The Good

Happiness is…..not what I thought.


We are forever bombarded by the message that it’s the journey that truly matters over the destination. Although these messages, often packaged as colourful Instagram hashtags can sound incredibly cliche, when you spend 24 hours in transition, you realise that there is quite a lot of truth in them. As I write this post in the air, all I have is my thoughts and the capacity to reflect on them and I am realising that when I initially decided to blog about the elusive notion of ‘happiness’, what I may have intended to explore was actually the concept of fulfilment.

The significant distinction between happiness and fulfilment was initially introduced to me through the work of Simon Sinek – a very passionate and inspirational speaker and optimist. You see, whereas fulfilment comes from experiences which connect directly with our ‘why’ – a value based purpose, cause or belief, happiness rather is a short lived, fleeting feeling or emotion associated with our experiences; by chasing it, we become the child who endeavours to capture the butterfly – never quite attainable, but almost believably so as it flutters within our reach.

I am currently writing this piece aboard a flight back to a life in Melbourne – a place which I have irrevocably identified as my ‘happy place’. This journey is an all too familiar experience for myself, my family and friends, and those that have followed me over the past five years. In making this extremely difficult decision, which with a job awaiting now seems more final, I have received all forms of responses, one of which maintained that I could not continue to return to Melbourne in search for this elusive ‘happiness’ each time life handed me an adverse experience – that true happiness comes from within; no one decision or place can ever provide me with this. Although this was difficult to receive, I endeavoured to be reflective rather than reactive and I began to wonder whether my ‘love affair’ with Melbourne over the years has always been a short lived, fleeting escape route. The more I reflected and pondered, the more I found evidence to refute such a claim, albeit judgemental. This is because I realised that every time I have faced adversity in Melbourne (of which I have on several occasions), never did I once consider the possibility of returning back to London – a place I will always call home. Rather, I wanted to do everything in my power to overcome said adversity and make things work. I’ve come to realise that Melbourne, and the connections I have developed there, don’t necessarily always make me happy – yes, I’ve experienced some wonderfully happy moments with some special people but actually, in exploring this amazing city, I found it to be an environment and way of life that fulfilled me because it connects with my ‘why’ – my life’s purpose.

One of my most significant ‘why’ based values is authenticity – living a life which resembles my unique truth rather than one which conforms to the truth that society, and the people in it have prescribed for me – the you that makes you, you!  It seems like an achievable goal at the grand old age of thirty- four, but I’ve really struggled with this in London – I’ve struggled to shine and be consistently comfortable in my own skin, and I was only made privy to this upon experiencing a different way of living in Melbourne. We don’t know what we don’t know right? For me, Melbourne helped me to discover my authentic self by forcing me to build a life and friendships using the only tool I had – myself. It’s amazing the way familiarity of place and people moulds us, almost too comfortably at times, and prevents us from seeking new, perhaps more vulnerable, yet authentic ways of being.

Melbourne is a city, in my opinion, full of vigour, edge and exploration. It is situated in a state with wonderful coastlines and its slower pace of life allowed me to pause. Don’t get me wrong – this didn’t always create an all singing, all dancing Natalie, but it continued to anchor me whenever I became lost and this, for me, was the key. This is a really difficult concept to articulate to those you love, because your ‘why’ is a feeling – it’s not a tangible concept that can be justified. What I find most fascinating amidst all of this is that so many of us only deem such a life revision justifiable if a career or relationship drives it – personal betterment almost becomes a pitiful driving force. Yet, what I will continue to assert is a piece of wisdom once shared with me and one that I shall never forget –  that when the day has been and gone, and you close the door at night, all you are really left with is you and your thoughts; essentially, your relationship with yourself and thus, as painful as today has been and indeed, this decision was, it is this relationship which I must honour.

Happiness is… therefore not what I thought it was because it’s not what I truly feel when I think of a life in Melbourne, and all the wonderful things I have created and indeed, hope to create there. The feeling I always identified as happiness may rather have been fulfilment. As part of the human experience, fulfilment may definitely bring happiness but as I’ve realised today, our path towards it also brings with it a host of other emotions – sadness, fear, apprehension, confusion, anxiety and pain, because on this path, we must take risks and we must make revisions to find out the stuff that we are really made of – for me, this is what living, rather than existing, is all about. Interestingly today, by pure coincidence (if that’s what you want to call it) is the exact date I set off on my very first backpacking experience six years ago – 4th September, 2011. I can therefore, safely say, that this decision is not my fleeting escape route – it’s my truth. How do I know this? Well, that little voice that I tried to ignore and quieten… it just never went away and so here I am, finally giving it the recognition it deserved all along.  Happy Monday x

Natalie Rutstein Profile


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