To Do Lists and Happiness

I recently opened up the "Tasks" option in my gmail account and found a stale to-do list from February. It read:
  1. Go on vacation
  2. Do taxes
  3. Finish FAFSA
  4. Take GRE
  5. Get into grad program
  6. Quit job
The list was written more as a "wish list" of things I dreamed of doing (well besides the taxes, I knew I had to do that). I wrote it while upset at work and filed it away thinking it was fanciful and unrealistic. But here I am, it's August and I've been working at my new job for a month, I start classes in my new graduate program in a few weeks and I even took a vacation with Andrew! It feels good to look at this list and know that I can check off each item on my list (how rare is that?), especially since at the time I had so little confidence in myself.

It's incredible how debilitating it can be to be unhappy at work. I thought I was able to shake it off after 5pm but I see now that every hour of the day was affected by it. I couldn't seem to wake up in the mornings because I dreaded going to work, and once I was there the hours just seemed to drag on and on. Nights and weekends seemed to fly by - I never had enough time away.

Of course, my life in Philadelphia isn't perfect: there are still difficult personalities to deal with at work, and added distance between Andrew and I is not ideal. But the difference is that my whole range of happiness has changed. By default, I'm happier each morning when I wake up (eager to start the day and voluntarily early for work) and even if I encounter a rude person or a burnt dinner, it doesn't beat me down as much as it would have before. I've learned that when you're unhappy at work, everything is that much more taxing and irritating.

I worry sometimes that I will become ungrateful for all the wonderful things that have happened to me lately - that a string of bad days will make me forget how things used to be and how much better they are now. But I guess it's all relative, there will still be bad days* and good days but I'm starting to see that its about making sure that you find yourself smiling at people who pass on the sidewalk, or dancing while you do the dishes - that is how you know you're on the right road.

And talk about luck! I know I was so cranky for so long and yet Andrew stuck by me. He listened over dinner about how so-and-so sent such-and-such email; always supportive and patient. I'm so thankful that now I can really enjoy my time with him and hopefully he'll have more fun too!

To-do lists are great practical tools (so you don't forget the toilet paper) but they also are great motivators. Next on my list is to finish my redesign of my blog, catch up on the posts that are written in my head but not on the screen, learn to cook some new meals, finish decorating my apartment, get my car to Philly, adopt a kitten and find ways to spend more time with Andrew (I smell another vacation coming my way!). It's a good start, right?

What are you working on? What seems too silly (or even selfish) to strive for? Let me know, I'd love to root you on!

*hopefully not bad-hair days! I'm so tired of those! Hopefully they will end when I get my hair straightened this Saturday. More on that soon!


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