I lived in paradise and hated it

Beach walkThis is photo from my morning walk. I get to stroll up to this gorgeous view every day if I choose to.

It’s an easy walk through beautiful wetlands to get here, and the beach is far enough from any roads that it is always solitary. Because I’m in southern California, the weather is awesome 19 days out of 20, sometime there are even dolphins frolicking in the surf when I visit.

I’m a lucky person. If you lived here wouldn’t you come here every day?

I’ve lived within walking distance of this gorgeous spot for over a year but never visited it regularly, until this year. You see, I hated this place until just a few weeks ago. I’ve written elsewhere about how I had a baby and then moved away from my home, my family, my career, and my community. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done.

It took me many months to grieve the loss of my old home, and, I’m ashamed to admit, during that time I hated my new home. Yes, I hated the palm-tree lined beaches with dolphins frolicking. I tried really hard not to, but I just couldn’t bring myself to love it here.

Do you ever go on vacation and think “if only I lived here, life would be so much better”? That is the kind of place I live. The kind of place that people take vacations to. The kind of place that is featured in movies as paradise. And I fucking hated it.

Finally, and thankfully, after many months of grieving I came to peace with it here. I mean, c’mon, there are DOLPHINS here.

Two things helped me truly find happiness: The first was an extended trip to my old home, and the second was a short daily meditation on gratitude.

“Do you go to the beach a lot?” everyone at home asked me. No, I had to admit, I didn’t, despite living a short walk from it.

So I vowed to start my days with a walk to the beach when I returned to my new home, and I have. As I walk I take some time to really become present with myself, and to notice what I am truly grateful for.

Yesterday upon arriving at this view, it hit me, how lucky I am. I started laughing at how much I hated this place last year, and it made me realize this:

If I could talk myself into being miserable in a place like this, what else was I talking myself into?

We often have a list of external criteria that we think will make us happy. Ironically, in my old hometown, the sunshine was at the top of many people’s list. If only it were sunnier, we would complain. But I had moved to chronically sunny place and it hadn’t mattered. I had set my sights on being miserable, so I was.

When I give myself a little time to become present each day, it is so much easier for me to see that happiness is a choice. It isn’t dependent on external criteria.

When I focus on what I am already happy about I’ve noticed that more things happen to make me happy. I am capable of creating joy, just as easily as I created my own misery.

So that leaves me with one question for you, dear reader: If I could turn a blind eye to beauty such as this, what might you be turning a blind eye to? What self-imposed misery might you be talking yourself into at this very moment? AND more importantly: What paradise might be sitting just a short walk from you right now, and what would it take for you to be able to see it?


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Allison Carr

Leave a Comment

  • Jaena March 5, 2015, 11:12 AM

    Hey there! I don’t have a profound value-adding comment here… I just wanted to tell you what a great post this is! Keep up the excellent work 🙂

    • Allison Carr March 5, 2015, 11:55 AM

      Thank you Jaena!

  • Corinne March 5, 2015, 6:57 PM

    When I moved to Portland from Providence, RI, I hated how nice the cats were! I would get so upset when purring cats would come up to me on the street, remarking how they would never last a day around the tough cats in Providence streets. It took me six months to realize if I just knelt down and pet the purring cats, I got a whole new perspective.

    • Allison Carr March 5, 2015, 7:00 PM

      Ha! Corinne I love that story! Isn’t it funny what home-sickness can do to us! Who could hate a friendly cat?

  • Ellen March 6, 2015, 4:37 PM

    Hi Allison,
    I don’t think we’ve officially met yet (I’m a B-schooler in Ojai: ) but I can relate. I moved to Ojai from NJ 2 years ago with a 2.5 year old and a baby on the way. I love it here, but being away from my family was a loss I never considered. I didn’t realize how homesick I would be. It’s still a struggle – I love where we are as a family, but know it’s okay to feel the sadness of those relationships being further. I’ve learned the grass is not always greener, just different and to take advantage of what our unique environment has out the front door. (And I’ve often heard/told other mothers – it doesn’t matter WHERE you live in the years with young children as life can feel so all consuming with just them). Sending hugs and hope we get the chance to meet soon.

    • Allison Carr March 6, 2015, 6:49 PM

      Thank you Ellen! Yes I agree, much of my pain last year was all just a part of the process of me learning to let go of the life I used to have, and that would have happened no matter where I was, I also learned you can’t rush a grieving process, but it sure is nice to be looking at things from this side now! I look forward to meeting you too!

  • Silvia March 9, 2015, 10:00 AM

    Allison, Your story is a perfect illustration of how our thoughts and not what’s happening or where we are are really running the show. For the last couple of weeks I’ve been shown clearly the contrast between thoughts of fear vs love and how they change everything even if nothing in the physical has changed. A powerful teaching for sure. Thank you for demonstrating this so clearly.

  • Karin Lehmann March 9, 2015, 12:57 PM

    Allison, I loved your article. I can relate to your experience. We moved from Santa Monica three years ago and even though I have made many new friends and love the small community of Ventura, I still miss my old neighborhood. The good news is that it’s only a one hour drive away and I go back often. Would love to meet you some time.

    • Allison Carr March 9, 2015, 1:18 PM

      Karin we are neighbors! I would love to meet you too, loved your website! I will email you.

  • Jos March 9, 2015, 1:00 PM

    I can relate to your article – after moving to Seattle from Denver 9 years ago, I literally spent the entire first two years looking backward – I fell victim to what I coined as the “rose-colored rear view.” I finally love where I am and wouldn’t trade it, but it took forever, and so much of it was a matter of perspective! Happiness truly comes from within.

    • Allison Carr March 9, 2015, 1:19 PM

      Yes, the rose-colored rear view! That perfectly describes it.

  • Jenn March 10, 2015, 3:51 PM

    So beautiful and so true. Thanks for making me stop to think about what I already have in my life that I’m over looking (which is so easy to do)! I needed this reminder!

    • Allison Carr March 10, 2015, 4:48 PM

      I so glad you were inspired by the article Jen!