Craig started a new job with much better pay, a higher level of professionalism, and now on the road to a “real” career.

September 2009: I was offered a teaching job.

With these two new jobs, it put us in a situation that basically committed us to sticking around for a while.

Winter 2009-2010 was tough! I was very depressed and lacked motivation to run and do the things I once found joy in.

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Summer 2010: I was very glad to be done with teaching and Craig saw me in a much happier light. For several reasons, I stuck with teaching in hopes of a better year the second time around.

School year ’10 – ’11: One of the most stressful, unhappy years of my life. I was constantly stressed, depressed, and counted down the days until I was done.

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These last two weeks in Minnesota were very refreshing for me, and like I said before, the trip allowed me to reflect on my time in Alaska. I think I really started to figure out what makes me happy (or at least content).

Instead of constantly thinking about wanting “out” (as I do in Alaska), those thoughts only occasionally crossed my mind. (This was a very relaxing/refreshing thing because it is exhausting otherwise.)

I know there will never be a “perfect” place to live—there will always be something you don’t like, but hopefully those cons don’t outweigh the pros.

I honestly don’t know if true happiness is possible to find, but I do know that a feeling of content is a good feeling and maybe as close as you can get to true happiness. Thoughts??

26 Comments
    1. You can always find happiness. It’s about getting yourself out of the state of being you’re in now. I know you can’t just get up and move like you want since you are married. It would be different if you were single… and perhaps had countless amount of money.

      I wish I could help. All I can say is I hope you find what you are looking for.

    1. I can’t believe the summer with only 3 days above 70 degrees! The weather can effect my mood and long winters are hard (I live in MN). There were a lot of upset Minnesotans when we didn’t have a spring this year! I really hope you can make some changes because I believe it would be hard to dislike where you live and where you work. Do you plan on going back to teaching in the fall?

      1. I am not sure if I am going to teach or not. I don’t want to, but often I feel like it is my only option. 🙁

    1. Great post, Michelle. I don’t like the city I live in right now but John and I are moving back to our hometown of Wichita, KS at the end of next year and that’s kind of my light at the end of the tunnel. But at the same time, we’re enjoying our time together here we are as there’s not much to do entertainment-wise. So though the downside may be living in a place we kind of despise, we’re at least making the most of it and enjoying our marriage in the meantime :D.

      I hope you’re able to remain content during this stage of life. Usually God is trying to teach us about contentment when we’re amidst difficult seasons and situations. And though it’s not easy, it’s usually because he wants us to be happy with what we have.

      But on a more practical note, if you and Craig have a strong desire to move somewhere else and it’s financially possible, just go for it, even if only one of you has a job. John and I moved to Portland as newlyweds without jobs or a place to live and everything worked out as it always does. So don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. You never know what you’re missing out on otherwise. Hope that helps!

      1. Thanks for sharing your experiences and giving me your insight. I would have moved a long time ago without jobs, but Craig didn’t want to take that risk.

    1. I echo what Dana said about moving if one of you is able to secure a job in your desired location. My husband and I had to make a difficult decision, like you, earlier this summer. His job was requiring 100% overnight travel and he was only home two weekends a month. His company was unwilling to relocate him or give him a clear plan for the program, and after four months, we decided to make the difficult decision for him to quit. He’s actually getting called for interviews now, where he wasn’t when he was working out state. If one of you is able to secure a job, I say go for it. Then the other can look for jobs and make contacts in your new area.

      It takes so much energy to be unhappy and stressed and it definitely can impact our health as well. I truly hope a positive solution for both of you can be made soon.

      1. Thanks for sharing. I agree being stressed and depressed sucks the energy right out of you.

    1. Michelle I really admire your honestly and willingness to share so openly with all of us.
      Have you ever thought about going somewhere with AmeriCorps or another service organization? I know it is a vow of poverty but it can get you out and for a year commitment it can provide you with lots of connections and networking opportunities wherever it is you decide to go. I really enjoyed my year in AmeriCorps.
      I know that if you want something enough you will find a way to make a work. In the mean time I will keep you and Craig in our prayers. We love you both very much!

      1. Did you do AmeriCorp this last year in Bellingham?

        Recently I have thought about doing a year-long gig of some-sort outside of Alaska–whether that be AmeriCorp or not. Well, see if something like that pans out.

        1. My position was about a 20 minute commute south of bellingham, but there are positions everywhere of all types. Mine was in an elementary school which was a good experience but I definitely learned that I don’t want to work in a public school. It also helped me get residency for grad school!
          Or you could apply to work at Holden Village with us!?!?! I’m glad you are looking at options. Good luck!

    1. I definitely agree with the last two comments… There’s a marriage book (bear with me- this is relevant) called “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas that talks about marriage being a tool God uses to make us holy and more like Him, not just happy. I think life is very similar. It sounds depressing to say that happiness is a myth, but I really do believe that it is contentment in our circumstances and following God that is more important than our happiness. From trust and obedience comes contentment and joy–which is so much richer than “happiness,” which is fleeting and circumstance dependent. Hope you guys can make the decisions that are right for you both soon!

    1. I think happiness comes from learning to be content. There is not “perfect” situation is what I’ve learned and the more I just appreciate all the little things in life, the most happy I become 🙂

    1. Hi Michelle, I agree with the other girls that said perfect happiness is somewhat of a myth. I think it is all about your outlook and as you said, finding contentment in whatever situation (or place) you are in. On the other hand though, have you ever thought about giving PT school another shot? I agree, $60,000 is A LOT of money but it may be money well worth it if you feel happy (content) in your job. Having a sense of fulfillment in your job may make Alaska more tolerable? (though I realize you guys probably won’t be there any longer if you were to go to PT school). I see that you are in a difficult place right now. I pray and hope that your situation will get better soon. Yall should come to Texas! I am not sure what your husband does but our economy (especially in Dallas) seems to be quite healthy and I am pretty sure there is a PT school here! I have to warn you though it is super hot here!

    1. I have been an avid reader of your blog. And I am from Anchorage! I have not commented until now. I understand the difficulty in living where we live. It’s hard. The winters are long. The summers are sometimes grey. It’s not an easy place to live. If you do not love it, you should move. Look back on your blog entries. I have noticed that you seem very unhappy, and complain about your house, your job, your running trails, the weather, the people, and even the marathon that you just ran (too small, too much potential “wildlife”). Life is too short to live some place that makes you miserable.

      If you traveled to Minnesota and felt 100% better, you should move. There is an old saying – that you have to take yourself wherever you go. I have always taken that as a reminder that if you are not happy, you are going to be unhappy in a different location. But if it is Anchorage that makes you unhappy, you should go.

      It sounds like you have a great relationship. You are lucky to be married to someone who obviously loves and respects you. I am sure that he will be willing to move some place that will make you happy. Because it is obvious to everyone that you just aren’t happy. I don’t know you, but I have considered not reading you blog any longer because I don’t need to read about how horrible Anchorage is or how miserable the weather is.

      I am not writing this to hurt your feelings or to make you feel bad. I do suggest that you go back and re-read your blog entries. You seem miserable. Make the change. You really have nothing to lose. Life is too short.

      1. Thank you for your response. Sometimes I need people to be frank with me and just tell me what to do rather than sugar-coat it.

        It is hard to find a balance between being “real” but not having every post be a “Debbie Downer,” so I apologize for all the negativity.

        I like that saying: “you have to take yourself wherever you go.”

        I do have a great relationship with my husband, and I think he is finally starting to understand how difficult it has been for me.

        Just out of curiosity, did you grow up here?

    1. It was so nice to have you with us in Minnesota for a bit. Know you’re in my prayers and thoughts. You’re an amazing woman-don’t be afraid to let God use you in crazy and unpredictable ways.

      Also I have a Japan friend who also lives in Anchorage with her husband. Here’s her blog link if you’re interested: http://mikeandanna.wordpress.com/

      1. Thanks, Charity!

        It was so much fun visiting and hanging out with you, too!

        I will definitely check out the blog!

    1. I have a small article on my fridge about contentment that says our minds may be dwelling on the past or looking forward to the future, but our bodies anchor us to the present. We have to be content with where (physically and mentally) we are today because life is happening now. It is a good reminder for me every day.

      Could you look into helping to coach high school cross country or track teams? You are clearly very knowledgeable and experienced and could be a great influence.

      or

      Maybe you could propose to your school system that you incorporate healthy living (cooking classes, etc) lessons in your work or at after school programs.

      Stay positive!

    1. Michelle – as a public school administrator, I had to respond. If you do not like teaching, do not teach! Kids know it, you know it, everyone in the school knows it and it’s not worth it. Time and time again, I’ve learned that life is too short to do something you do not like.

      I truly hope you can find more fulfillment in your life. I can only imagine how tough it would be living in that far north and removed from family and friends. You’re young and should be enjoying life 🙂

      1. Thanks for the input; I truly appreciate it! I am sure that the students and my co-workers have picked up on my dislike for teaching—I can only fake it for so long.

        I agree life it too short to live life for the future and not live in the present. Now I just need to figure out what I want to do with my life. Hmm. . . .

    1. SOoooo… While you are living in Alaska, why don’t you look in to SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? I didn’t notice anyone else post it as a possible issue, and I don’t know many details, but I do remember that it does affect TONS of people in AK. I had several high school teachers who did treatment for it (sun lamps and the like, plus sometimes medication). Since I was born & raised with the crazy weather, I didn’t have trouble, since that was just the way things were, but now that I’ve lived “outside,” I couldn’t go back permanently. Maybe some of the treatment might help??
      I also think that there’s a HUGE sense of isolation in Alaska, something I noticed only once I’d been gone. The mountains and scenery are absolutely amazing, but there IS more to God’s creation than outdoor beauty (shhh, I know a few Alaskans who would think that’s blasphemous! 🙂 ) So even though I LOVE the mountains and trees and wildlife and miss it all the time, there is also beauty in other people (and there are not that many people in Alaska!), and culture (haha, this will sound offensive to “real” Alaskans as well), and all sorts of other halfway philosophical things that are simply not in Alaska because it is so isolated- physically, economically, politically, naively, etc.
      Also, I would like to add: blogs evolved from “online diaries,” so I never ever am annoyed or frustrated at any blogger putting in their personal feelings into their posts. Readers are choosing to visit the blog, not being forced to endure your personal thoughts. It’s YOUR blog! So use it as an outlet to vent and don’t worry about what others think. Sure, you may have a few readers stop coming by as much, but in the end, so much of what makes blogs so interesting is the personal part of the writing and that writer’s willingness to share her thoughts and feelings with the world 🙂

      1. Michelle I just want to note that I whole-heartedly agree with Kim. You shouldn’t worry about offending anyone in your blog – it is more interesting and real and meaningful when you share. =)

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