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November 9: Through the Years

November 9, 2011. Age 17

Day 1: Happiness is.. those perfect car rides where the radio just plays all the right songs.

November 9, 2012. Age 18

Day 367: Happiness is.. rock climbing.

November 9, 2013. Age 19

Day 732: Happiness is.. anniversaries. On this day two years ago, I posted my very first "Happiness is." I wrote it down in a newly created "Happiness is" Book, almost as if I knew I could make something more out of this. To those people who have been with me on it since literally Day 1, thank you. You probably didn't think anything of liking a single status that day two years ago, but you 13 people are the reason I posted a Day 2.. and 3.. and 4. And to everybody who has supported this, you have no idea what you've helped me through. You have no idea how many times "Happiness is" and The Smile Project have been my saving grace. Sure one or two of these may have made you smile on a bad day, but this has pulled me out of the darkest of places and for that I'm incredibly grateful. Before I get any more sentimental and keep typing—because, you know, I have to write this whole thing in the book—I guess I'll close with the most genuine of thank yous. I hope you know how much this and you mean to me.

November 9, 2014. Age 20

Day 1097: Happiness is.. indescribable. On November 9th, 2011, I posted a status beginning with "Day One.." as though I knew I was going to post a day 2, 3, 4, 1097. For the past three years, you fantastic people have allowed me to try to describe something that is truly inexpressible. I was working on a speech the other day and I was trying to throw sample "Happiness is" into the mix. For some reason, I thought of chocolate ice cream. I hate chocolate ice cream. But to so many people, chocolate ice cream is Happiness. That's what I find most interesting about The Smile Project. Some things are so inherently different for people, yet other things appear as universal truths. I'm going to leave you with one of those well-established facts: Happiness is not the same for everyone. I'm going to add one more with a challenge: Happiness can be found in everything. Find yours.

November 9, 2015. Age 21

Day 1462: Happiness is.. the way unexpected joy can spiral into intentional kindness, laughter, and living. Four years ago today, I was driving home from high school down an old country road I'd driven a million times before, when I realized I was happy. And the rest is a rocky history of highs and lows that I wouldn't trade for the world. Thanks to everyone for being a constant support to not just The Smile Project, but to me. You will never know the profound impact you have had on my life. And now, we celebrate.

November 9, 2016. Age 22

Day 1828: Happiness is.. the way one indisputably average sentence can change your entire life. Five full years ago today, I posted a one sentence Facebook status with the headline of “Day One.” That single unimportant sentence became the mantra for my very existence. That one-liner five years ago led to 1,827 more days… and counting. Thank you for allowing me to share my joy and my story. #JoyWeek2016 #HappinessIs #SpreadTheSmile

November 9, 2017. Age 23

Day 2193: Happiness is.. why. On November 9th 2011, I posted a Facebook status because I had a really nice car ride. There was no higher calling, no deeper meaning. Over the past six years, I have made it my mission to find something good in every day by continuing to post a daily joy. At the American Heart Association, we have our "Life is Why" slogan. Many of my colleague's email sign-offs have a personalized "why" statement. "My Family is Why." "Adventure is why." "Grandpa is why." Six years ago, Happiness wasn't really on my radar. As I kick off my *seventh* year of joy, I'm realizing that Happiness has become the why behind everything I do in my life. Because if something doesn’t make me happy, what the heck am I doing? Happy #JoyDay2017 everyone. Here's to another 365 days of living your "why" and finding a few hundred reasons to smile in the process. #TheSmileProject

November 9, 2018. Age 24

Day 2558: Happiness is.. the slippery slope of realizing you can do and be anything you put your mind to. For the past seven years, I've shared a single "Happiness is" post every single day. The Smile Project is the most consistent and life-changing thing I've ever experienced. More recently, though, I've realized that I have the incredible ability to be in complete control of my future and of whatever happens next. The #SmileProjectRoadTrip opened my eyes to so many things, people, and ways of living. I am so grateful for seven years of joy and I cannot wait for seven more—wherever in the world they take me.

November 9, 2019. Age 25

Day 2923: Happiness is.. receiving joy. For the past eight years, I’ve posted a 'Happiness is' every single day. Obviously, this grew into The Smile Project, a nonprofit organization that I run and something that absolutely changed my life. The other day, someone thanked me for posting 'Happiness is' every day and 'sharing joy with all of us.' Somehow, in all these years, this little idea has outwardly appeared as though it was about me sharing joy. I don’t know that that’s 100% true (despite that being one of the pillars of The Smile Project). I think that, while I am the one posting Happiness every single day, I receive so much more joy in return than I could ever give. I am so unequivocally blessed to have The Smile Project, Happiness is, and everyone who has ever supported this in my life. Thank you isn’t a big enough word. To celebrate the start of year 9, I want to share a brand new website. This is the Digital Happiness notebook, an interactive space to read through eight full years of Happiness is. You can search by day number, a specific date, key words, etc. Explore a little. I hope it brings you some joy today. And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for gifting me joy upon joy for the past eight years. #JoyDay2019

November 9, 2020. Age 26

Day 3289: Happiness is.. the repetition of a worthy pursuit. As of today, I have been writing down ‘Happiness is’ every single day for nine full years. I was showing someone the database yesterday and as I randomly picked a past ‘Happiness is’ and read it, my mind shot back to the exact time and place of that joy. Today, as I’ve recorded 9 videos about the journey of The Smile Project—from a 17-year-old’s Facebook status to a nonprofit with an incredible crew of volunteers, mentors, and friends—I’ve found myself feeling nothing but gratitude. 12 days in I thought I had covered every single thing to be happy about. I was a moody teenager and the idea of that much Happiness seemed ridiculous. And yet here we are. Nine years later. I’m 26-years-old. More than a third of my life has been recorded in notebooks filled with simple joy. I think I might be the luckiest person in the world. Thank you to everyone who never let me give up on this. You mean more than I could ever, ever say.

November 9, 2021. Age 27

Day 3654: Happiness is.. a really big birthday. Today marks 10 full years since the first ‘Happiness is.’ If you would have told the 17-year-old who thought she’d tapped out on daily joys 2 weeks in, that at 27 she would still be finding beautiful things in the world… I am so grateful for every day that makes up this decade. For every failed test that became a life lesson, every burnt baked good that became a blog post, every obstacle and uncertainty and night where I teetered on the 11:00 PM hour convinced I had no more joy to share... Thank you for teetering with me. For reminding me that there is good. For helping me to see it. In unexpected places. In everything. In everyone. The Smile Project might be the best thing I’ve done in my life. And it all started with a car ride, a Facebook status, and a single repeated daily decision: Choose joy. Choose joy. Choose joy.

November 9, 2022. Age 28

Day 4019: Happiness is.. building something constant into your environment. I’m writing this post in the note section of my phone, on a train from New York City to Massachusetts. I’ve been sitting in what feels like silence for about an hour—no music, no podcasts, just fall foliage viewing and deep breath taking. Then, for about 30 seconds, the (I assume) air conditioning turned off and it became newly quiet. True quiet. I had become so used to the steady hum of air conditioning or machinery or whatever it was, that the sudden absence felt almost jarring. A moment later it was back and the soundtrack to my expedition played on. Perhaps that’s what The Smile Project has been for me. At first, it was something obvious and new and, to be honest, extremely challenging. I noticed it. I noticed it every day writing a ‘Happiness is’ as I logged into Facebook on a shared family computer and then on my college laptop and many, many years later on my smart phone. But then, slowly, year by year, it became such a part of my environment, such a constant, that to imagine life without it was simply unrealistic. It wouldn’t be life. It wouldn’t be my life. ‘Happiness is’ has outlived relationships and jobs, apartments and cities, and too many pairs of eyeglasses and running shoes. I’ve spent eleven full years—four thousand nineteen days—sharing daily joy. It is the steady hum in a train car. It is the world I choose to live in. The Smile Project is, at times, messy and stressful and unwieldy. And it is gorgeous and unpredictable and free. These anniversaries always get me a little bit. It’s hard to not feel doubt or ask big questions or wonder if you’re doing enough or stress about what should happen by the next ‘Joy Day.’ And maybe that’s a part of it. Maybe The Smile Project is really about taking in life—every piece of it. It’s about working through the uncertainties and heartache and day to day struggles and hurt. And it’s about believing, at a core level, that there is still beauty in the world. That there is still love and kindness and joy. I believe that to be true. The Smile Project taught me that. The Smile Project showed me that it’s cool to care about making the world a better place and that if you lead with your heart, you’ll end up where you’re supposed to be. This is a long one today. (I suppose this is what happens when left unattended on long train rides.) But I’d be remiss if I didn’t end with a note of profound gratitude for everyone who has loved The Smile Project—whether for 11 years or 11 days. Thank you for helping us build a kinder world, one snippet of joy at a time.

November 9, 2023. Age 29

Day 4384: Happiness is..



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