Find It In You

I have this quote hanging in my bedroom, beneath a ledge I call my dream shelf:

“Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get, you’ve got to make yourself.”

I can’t remember where I first saw it. Could have been a fortune cookie. Or a Facebook post. More likely, it was in a dentist office copy of O, the Oprah Magazine, tucked between pages touting Nate Berkus pillows and kale salad recipes.

However this nugget of self-help came to me, writer Alice Walker's words were more than a bitch slap: they were a revelation.

Much like Kay, the heroine in my debut novel Copygirl, I‘ve always struggled with feeling different, fearing that I didn’t fit in. I was a quiet child, painfully shy and incredibly unsure of myself. Like so many of us do, I sought out happiness in the approval of others.

But I was also physically awkward, so skinny that my protruding adam’s apple could have had its own zip code, and my androgynous, home cut Dorothy Hamill hair didn’t help. The brain that hair housed was a whole 'nother freak show. ‘Artsy.’ ‘Creative.’ ‘Weird.’ Those were some of the nicer labels used to describe the different way I thought and expressed myself, and in my interpretation, who I was wasn’t okay.

Maybe, on some subliminal level, that’s how the star of my book came to be named that sentiment’s opposite. Kay, as in the text reply ‘K’. Which translates to Yes. Fine. It’s all good. A-O-Kay.

Kay too is the creative type, a square peg who shakes and shimmies to her own drum. When she lands a job at one of the hottest ad agencies in New York, she is surrounded by square pegs, her people. Somewhere she finally belongs. Or so you would think.

But her coworkers are all wildly creative, each more original than next, and Kay, a tongue-tied wallflower, feels like vanilla pudding in a sea of rainbow sherbet. Even in a band of misfits, she fails to fit in.

Kay has a chance meeting with a stranger, a much older woman who senses her unhappiness. ‘Whatever it is you’re looking for,’ the wise woman tells her, ‘you’ve got to find it in you.’

Sounds so simple, right? This idea that we make our own happiness. But unfortunately it’s a truth that eludes so many of us. We look to find happiness in the perfect soulmate, the right job, an amazing pair of new boots. But lovers are only human, the work world is fickle, and at some point, those boots are going to get scuffed or leave you with a honking blister.

Then what? Are you just going to limp off into the sunset, disappointed that life handed you clouds?

It’s taken me more decades then I care to count to understand that my bliss is my own responsibility, and that expecting people and things to ‘make me happy’ is an exercise in futility.

Not everyone is going to like the way I look, think or even write. And that’s more than fine. Their approval is welcome, but it’s no longer required. At the end of the day, the race is only with myself. I am the heroine of my own story I’m creating. If I can find it in me, I’ll be A-O-Kay.

Michelle Sassa & writing partner Anna Mitchael are the authors of Copygirl. They are also square pegs. Writing together makes themselves ridiculously happy. 
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