It took a lot of trial-and-error over 63 years, but I may have finally learned that happiness starts by giving to yourself first. Today, that’s my birthday gift to myself.
At the end, I’ll have a request for a gift from you, and it won’t cost you a cent or much time to spend doing.
I was fairly happy when I moved to Las Vegas in March, 2017 after I had lived for too long in the Midwest, particularly St. Louis. Sure, I had a couple of bumps on my lifetime road in 2016, when my mom died and I lost my self-storage management job that I really liked and was generating solid success.
2016 ended as a year of opportunity instead of depression and a failure emotion because I still am an optimist, even though that attitude has waned a lot in the past 20 years. I’ve always believed if you look hard enough, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
So I tore down my St. Louis fence and acted what I had been saying for years, “I’m going to move to Las Vegas when I get the chance.” My optimism shines a bit in that quote. I could have expressed “if I get the chance.” That’s what a pessimist writes and says.
My life after making the move was busy, energetic and productive. I worked in special event communication, first in Las Vegas before being transferred to Baton Rouge for a few months. I knew that ride would end and I would have to get off. That came in July, 2017, and shortly after, I got back on the ride, the life rollercoaster ride, and nearly fell off.
A severe bout of double pneumonia caused complete heart failure on September 8, 2017 and I nearly died. But the optimist in me was deep down and I didn’t go to Hemingway heaven. Instead, I was hospitalized for 42 days and afterward, was happy and grateful to God I was still above ground on earth.
Life almost stopped but didn’t but living life continued and I couldn’t keep up. Perhaps it was the after-effect of the lengthy hospitalization but I really struggled to be what I had been in the first three-quarters of 2017.
It has taken 2 years to rebound. What I learned over that time is that like the phrase, “You have to love others before you love yourself” also is applicable to “You have to give to yourself first before you give to others.”
Before I moved to Las Vegas, I had to take care of my mother in her final 9 years. Many children make it a choice but that wasn’t me. Taking care of her took a lot out of me and one doctor said it may have contributed to my near-death, but the actual cause was an adverse reaction to hydrocodone for a pinched-nerve in my neck.
Maybe the pinched nerve was caused by taking care of my mom for so long. At times, she was a pain the neck. Developing dementia and Alzheimer’s does that to a victim, but it also has an effect on family members. There are support groups for people like me affected. I went to a few meetings and it was helpful to be around people like me.
I’ve never revealed attending to support group meetings until now, and the reason is I had the same feeling many alcoholics have about Alcohol Anonymous support groups. The urge to stay away is great for the fear of feeling stigmatized.
I didn’t attend any such group sessions in Las Vegas because I though I had turned a page in my life. But I hadn’t and I ended up being in life’s swimming pool flailing around. I worked as a sports book clerk and when that didn’t work out, I worked in customer service for United Healthcare processing Medicare issues for members. I wasn’t bad at the job, according to my supervisors, but I hated the work because I hated processing other people’s personal bitching.
The first thing I learned that at age 61, I should be more focused on myself than for others. So I quit the job. My supervisor begged me to stay but I was steadfast and glad I did because it was that moment I learned maybe the most important step in being happy:
Take time to make a decision, use all data and experience to make an assessment, then picture goals going forward based on experience, education and observation.
The decision I made was to step back and be alone. At first, I didn’t like being alone but the reason wasn’t loneliness, it was my health. I felt like a car that needed to be rebuilt. Cataract surgery was the most critical because I was going blind! It was then I realized what would make me happy; it wasn’t going to be the ability to see better, but to see what I liked doing more clearly.
For years, I worked as a reporter, in radio and newspaper. I liked it a lot. I liked telling stories. I liked researching data that was used in those stories. I liked interacting with newsmakers for those stories.
But I didn’t like many people in my chosen profession. I made hundreds of great friends and keep in touch with many. But it was the bad people that built a Donald Trump wall between me and those friends, and put me on the other side of that wall from them.
For many years, I resented the profession and expressed it often, still to this day. But the error I made is I should have created my own wall to separate me from the bad people. I didn’t do that, because I hadn’t yet started to give to myself.
So this summer, I started doing that and along the way, a couple of friends were going through life-changing events and I saw them doing the same thing. They started giving to themselves first and I saw they were more happy. I started doing that and I found out I was becoming more happy.
So the one thing I vowed to do was to get back to doing what I liked to do best, and that was to create media to tell stories, be a reporter, and connect with people. First, I decided to end podcasting on this site when the focus of what I was trying to do really wasn’t what I wanted to do. So that’s why you’re reading this today as a written blog post. I wanted to get back to sharing stories but through writing and creating pictures in the mind and emotion, because I see pictures and feel emotion when I read about the many topics I have interest.
But I still loved my work in radio, so podcasting was still in me. I love living in Las Vegas, so the idea of putting those two loves together resulted in me creating Vegas Travel Podcasts. I’ll be telling stories about Las Vegas, a city I loved to visit, love to live in now, and doing it with my love of talking into a microphone.
Writing a personal journal and producing a podcast will keep me quite busy. But at age 63, which I became today because it’s my birthday, I want to be busy. I’ll be doing it alone but that’s ok because I have the time to do it, and that’s important in being happy, how to make your time productive to be happy. I have a long-time friend about my age who I think isn’t happy because I think this person needs to find a thing or things to do.
That’s what giving to yourself first is all about. Create a gift to yourself and use all the things you like to do and experience to create that gift. I’ve done that right now by writing this blog post and repurposing this website.
I know I’m happy right now. It took me only 50 minutes to write a post of 1,300 words. I know people who say it takes them 5 hours to do that.
Happy Birthday to me. I just gave myself a nice gift. Now, I’d like a gift from you:
Subscribe to my new Vegas Travel Podcasts. Click the link to my site and pick and chose what directory you want to use. If you use Alexa, the podcast is there too. Search Las Vegas in Amazon Alexa and you’ll find Vegas Travel Podcasts. Sign up and make it a part of your daily flash briefing because I update news about Las Vegas daily. This is a great service to those of you who plan Las Vegas trips.
If you’d like to gift me with a small donation, that would be nice too. It’ll help pay for upkeep of this blog and for Vegas Travel Podcasts.
I now return you to regularly scheduled programming. If you don’t know why I write that and what it means, after this brief interruption in your life, go on and do the other things in your normal daily life.