Thinking Out Loud: Happiness and Purpose



As I spend my days studying (and snacking, and running, and snacking some more) my mind sometimes wanders away from the mind-numbingly boring specifics of the laws of civil procedure and such subjects. While I haven’t been reading as much fiction as I’d like – either now or during the past few years of law school! – I do still read the papers every day, and I’ve noticed more focus on a topic that I’ve given a lot of thought to. So it’s what I’m thinking out loud about this Thursday.


Blooming in June

Blooming in June


That topic is happiness, and also purpose, and how those things can be interdependent and combine to create a feeling of meaning in one’s life. An article in last Sunday’s paper by David Brooks intrigued me, not so much for what it said, but for how it confirmed what I’ve suspected all along. Growing up, I was convinced that I had to be amazing at one thing – what that thing was wasn’t so much the point as the fact that I would achieve the pinnacle of success. I think a lot more kids today feel that way than in past generations, and social media certainly doesn’t help with the pressurized quest for perfection, but for me it was something I struggled with every day. I did ballet very seriously until I was 14, and when I left that world, I felt lost, because I didn’t have something I could define myself by. I spent high school searching for what my ‘thing’ might be, and it was only toward the end of that time that I began to realize I didn’t need to find it. I’d always done well in school, yet realized that when I wasn’t into a certain subject, it wasn’t going to come easily to me or become interesting by virtue of sheer determination – not everyone can be interested in everything! The opposite was also true. Even if I was really passionate about something, I did not then need to become the best at it. I could do it just because I enjoyed it. That was a game changer.


During my three years at Oxford, and the following three at law school, I slowly figured out that I was much more interested – and thereby interesting – than I’d ever imagined I could be. I started running, and although I’m never going to win a race or impress anyone with my speediness, I love it and it makes me feel invigorated and alive, so I’ll keep at it for as long as I can. Yesterday was National Running Day – something that just three years ago, would have caused me to laugh out loud if someone told me I’d be celebrating it with an 8-mile run! I learned how to cook and bake food to fuel my body and soul that tastes just the way I like it, and discovered that I really enjoy providing sustenance for myself and for family and friends. I never would have guessed that would make me feel fulfilled either, and yet it does in a profoundly simple way. 


I haven’t had any flashes of genius that tell me there’s something major I’m meant to do. Instead, as I’ve grown into young adulthood, I’ve also grown to understand that I don’t need to be just one thing, or to find and pursue one major goal to make my life worth living. Instead, I can embrace and enjoy all the things life has to offer, and make time for everything I want to do, like a true Renaissance girl. That mindset is what inspired the name for this blog, and it’s how I try to live. I run, I cook, I read, I write. I spend time with family and friends. I play in the park and go to museums. I’ve studied in school, and I’m sure I’ll work hard after the bar is over (well, I already am!) I enjoy the little moments. And when I think about where I want to be in five years, or ten, or fifty? I dream that when the time is right, I’ll have a family with the right person, and teach my kids how to find their own way. That I’ll do something fulfilling that lets me give just a little back to the world. If I can aid or inspire just one other living soul, I’ll feel like I’ve made my mark in a manner that means much more to me than if I was making headlines every day. That article called it a small, happy life; but to me it doesn’t seem small at all.



I like to make my pre-run snacks smile back...

I like to make my pre-run snacks smile back…

...because the little things make you smile, even with muffins and fruit!

…because the little things make you smile, even with muffins and fruit!







What do you think about happiness and purpose in life? Can little things turn into big dreams?




© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.



9 thoughts on “Thinking Out Loud: Happiness and Purpose

  1. I honestly think it’s the little things in life that add up to make the biggest difference when it comes to happiness. And that the happiest people are those who can find the good and/or value in everything. Society tries to sell us all this BS that we’ll be happy when we’re skinny/rich/fit/tan/successful/whatever, but I honestly don’t think that’s what it’s about. In fact, if you really stop to think about it, the people who seem to “have it all” by societal standards are also the ones who seem the unhappiest. I’m totally with you that the small life isn’t small at all 🙂


    • Exactly – and unfortunately I’ve seen far too much of what happens when people think those things will bring happiness, and in fact bring the opposite. “You do you” may be somewhat millenially narcissist, but it is much better than “You do what we think you should do”!


  2. Great post today! Such an interesting topic and something I’ve often pondered myself.

    I think you are spot on with a lot of your thoughts. Study after study has shown that the person with a big salary and a fancy house on the coast is not actually happier – in fact, they may even be less happy. When I was in El Salvador – and friends I know who traveled to Africa mentioned the same thing – people there basically had nothing and certainly face struggles, yet they just seemed so content, so free. Kids playing in the street, and such joy in their faces. Most of us have caught onto this, but generations of very clever advertising have ingrained in us the idea that we need to more THINGS to be happier. Can we ever break that cycle? I don’t know. I mean, how many times have all of us snapped ourselves out of a running funk by treating ourselves to a new pair of shoes?

    The great irony is that I have found the most happiness when I actually stopped trying so hard to be happy. I sometimes remind myself – there’s nothing wrong with feeling “just okay”. The point of life isn’t to be happy all the time.


    • I definitely agree with that, and it’s also something I thought way more about when I took a “buying stuff break” this winter. I didn’t buy any clothes, shoes, etc for more than 2 months and now, I really don’t want or feel compelled to buy anything other than new running socks and shoes when I need them 🙂 No cure for the latter as of yet…


  3. I love this post – I always get so much enjoyment questioning different aspects of life. I absolutely think little things can turn into big dreams. I think that’s the case with me and my relationship with running. I also think that’s the case with my passion for baking healthy snacks. All of my college and post graduate studies were focused on one thing – medicine. I was convinced that if I didn’t become a doctor, I was a failure. I put so much pressure on myself, not because it made me happy, but because I felt like everyone else expected it. Doing what I do now is so much more rewarding, and I have found much more success in balancing my life, that I don’t think I could be any happier. Hope you have a fabulous Thursday!


    • So glad you enjoyed it! I have had the exact same feeling for much of my life, and although I’m still in the process, I know that I want my life to be about what is meaningful to me, even if it isn’t headline news to everyone else! Have a happy Thursday to you too!


  4. I love this so so much. Sometimes I sit and wonder what on earth I’m “supposed” to be doing, to the point of almost paanic, but then I think of all the little thing I AM doing which simply add up to me and my life. I think it’s more important to focus on what you are currently doing to better you self and those around you day by day than your “purpose”


  5. Little things can definitely turn into big dreams. I think that’s how they often start. A little seed gets planted in your mind, and it grows and grows. You realize one day that you do love something, and so you start it. Like a blog. Or a business. Or running. Or ed recovery. 🙂


  6. Pingback: Reflections on 2015 | Renaissance Runner Girl

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