On Happiness

H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--27“I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstances but by our disposition.”

— Martha Washington

H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--31H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--23 H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--36H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--55H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--3H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--28H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--63H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--29H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--34H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--22H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--54H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--43H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--7H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--61H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--50H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--24H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--35H&M Victoria Beckham Aquazzura--26SHOP THE LOOK:

Dress – H&M || Tote – Victoria Beckham ‘Liberty’ (obsessed) || Booties – Aquazzura (signed by the designer himself!) || Sunglasses – Ray-Ban || LipsYSL ‘Peach Passion’ || Nails – Christian Louboutin in ‘Just Nothing’

Photos courtesy of Anna of NoirFriday

For the past few weeks I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness.

I’ve dealt with a good amount of depression this year and yet I remember that most of my 20’s have never felt easy. I spent the weeks leading up to my college graduation in the ICU with my father making medical life decisions for him I barely understood. I sacrificed my dream to move back to India to stay and care for him — one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. And when he passed away I had to shut down our 6-year-old father-daughter photography business, an experience I found so painful I ended up abandoning my camera for almost 5 years.

Then a few years later my Mother had intensive back surgery (well, two surgeries) that had her in the operating room for over 29 hours. Then in December we lost my grandfather and in February, my Nana.

I’ve spent so much of my 20’s in hospitals watching close family suffer in more ways than I’ll ever dare share here.

Believe me — I don’t mean to parade around my pain either. I always like this blog to be my positive life outlet. But the truth is, the last decade has been harder than I ever could have imagined. My 20’s have been the definition of a rollercoaster ride of ups and downs.

And yet lately I’ve been really wanting to feel… well, happy.

It’s funny because sometimes life trials can really fill you with an insatiable drive to seek out happiness. To obsess over it.

Like, somehow surviving an onslaught of shit-storms leaves you weather-beaten and somehow yet triumphant in your resolution to find the happiness within it all. Like “yea life, bring it on!”.

Because let’s face it — much of life doesn’t go the way we want it to. Much of life is pain, heartbreak, disappointment, and loss. But each of these experiences has shaped who I am. And, as I’m learning how to navigate myself despite periods of extreme chaos, I’m realizing that being happy really isn’t determined by circumstances at all, it’s all about your state of mind. A state of mind that says “yes, things suck, let’s be happy for what doesn’t” takes you a lot farther than the self-destructive cycles of “holy shit, how could it get any worse?”. After you ask yourself that as much as I have, you just get sick of it.

You get sick of not being happy.

The trials of the last decade have made me realize just how much being happy is about controlling myself. There’s so much in the world I CAN’T control. But state of mind is A LOT easier to control than circumstance.

If there’s one true life lesson the pain of the last decade has taught me, it’s that my happiness is determined by my drive to BE happy. FULL STOP.

So if you’re looking for a reason to be happy now, just BE.

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  • Yeah, you are so right! But you had to deal with a lot of losses. Just remember that no one can make you happy unless you aren t yourself.

  • Lailah Jannell

    Great post. Thank you for sharing.
    I’ve experienced quite difficult loss in spurts in my life, with some being at a younger age. I have found this year has been exceptionally difficult, both personally & collectively with those I know & care about. I found this Martha Washington quote to be comforting after reading her biography a few years ago. I love that you picked it. She experienced some really devasting loss in a short period of time & the way she dealt with it, it was inspiring. I really appreciate that you have shared your story of loss, because we all experience it at some point. Hopefully we can lift each other up through our pain. I hope the rest of the year turns out better for you.

    • Actually I read a Martha Washington biography a few years ago too and always wanted to use that quote in a post — she was such an inspiration! So glad I’m not the only one who knows her incredible story. Thank you for reading and sharing your experiences as well — here’s hoping your year will ameliorate quickly!

  • Natali

    You said it so well beauty… You get sick of not being happy! I couldn’t believe everything what you wrote here, this is like a copy-paste of my life and past decade. I’m 1 and half years away from 30th birthday and when I look back on my life, I mostly see tears, struggle, pain, sadness… So many of closest people have passed away, my mom fought cancer 2 times, barely made it through 2nd time around. One shit happens and you just recover from it, then the another 3 come at the same time just to make it a “bit” harder for you than it is already.
    Sometimes I don’t even know how did I survive everything what I did, but just like you said, all of this has created me and who I am and at the end of the day, just like you, I have decided to be a hero and not a victim! I chose happiness and am doing my best to remind myself each day that pain and bad things happening are inevitable but happiness- that is a choice and I do deserve that choice!
    Much love and strength to you gorgeous!


  • Amy D. Christensen

    Ashley, it is sad that life can be so filled with pain. You have certainly had your share. Thank you for being honest with us. I have found that even in the midst of great hardships, gratitude brings light to a very dark place. As you said, “…let’s be happy for what doesn’t (suck).” And there in lies the light. I hope this next decade for you is wonderful and sunny, just like that beautiful outfit you are wearing. – Amy

  • Oh Ash this is such a beautiful post. I love your style and how beautiful you are able to narrate situations that well… that just suck!
    You are a beautiful human being and I’m so happy and feel so blessed to have met you and have you in my life. What were the chances for this little Venezuelan girl to end up here right?
    I’m glad that you’re choosing to be happy no matter what, because life in general is beautiful and despite its shittiness there’s always something to be thankful for.
    You are light whenever you enter a room and always have kind words towards everyone. You have a great hubby and family and you’re incredibly talented and a successful business woman whose making money by doing what you love 🙂
    These are some reasons for you to be happy 😉
    Happy 4th!

  • Valerie

    This colour is my fave!