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What Would Make You Happy?

November 8, 2010

The morning after Jeff dumped me, I woke up early when one of my hairy herding dogs nudged me to go for a walk. It was a cold November morning, and I bundled up in my ratty down jacket, fleece hat, and padded gloves. As I descended into the dark, I realized I was miserable. My breakup with Jeff marked the seventh bankrupt relationship in seven years. I didn’t like my job. And my only child was gone to the university more than 2000 miles from home.

I needed to shake things up—but how? I need to shake things up—but how?

Should I move?

Change my career?

What did I want anyway?

Then I had another question form in my head. What would make you happy? And the answer came instantly: I want to go to France.

For more than 25 years I had dreamt of visiting France but life got in the way. College, marriage, work, a baby, divorce, single parenthood, a master’s degree—all came first. I made these choices, which I don’t regret. Yet somehow I lost a piece of myself.

What happened to the girl who had longed to speak French, paint, and travel the globe? I had moved away from Montana to go to college with dreams of a bigger life. Deep down I had longed to be an artist but instead decided to study more practical things like business. Rather than living my life with adventure and creativity, I had settled for the stability and routine of a banking career. Maybe it wasn’t too late to make a shift; I could still bring a piece of that girl into my life.

What did France have to do with solving my breakup and job misery? Everything. Sometimes in life, we get stuck trying to find solutions to the same old problems. But really, there was nothing wrong with my life. There was something wrong with me. Instead of looking for fulfillment within, I sought satisfaction through external achievement. The right man, the right job, the right locale would make me happy.

Going to France didn’t make sense for a lot of reasons. I had fences to replace and projects to do. My staff at work needed me. How would my daughter get along with me out of the country? I went anyway because I realized something. I could no longer put off my dream. And I traveled to Bordeaux to cycle across the country, camping and drinking wine along the way.

After my excursion to France, life was the same. I came home to the same home, the same job and the same single life. But somehow none of this mattered anymore. I had changed. By asking what would make me happy, I got off my rutted road and took a different path, one high above the drama of daily troubles. By asking what would make me happy, I transformed my life.

Check out a free preview of my upcoming memoir, Cycling, Wine, and Men: A Midlife Tour de France at http://nancybrook.com

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