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Pure bliss is an underlying craving within us all. The search for happiness is one that has become never-ending in our society. We are conditioned to believe that once you obtain a number of dreams, be it a job, partner, body, or home, you’ve done it. You have reached the pinnacle of life. Our minds define happiness through the lenses that society has created for us about what true prosperity looks like. And yet, we, as Americans, are getting richer with more opportunities, but not any happier. According to the World Happiness Report, the U.S. comes in at #15, and our happiness levels have decreased since 2005. Our well beings have stayed the same despite the spike in income levels, and it’s barely moved for 50 years.

Picture: a smiling image of couple holding hands. They have everything they could want: a supportive relationship, a home, an income that would allow them to indulge here and there. But they, like many of us, are unfulfilled. Why? Because although physical and mental health, and personal values are shown to be just as important as income levels, they often fall to the back burner.

After achieving specific goals such as landing a dream job, our happiness levels rise and then decrease, and we want more. Happiness will not magically bestow itself on you when you obtain one of those items, instead, you must decide to create a life that sustains happiness, even if it is risky and scares the living hell out of you.

So how can one be happy? Elements that affect happiness are compassion and exhibiting more orientation towards others, a social support network, and trust in people. Key factors in shifting into a happier life are mindfulness, less commercial orientation, and giving and volunteering.

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Photo by Matt O’brien

For me, I had always been known to be a risk-taker. I’ve been thrilled by change throughout the entirety of my life, and yet after graduating college last summer, I found myself falling into contradiction. I put my head down, suppressed my attention-deprived emotions, and watched the clock as my authentic self drifted away in each passing minute. Unfortunately, it took a loved one passing to liberate myself from the chains I had knowingly locked myself into. As a 22-year-old, who was freshly out of college, and in a state of confusion in all areas of my life, I brushed off my desire for happiness and began to ignore what had consistently made me feel alive—music.

My foundation, and everything that I had been sure of was shaken this past year. A job as an assistant presented itself as the perfect distraction from my new truth of my family dynamic changing, which I made sure I did not face. This corporate, noncreative and unfulfilling job did distract me, but it also began to drain me from the self I had known my whole life. I felt like a damn robot. I woke up at 6:30 am every morning only to stare at my reflection in the mirror at a girl I had no connection with; who looked more and more fatigued and weary as the days went by. Each morning, I drove in over an hour of traffic (thanks, LA) only to experience the same bumper-to-bumper hell once it hit 6 pm every day. I would squeeze in occasional songwriting on my breaks and on my commute, but it all felt as though I was lacking authenticity in my lyrics, something I had never struggled with.

I was repressing the truth and was unable to recognize how I was truly doing and feeling about my situation, people, relationships, and myself. I had unknowingly become part of this robotic lifestyle, using work I wasn’t passionate about to heal myself and help me forget the pain I was experiencing. I realize now this was the worst thing I could have done for myself. I wasn’t at home or at any family events for the majority of this year because I was too busy working, and truthfully, I didn’t want to throw myself into facing what was going on in my family. Slowly, I felt myself slipping into despondency.

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Photo by Matt O’brien

I fooled myself into believing I was content with running in the same hamster wheel day after day; that I was content with watching other people follow their dreams. I told myself that that day will come for me, but for now it was great to have a paycheck every two weeks. I was comfortable, but while security can be a good thing, I was stuck in a place I didn’t want to be in; yet I was unwilling to change.

The day the decision to quit my 9-5 job brutally hit me was the day I visited my Yiayia (grandma). Much to my dismay, I entered the grim building, knowing I was walking into what I had always feared; losing my Yiayia. I had been successful at hiding from this all year, as I’ve become quite skilled at blocking out grief. After being escorted by a nurse to her room, I walked in to see my biggest role model peacefully sleeping. It was the first time I had entered her presence without being immediately greeted with her warm, full of love, Greek embrace and contagious grin, which revealed the tiny gap between her two front teeth (which she believed to be a sign of wealth.)

Unaware that my cheeks were already wet, I had begun crying the second I saw her. I had knowingly let a job, that I was not even in love with, keep me away from spending the last few months of my Yiayia’s life by her side; after all she had done for me.

When she woke, she asked me about how I truly was doing and how music was; though there was no need for discussion about my job as an assistant as she already knew my role and that it had nothing to do with my passions. One of the last things she said to me was, “keep singing,” and I left with those words in my head as I woefully tore myself away from her side, shamefully telling her I needed to get back to work. In the five-hour drive from Walnut Creek to LA, I’d decided to leave my job. I was haunted by her words and the realization that I was not living up to them. Sure, I was working hard on my EP, but I wasn’t writing every single day, wasn’t warming up every day, wasn’t singing every day, which is just so not Sophia.

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Photo by Nic Jurand

“Education is expensive, but ignorance is costly.” My Yiayia had this quote hanging in her home, and it was my mantra so to speak, growing up. Of anyone, you would least expect her to be supportive of me pursuing a career in music after graduating from college with a degree in Political Science. But, she recognized the sense of euphoria that I found through music—she saw that glow each time I sang to my family or wrote a song, and she nurtured it.

Sometimes it takes a life altering experience to come to realization of what’s important and what brings you joy. It’s a long, difficult journey to overcome fear of judgment, but your loved ones will understand. Let them be your support system. Think you’ve lost your way and are entirely unsure of what the next steps are in your life? Ask your tribe, and they will help you to spark an awakening as my Yiayia did for me. It can be a challenge to see yourself clearly through the haze of daily responsibilities. I was raised on the principle of hard work equating to success, but luckily my family also was never in support of the notion of doing something that dwindled away my joy for achievement.

The first Monday I was officially unemployed, I received the devastating call that my Yiayia had passed. There are countless conversations I still wanted to have with her, and it pains me knowing that I could have woken up sooner and told her how much she impacted my life and how because of her, I am closer to welcoming fulfillment back into my life.

While I’m only at the beginning of this transition, as it’s only been a mere month and a half of “unemployment”, I made sure that I wasn’t blind sided when diving into the pool of uncertainty. Telling myself I would only focus my energy on activities and people that would have a positive effect on my life, I narrowed my concentration down to anything that involved improving myself musically, mentally, physically, and spiritually.

Three years ago, I completed my training to become a vocal coach while I was attending my second year of college. Earning this title as a vocal instructor helped me understand my instrument more while having the opportunity to help others, whether they were chasing a dream or simply wanting to improve their voice. For a few tenacious students, I expanded the lessons into songwriting instructing as well. It is so overwhelmingly rewarding when I experience a student donning that grin of self-confidence after a break through moment with their voice. My return to teaching singing and songwriting does provide me with a source of income, but the difference between this income and my last is that this money I earned while at a job I love with every bit of myself.

One of the most exciting results of my departure is the feeling of hunger that has been reintroduced. I am constantly hungry for more opportunities to learn, experience, and grow in all areas of my life. Pushing myself to attend industry events, veganism events, and even exercise opportunities that I didn’t have the time for three months ago. Two weeks ago, an opportunity to be part of a documentary involving my Greek heritage presented itself. Three months ago, I would have grimly turned this down because of work, but now that I can adjust my schedule I was able to be apart of it. This example is just one of the many superb opportunities that have flourished due to my hunger to do any and everything that feeds my soul.

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Photo by Matt O’brien

This same craving has brought me to spending every day reaching out to likeminded people, while caring less and less about bullshit friends, conversations, and activities. As a result of me getting over the anxiety of reaching out to other creatives, I am now working on a few different collaborations with some incredibly talented artists, and writing music both parties are proud of. I make sure to not spend time or money on anything or anyone that doesn’t make me feel like I am growing and bettering myself. I dine out way less, which has only sparked creativity in the kitchen (something I always lacked) and I don’t enjoy getting drinks with people as a way to catch up, mostly because drinks in LA end up costing an arm and a leg. I don’t own a TV, as I know that would only convince myself to procrastinate. Departing from my job meant scaling back, but all that I chose to leave behind was unnecessary for my life. I know what will stray me from my path and I make sure to stay far, far away from it all.

I wake up every morning asking a few questions to myself, one of them being how can I serve others today? Continuously, I have found myself the most helpful to others when it involves music, whether it is through singing, writing, or teaching. Music is a universal language that exists for us to connect with others and is a tool to heal ourselves. I think of the power a live concert has, and the wave of energy that can overwhelm whether you’re in the crowd or on the stage. For a moment, we forget our fears, our judgments, our flaws, our differences, and our individual self, as we become more in touch with a collective sense of self. It is a privilege to have the ability to experience more of these moments, again whether it is singing alone, with students, or to a crowd. This is the feeling I have been chasing, and now that I have caught back up to it I refuse to fall behind again.

I may not have a steady income, but I feel a sense of elation every morning when I wake up. I may not be considered successful in the conventional sense, but I know what I am and the path I am on. Each day, I make sure that I am closer to living a life full of purpose. Opportunities to create something new continually present themselves, which I failed to see when I was living in my unchanging routine.

Curiosity has returned into my life, allowing me to push myself outside of my comfort zone. Overnight, I shifted from yearning for depth and seeking inspiration to being able to find the beauty in the day to day. Opening up my mental space gave me the capacity to be reenergized by my love for music, writing, film, and nature. I felt connected with myself again, perhaps more than ever. I’m now proud of the work that I’m doing, particularly in my music.

The takeaway? Check in with yourself and ask how you’re really doing. If you’re not living the life you want to be living, know that you deserve to. Think about what doesn’t serve you anymore; maybe it’s your job or maybe it’s a person. Don’t let anything get in the way of the life you want to pursue because there is no purpose in feeling deprived of anything. Add a little more healthy rebellion into your life.