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Three Things I’ve Learned from Seven Years of Joy

We are quickly coming up on November 9th – for most people a pretty average day – for me, a second birthday, if you will. On November 9th 2011, I posted my first “Happiness is” Facebook status. I was 17-years-old. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined what would come of that status. In honor of the upcoming anniversary, I’d like to share three of the most important things I’ve learned throughout this journey.

1. You don’t need to know what you’re doing.

When I posted that first Facebook status, I didn’t have a clue. I was a senior in high school doing what seniors in high school in 2011 did – writing a Facebook status about how I felt that day. The conscience decision to post again the next day is perhaps the most important decision I’ve made. Even still, I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just a kid posting about my life on Facebook.

There was no plan to build a website. There was no dream of founding a nonprofit organization. There was no wildest hope of what a 56-day cross country Kindness tour could be. I was simply enjoying sharing joy.

Everything I’ve done since I started The Smile Project has been something that – at the time – I felt wildly unprepared for. I didn’t know how to build a website, design a t-shirt, hire a designer when I realized I was no good at designing t-shirts, build a school program, apply for nonprofit status, write grants, plan a cross country road trip, etc., etc. I was wildly unprepared and blindly naïve and that is why this project has succeeded. I didn’t need to know exactly how to do what I was doing – I just needed to remember why I was doing it.

2. You can’t do it alone.

Because I am the public face of The Smile Project, I receive all the credit for what this organization is and while I am appreciative of the recognition – it is important to note that I could have never done this without the scores of people who have supported me or who have worked behind the scenes to give this organization life.

From a logistical standpoint, I owe infinite gratitude to the countless mentors and collaborators I have worked with in my life. Having friends and family with which to bounce ideas has been an invaluable gift to me and to The Smile Project. I recognized the importance of teamwork in a really tangible way this summer when I officially brought on Zack Shively as the Marketing and Logistics Manager for the #SmileProjectRoadTrip. That trip alone would have been impossible without him.

In the early years of The Smile Project, there were so many times I wanted to stop posting. I cannot count the number of times I would teeter in the last hour of the day, wondering why I was even bothering to find something “happy” to post. There have been so many people throughout the years who have brought me back to Happiness – even when it seemed far away, even when I was sure there was no joy to be found. The people who were there to pick up the pieces are my true heartbeat.

3. Something good really can be found in every day.

I’ve been writing “Happiness is” posts since November 9th, 2011. It is now October 31st, 2018. That’s seven total years. I started writing when I was 17. I am now 24. That means I have written “Happiness is” on some amazing days, like when I graduated high school, when I graduated college, when I moved to New York City, when I accepted a really great job offer, when I left for the road trip, and so on and so on.

I’ve also posted “Happiness is” on the day I found out my friend had taken his life, the day I learned my friend had cancer, the days I attended funerals, the day my grandmother had a stroke, the day…

I have been sharing Happiness every single day through the tumultuous years that are “transitioning from a 17-year-old doing homework at my parent’s kitchen table to being a semi-sufficient adult who has a lease in New York City.”

Despite all the changes that occurred between 2011 – 2018, growing up, getting a degree, moving out, getting a job, quitting a job, making friends, moving apartments, falling in love, and so on and so on, The Smile Project has been my steadfast pulse. And no matter what was going on, Happiness has been there.

To everyone who has been there since day 1, day 365, or day 2365, thank you. I will never be able to properly explain how much your support of this wild endeavor means to me. To another year of joy, I say onward and upward!

Love always,


Pictured: Liz & The Smile Project in 2012

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