If you were watching MTV reality shows during the late 90s, chances are you caught a glimpse of Susie Meister: the Pittsburgh native appeared on “Road Rules: Australia”, “Road Rules: Viewers Revenge” and six “Real World Road Rules Challenges”. She also has a PhD in Religious Studies.
It’s impossible not to be fascinated by a doctor who has starred in more episodes of reality television than I’ve viewed.
I met Susie last spring when we both spoke at a TEDx event. I was lucky enough to sit next to her at one of the pre-event dinners, and she charmed the hell out of me over cocktails. She also consistently makes me laugh out loud on Twitter.
What I like most about Susie is that she doesn’t take herself too seriously, but beneath her irreverence is a well of wisdom and self confidence. She’s multi-faceted, smart, beautiful – and happy.
How do you define happiness?
I’ve always associated happiness with peace and freedom: peace about who you are and what life can bring, and freedom to be who you are without concern for how others see you or being imperfect.
I had this happiness as a child (my mom said I sprung out of bed in the mornings), and I was truly excited to just be myself. Perhaps this is why I ended up doing reality television–for better or worse, the ideal reality cast member is someone who is totally comfortable in their own skin. Unfortunately, I’ve lost some of that comfort in adulthood, but it’s a journey, and I am actively working on it every day.
How do you incorporate what makes you happy into your day-to-day life?
I am an extrovert, so being around other people is something that gives me energy. I try to interact meaningfully with others–even if it’s just online!–everyday.
I also find happiness in learning, so I try to always be reading something substantive.
What “shoulds” have you let go of in order to pursue your happiness?
I decided to get a PhD in Religious Studies even though it’s not the most financially profitable pursuit. Society “shoulds” a lot of people into getting a “sensible” job, but I was more interested in intellectual stimulation at the expense of my bank account.
I’m also quite irreverent about motherhood. I do stand-up comedy, and when I did a show when I was 9 months pregnant people were offended when I made jokes about all the not-so-glamorous stuff about pregnancy and motherhood. Women are often told they “should” feel a certain way about having kids, and I refuse to use that script to describe my experiences. Life and motherhood are messy, and I refuse to pretend like they’re not. Women are supposed to always be appropriate, so I let go of that “should” in a big way.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about happiness?
My friend has a tattoo that says, “This too shall pass,” and I love the reminder that no matter what you’re going through (good or bad) it will end.
Life just keeps on trucking, so don’t get too cozy in your good circumstances or too sad about your bad ones.
Also, I wear a necklace that has the serenity prayer on a scroll. I always hold it when I need to think about letting go of the things I can’t control. I’m not very good at that though.
You can hear more from Susie on her podcast, The Meister Piece.
Want to be inspired by even more versions of happiness? Read all the interviews here.