Never in my wildest dreams would I have dared to wish for what The Smile Project saw this year. Perhaps the best way to talk about the year is through the daily joys that lead me there. Without further ado, let’s take a moment to walk down Happiness lane.
Day 2251: Happiness is.. putting spaghetti sauce on eggs.
January. An interesting start. I was unsure what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. I was also – apparently – making questionable dietary decisions.
Day 2290: Happiness is.. the chance to say “I love you” one more time.
Love may have been an accidental theme this year. Love for my family, my friends, and the people who have stood by The Smile Project since day one. Thank you for making all the difference.
Day 2332: Happiness is.. pistachio ice cream.
This year, I discovered pistachio ice cream and became increasingly confused on how I made it over two decades without it. I have exclusively eaten pistachio ice cream since.
Day 2352: Happiness is.. making a personal mission board.
The tide began to shift. I put in my notice at my job and started to scheme. I had talked about driving across the country since I was little girl. Now, I was ready to act.
Day 2391: Happiness is.. doing something for the right reasons.
A few days before I left New York City, I sat with a friend in Bryant Park. I told them I was going to miss Manhattan terribly, but I was happy about that. Knowing I had left my job, my apartment, and my happy life in New York City to pursue a dream showed me that I was taking on the road trip for the right reasons. I wasn’t running away from something. I was stepping into something new with confidence.
Day 2416: Happiness is.. renting a car.
In June, I rented a blue Ford Focus. During the #SmileProjectRoadTrip, that car would see creeks, sand, mud, and mountains. It would take us nearly 13,000 miles. I loved that car.
Day 2455: Happiness is.. ripping up your itinerary.
We stayed true to our itinerary the entire time…until I got to Washington and decided that some things are worth changing plans for.
Day 2470: Happiness is.. reaching the final state on a road trip.
56 days on the road forced me to reevaluate a lot of things – one of them being the concept of home.
Day 2496: Happiness is.. restocking your pantry with food after you’ve been traveling.
I moved back to New York City after the trip but was met with uncertainty. What if that wasn’t where I was supposed to be? Should I jump back into a normal work life? Did I have unfinished business elsewhere? There is so much to explore…
Day 2528: Happiness is.. finding space to reconcile two seemingly opposing desires - to be steady and stable or to be a creative outlier.
It was decided then. I would never regret choosing adventure.
Day 2564: Happiness is.. a hike along the Puget Sound.
I spent six weeks living in Washington state, writing a book about kindness in America and The Smile Project.
Day 2608: Happiness is.. talking to your grandma about the day she met your grandfather.
On December 31st, my 97-year-old grandfather passed away. His wife, my mother, and I were with him. It was peaceful. In his last days, I found myself reading out loud to him. As a teacher, I think he would have liked that.