The Unexpected Road to Happiness

Sarah Raymond Cunningham - 1981

The Unexpected Road to Happy

Growing up, I never thought I’d live where I live.

That I’d be doing what I’m doing.

Or that any of it would make me as happy as I am.

Maybe you can relate. Maybe you ended up somewhere unexpected too.

In college, I knew, knew, knew I was destined for metropolitan greatness.

I fancied myself an urbanite who’d end up living in a skyrise and trolling along on city buses. Humanitarian meets townie, if you will.

It started off this way.
A minor in urban studies.
Our first home (a dreadful, 115 year old near-pink monstrosity) in a hot-to-trot urban neighborhood.
A job rubbing shoulders with alternative high schoolers.
And nearly 15 years of rooting about our city, a place most famous for housing the country’s largest state prison.

Sarah Cunningham Classroom

But then one summer (this past scorcher), we packed up and moved…15 miles down the road to lake-country.

The housing market in Jackson had plummeted.
I’d been laid off (but called back) four years in a row.
Our family was expanding beyond our number of bedrooms.

This new patch of grass was closer to my brother’s family. To my children’s same-age cousins.
It was closer to my parents.
And closer to the airport, a place my writing and event work had me frequenting more and more.

Summer Wallpaper

The land was Michigan’s finest–its glittery mirrors of water sparkling in the summer, its trees lighting up like fireworks in the fall.
The new house was warm and big and hospitable.
The yard was perfectly sized for a lifetime of kickball games with more than adequate room for ghost runners.

And the Irish Hills which held it all were steeped with nostalgia, especially for those of us who grew up before the old US-12 attractions, like Prehistoric Forest or Stagecoach Stop, became ghost-towns.

We moved for a million reasons or none at all.

But the unexpected move was the right move.

Summer Wallpaper

Summer Wallpaper

Summer Wallpaper

Summer Wallpaper

I’ve never been less attached to my cell phone.
Never completely forgotten how busy life “needs” to be so easily.

I haven’t spent this much time outdoors since childhood.
Or this much time hosting friends and family in all my life.

I’ve never been surer about what my life purpose is.
Or how to go about stitching that purpose into my writing.

Summer Wallpaper

And I’ve never had the time to really write it…and write it right.

In fact, in all the hoopla of moving and having children, I’ve decided not to go back to work.
To become a write-at-home mom with a few snazzy projects on the side.
To fill the pages of my blog with funny, wise, quirky, smarmy things about relationships.
To muse about why we, the residents of this fast paced world, should hold onto them dearly, with all our might.
And about how the best ones, that span the diverse people groups of our world, might also turn up where we least expect them.

I have a couple stow-a-ways along for the ride too,
Two little boys to look at.
The Emperor and his newly appointed chief of staff.

Their smiles and smirks make me cling to my camera.
Their laughter and squeals of delight prompt me to live life larger for their good.
To plan picnics, take walks, pick flowers, bake and most importantly, to play.

But this isn’t where I thought I’d be.

If you look back, did you expect life would look different too?

In 1993, I was a different person–or the same person with a different vantage point–I’m not sure which.
I was a skinny mix of tom-boy and nerd. A beloved beanpole of sorts.
I was just getting ready to make the jump from private school to public.
I had rough plans to go to college, thought maybe I’d be a teacher, liked to write, but had no idea I’d ever have a shot to write for a living.

In late 2003, I was writing a book though.
It was a book about disillusionment.
It was full of angst, emotion, cynicism…and out and out honesty.
Back then I was so frustrated at the parts of life that broke from plan, so sidelined whenever things turned out differently than I expected.

Now, I’m eternally glad they did.

Ironically, I’m working on the content of that book again for a new edition that will be released in 2013, ten solid years after I bled it onto the page.

As I scroll through the pages of the first edition, immersing myself in the voice of my twenty-something self, I can’t help but laugh and cringe and jaw-drop about how long ago it seems.
How I’m sure I’m reading the story of a different person.
How this voice can’t possibly be mine.

And it reminds me why I wrote my second book, which searched the world over for reasons to change.
Because who among us would want to be the exact same person we were ten years ago?
And because ten years from now, who would ever want to be the exact same person they are today?

Who would ever want to be imprisoned in the short, stubby dreams of their younger, less-knowing self?
Rather than searching for more and experiencing more.
Getting bumped and scraped and bruised some more.
And for ultimately becoming more.

So yes, this week is a week I never planned to live.
This week, I re-organized a blog around what’s important to me.
I drove a pontoon through a murky channel with a college friend.
I built a fleece-blanket tent in the living room.
I googled what to do if your son finds a penny at the McDonald’s playland and swallows it. (Hypothetically.)
I locked my nieces in London Bridge’s tower…more than once.
And I fought imaginary monsters until I was out of breath.

I thanked God for the simple things in life.
For food on our table, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads.
For farmer’s markets, pumpkin breads and leaves whose colors rival the rainbow.

Summer Wallpaper

Fall Pictures, Fall Photos, Fall Images, Autumn Pictures, Autumn Photos, Autumn Images

Fall Pictures, Fall Photos, Fall Images, Autumn Pictures, Autumn Photos, Autumn Images

And many, many times, I’ve thought to myself, to God and to no one in particular, that the next leg of life can be an even better one.
That a happy adulthood is just as worthy as a happy childhood if we let it be.



  • comment-avatar
    Shelly Miller October 9, 2012 (6:33 pm)

    Sarah, I really love this. It actually made me teary. It’s a coming into your own, really owning what matters in life . . and its quite beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. I’m so happy for you, really.

  • comment-avatar
    Sarah October 10, 2012 (8:22 am)

    Thanks @Shelly for reading through all the evolutions life brings me. :) I appreciate your supportive voice.

  • When Letting Go Hurts | Redemption's Beauty October 11, 2012 (9:53 pm)

    […] Sarah lets go of what she thought her life would look like to embrace this season of glory. “Who would ever want to be imprisoned in the short, stubby dreams of their younger, less-knowing self?” […]

  • When the Best Place to Be Is Right Where You Are October 12, 2012 (8:51 pm)

    […] in the sweet sloping hills of Pennsylvania and lovestruck in my youth by the Chicago skyline, I never thought I’d stake my life here in the mitten. But slowly and surely, Michigan wins me over with each new […]

  • comment-avatar
    hd solo beats beats March 14, 2014 (10:08 pm)

    Great post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m inspired! Very useful info specially the closing part :) I handle such information a lot. I was looking for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.